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Defending Facebook – A Generation Y Response to Internet-Based Parental Paranoia
Today, somewhere between the fifth and fiftieth time I look at my Facebook profile, I know the inevitable is coming. I no longer have the “I’ve got your mail” interjection of my AOL-obsessed youth to alert me of its arrival, and yet I know it will be there sooner or later. Sometime today, my mom will email me an article about how Facebook and the Internet are ruining my love life, my eyesight, my job prospects, or my muscle tone. Dutiful daughter, I always skim the articles, but I usually reach the last period in a rage.
Unlike my mother, I grew up on the Internet. I know there was a time in my life when we didn’t have computers, but I don’t remember and I don’t care. I’ve always been taught to respect my elders, but when a middle-aged stranger tells me Facebook is out to get me, I feel like a car salesman is drilling my teeth. It’s not that I don’t appreciate article reviews. However, I take my own internet truths for granted.
My Generation Y mini-manifesto
1. I know I spend too much time online. Between the wonders of Facebook (the internet version of crack cocaine) and Google/gmail, I am the queen of procrastination. I think it’s also under “Jobs” on my Facebook profile.
2. Everyone in Generation Y (or however they label us) knows the dangers of the Internet. We grew up constantly reminded that there’s a pedophile in every chat room (even though we’ve all visited them.) We, unlike previous generations, can spot credit card scams, MySpace hackers, and sick audio files from miles away. We surf smart.
3. Most of us know when to say “when.” I do, however, acknowledge the validity of the widely circulated tips below (slightly revised here for realism). If you’re applying for college or a job, don’t make “smoking bum” your MySpace interest. If you’re on a sports team, don’t call the coach a “fat fascist” on your blog. And for Pete’s sake (literally, us Petes’ daughters), no one needs to see those pictures of you passed out in the bathtub surrounded by beer cans. The video should probably stay off YouTube as well.
High School MySpace and Other Fears
I worry about the next generation (which makes me feel incredibly old). The tragic story of thirteen-year-old Megan Meier has been discussed at length in the bars and coffee shops I frequent. In case you missed Anderson Cooper, Megan hanged herself after an alleged violent harassment by MySpace Romeo. The “friend” turned out to be a con man created by a family on the street. Cyberbullying is very real and has exactly the same painful consequences as repeated public humiliation at school.
That said, I try to focus on the big picture. On the flip side, many kids who feel completely isolated make friends online who actually exist and aren’t pedophiles in disguise. If no one listens to them, they can write in a blog. If they have a question that they can’t ask dad, they can get advice on a forum. If their best friend moves to the other side of the world, good old Facebook is there to keep them informed in seconds. I know what my friend had for lunch in London today. It’s not important, but it feels good for the relationship. The statistics speak for themselves. According to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the Harris Interactive YouthQuery, 25% of girls aged 15-17 blog, 26% believe that the Internet helps them deal with serious life problems, and 86% believe that the internet improves the quality of girls. their school work.
I love the internet. I say proudly. I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops, or at least on my blogspot. Its only fault is that it does not promote itself well. (But do you really have to?) I searched the internet for an article about how the internet is changing the world in a positive way, but I couldn’t find any articles. Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Good advice. So I started compiling a list for everyone to see. I can’t hope to show you the full truth of the internet, it’s too vast, but I can try to open your eyes to some amazing possibilities.
Half-truth: Facebook, MySpace and other networking sites are a dangerous waste of time.
Yes, pictures posted on Facebook can cost you your job or your self-esteem. Yes, MySpace has a lot of hackers. However, social interaction is invaluable. Most college students would rather spend their final quarter eating a packet of Ramen than a stamp. So you can get your Ramen and blog about it. These sites also keep users up to date and involved in current issues and events. Yes, there are many user groups devoted to beer, but there are also groups focused on everything from supporting political candidates to ending the crisis in Darfur to sharing tips on how to combat global warming. Many of these groups boast 20,000 members and growing.
Half-Truth: The Internet is Killing Small Businesses.
Yes, some astronomically large websites and web services have caused financial bankruptcy for local bookstores and record stores. However, there are other websites that offer small businesses and artists a way to reach much larger product markets than ever before. For example, my personal favorite is http://www.etsy.com. In their own words, Etsy is “an online marketplace where you can buy and sell all things handmade.” When they say “everything,” they’re not kidding. Browsing etsy.com is like having your own craft fair/art gallery. I highly recommend visiting on a day when you’re sure you’ve done everything before. The creativity and craftsmanship you will find there is amazing and usually cost effective!
Half-truth: Hours of web browsing have yielded nothing good.
Today, the viewfinder is a vital part of everyday life. Now there’s a way to make clicks count. GoodSearch.com makes giving to charity easier than ever. Every time you search on the Yahoo!-powered engine, a penny is donated to the charity of your choice (about 24,000 in the end). According to Fortune magazine, “if 500 supporters pledge to raise money for a school and each of them earns it, they go online five times a day, which amounts to $9,125 a year.” All this at no cost to the browser. Never before has a popular procrastination tool done so much good.
Half-truth: The Internet breeds lazy couch potatoes.
It’s true that you won’t burn calories playing Snood or taking annoying online quizzes. However, the internet can provide you with just the information and support you need to reach your fitness goals. A relatively new mega-trend, Sparkpeople.com, is doing just that. Basically, SparkPeople is like MySpace for dieters. Everyone gets a profile where they enter their fitness goals. Members are grouped into teams (think support groups) and can opt to receive emails with daily exercises, recipes, and words of encouragement. The site also has a calorie counter and fitness tracker. And, it works! According to the website, members have now lost almost four million pounds.
The digital divide doesn’t have to tear your family apart. As with most family matters, compromise is usually best. Educate your children about the dangers of the Internet. Ask them what online activities they enjoy and who their cyber friends are. Then let them educate you. Watch their favorite YouTube videos, read their favorite e-zines, learn a thing or two. If you need a starting point, I highly recommend the sites mentioned above. You will find that the Internet is a wonderland for people of all ages. There’s a lot more I could recommend, but my thirteen-year-old cousin just sent me a video on YouTube. I know it’s not because of my style, but I’m afraid I’ll feel “tacky”.
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