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What's New Under The Sun? Kids (and Adults) and Social Media, Part VII: A Voice for Facebook

"Facebook is our escape. For a few hours, we can hide behind that Mac and be whoever we want to be."

Facebook. Some people believe that it’s “of the devil.” I’m serious. I’ve actually heard those words come from their lips.

And I think: Hello?!! Facebook is nothing more than an electronic medium. A neutral entity. A tool. Tools can be used for productivity or as weapons. This has always been true.

It’s not Facebook that gets us in trouble; it’s our humanity.

Just this week, I vented and posted. Within the hour, my words came back to bite me, in the form of a text. “Friends” aren’t necessarily our friends (don’t expect confidence!) and those whom we’ve "removed" miraculously
are able to decode even the most encrypted messages.

Some things are better left unsaid.

Yet, I still believe in self-expression, “To thine own self be true,” and all that other good stuff Shakespeare said.

Is it so bad to “tell it as I see it” and let the chips fall where they may? (OK —maybe sometimes it is.)

There are moments when I want to use my voice; I don’t care what anyone thinks. (For me, that’s more of a personality issue than a FB thing. Ironically, I’d already confronted the person BEFORE I posted, and I never used names. I rarely say anything behind someone’s back that I wouldn’t say directly, but this does not always serve me well. People very much prefer a back-stabbing-Judas-kiss to direct confrontation, I’ve found.)

Facebook is tricky. The reasons I love it are the same reasons I hate it.

I love FB because it gives me one more venue to use my Voice.

I hate it because it is one more venue where my voice has potential to be misunderstood or to cause hurt (or to outright backfire on me).

I love FB because I can be in contact with people in a way that would be impossible through any other medium. And not just be “in contact” with them, but to actually be emotionally close, like in days of old when friends wrote letters to one another. Only faster.

We can support and be supported. Share encouragement. Give and receive advice.

I have received countless messages from former students and fellow classmates who are not just my FB friends but real, true friends. We see one another’s posts. We message each other. The relationships are real and genuine.

Shame on anyone who would deride them because they are “online
relationships.”

On the other hand, I hate FB because there are others I don’t feel close to in real life, but I feel like I “know too much” about them. It's a little weird.

I also think people can get too caught up in knowing others’ business and “stalking” their walls.

For these reasons, in the past year, I’ve reduced my number of friends, and I’ve carefully managed my lists. Even so, nothing is certain where FB is concerned.

If adults have trouble navigating these virtual waters, how much more difficult must it be for our teens?

Recently, one of my young friends (a former student) agreed to share her Facebook struggles in the Patch.

Hers is a Voice that is real and raw and telling.

I share it with you now, so that we can hear what is that she (along with — perhaps — our own sons and daughters) most wants us parents to “hear” about Facebook.

One part (the “keep out” statement) is difficult to receive. Because I have the responsibility/need to protect, I’m not sure I can fully honor it, but I respect what she has to say, and I empathize with her plight.

Here are “McKenna’s” words, as unedited as I could keep them.

Facebook. I hate Facebook. Despite my affliction, I don't think I could ever "deactivate" it.

A few reasons why social networking is taking over my freakin' life:

1) I'm a closet Facebook-stalker. This past summer I pursued a more-than-platonic relationship with my best guy friend. Long story short: he's an a**hole, so we are no longer speaking. Even though I want to smack him across the face, I often find myself "creeping" on his wall. Just to make sure his life still sucks. I’ll keep up with his pictures and even though we haven't talked in over a month, I could tell you what he did yesterday as well as the "congratulations on your new job" post from Uncle Melvin.

2) Facebook is not a diary. A lot of girls my age use social media as a means of expressing frustration or anger. I cannot tell you how many "eff my parents!" posts I see every day. I'm sorry, Lauren, that you got grounded because you cannot comprehend what a curfew is; don't take it out on Facebook.

3) Everybody has an opinion. If you post a status taking a stand on some controversial social issue, expect the ever-so-lovely “Facebook Fight.”
Argue through 350-character comments until someone’s laptop dies or one of you gives up. Why are we fighting? Opinions are self-derived, non-factual. You don't have to support [a particular political candidate] because one of your "friends" does. Most Facebookers have a pseudo-
sense of
confidence upon logging on. This can cause problems.

One thing I want parents to know is that social networking is our escape. For those few hours, we can hide behind that Mac and be whoever the hell we want to be. So stay off of our Facebooks. That's the one thing that's
really ours. We can say, post, write whatever we want...even if it's completely insane. We're an insane population. We're impulsive, lustful, and wreckless.

If you're lucky enough to catch us off the keyboard, take time to hang out with us. I mean, who could say no to frozen yogurt with Mom? ;)

As McKenna concluded her remarks, she thanked me for the opportunity to "vent" in yet another online forum. She added that she “misses me bunches.” She told me I’d taught her that “you have to fix yourself before you can fix anyone else.” She concluded: “Love you to pieces” and “hope to see you soon.”

In the meantime, our relationship grows as we see and comment on one another’s posts. This is our REAL life.

I reflect: It’s true. Some of my young friends are impulsive and reckless but have I not, in my youth, been the same?

There is nothing new under the sun.

When my teenage friends allow me the privilege of being part of their world, especially online, is this not “holy ground?" A place to hear another’s voice and lend mine? A mentoring opportunity I would not have, if not for being in this place?

In thinking on these things I am reminded why, despite its potential for “evil,” I still love Facebook.

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