Friday, November 02, 2012

Just How Social is This Media?

Our daughter Emily is one of the most social persons I know. To use the term "circle of friends" doesn't really apply to the Emsta. It's more like "cast of thousands." I hardly ever see a photo of her without a gang in the image and when she graduated from college a rousing cheer rose from her classmates, somewhat to her father's dismay.

I was a little surprised then when she mentioned casually at Thanksgiving that she had packed Facebook in, and when I checked recently she is still "on the wagon." She decided it was shallow, time-consuming and has the potential to be destructive. She still tweets regularly and emails but Facebook is no more. Our twenty-something nephew, Nathan, was with us for Thanksgiving and he offered that he gave up Facebook a couple of years ago for these reasons and more. He is a computer programmer and didn't like the access Facebook had to his life, so he shut it down.

Why tell you this? I listened to yet another program on cyberbullying on the CBC the other day and I almost turned off the radio when it started because, well, enough already. It was a phone-in and I did get hooked because of the stories of cruelty which were almost incomprehensible. The mother of an eleven-year-old told of a Facebook page being created by a classmate with her daughter's name. It turned out to be a classmate who was supposedly a friend who defamed others under her daughter's image, complete with photo.

It occurred to me that we probably aren't doing enough with our parents and children in congregations to help them navigate through social media. Obviously there are many benefits and more and more congregations are using Facebook and other media to communicate, which is great. And I don't want to pick on one company. But there are considerable perils as well, including young people who are into cutting and other self-destructive acts who use social media to create support groups.

Hey, maybe we could just be social! We could get together with friends and share a meal. Or we could --wait for it-- go to church and get to know like-minded people! Well, maybe I shouldn't stretch it too far.

Are you concerned about your kids and social media? Is it a baffling world in which you don't partake? Should congregations accept some responsibility in educating their folk, both young and not-so-young?

Can the path of a storm alter the course of an election?


roger said...

I do think the church has a place in educating about social media. I think social media has the ability to have a huge impact on the quality of life of anyone, young or old. So, any guidance in that direction would be a good thing.

Personally, I have packed in FB too, although I never used it much in the first place. My need for it has gone.

When I was on holiday last summer, I had no cell phone and no computer for two weeks, and absolutely loved it. Since then, other than for work, I only check emails or texts periodically. I am trying to distance myself from social media. I would rather take a walk at the Second Marsh any day!

I am increasingly dismayed at what is happening among our youth with cyberbullying. Typical "school-yard" bullying is bad enough, but with cyberbullying being "24/7", youth feel there is no escape. As we know, the results can be tragic.

Sometimes I really think technology has not done us much good.

Stacey said...

I couldn't let this conversation go by without commenting because it is such a hot topic in my household right now.

Facebook and social media have offered us many opportunities to stay connected with friends and family, who we may not have access to so regularly, otherwise. I have to say that it is largely responsible for staving off any homesickness with our moves across country. But with it, came many challenges that I never could have anticipated. Facebook's roots began with the university-aged group and I think that when it found its way to all of the other generations, even more problems arose. For us in particular, one of our parents who lived in another province, started to use facebook as a way to follow our every move. They added all of our friends as well (who felt too awkward or embarrassed to deny their requests) so that if this family member didn't have access to enough information from us, they would be able to piece together our activities from looking at our friends' photos and such. For various reasons, we shut down our accounts and it literally created a massive ongoing argument, because we were denying this grandparent 'access' to their grandchildren and they were 'entitled' to knowing the day to day activities of their grandchildren. Facebook has given people a sense of entitlement to the personal details of other people's lives. Once they've had that access, they seem to feel personally rejected when it is then taken away.

I am sorry that this rant is so long and I haven't even begun to talk about how it is affecting my pre-teen. I am not kidding when I say that I liken a person's introduction to social media to the entering into a sexual relationship (forgive me, as I realize I am writing this on my minister's blog!!). Both worlds open a person up to moral dilemmas, tough choices, and both place a person into situations that can often be dangerous and overwhelming. Once you've entered it, you can't go back.

I am a pretty internet-savvy parent, but it takes a LOT of work to keep up with what the kids know and are into on the internet. It's nearly impossible to keep a step ahead of them so that you can stay in conversation with your kids to make sure they are keeping safe. The most frightening thing about it all, is that no matter how safe I keep my kids and even if we were to ban the internet, texting and all the rest, I can't control what the other kids out there are doing. At this very moment, we were trying to figure out if we should be contacting another child's parent to discuss this very thing because of their son's aggressive and harassing activity online in relation to our own son.

There is no question that social media has made parenting so much harder. I think that parents need the education desperately and think that the church can help. It's irresponsible for us to say "I don't get it so I just don't go near those things (computers) and all that stuff". Because we need to be in the know to help keep our kids safe.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about facebook as well. It took a friend about a year or so to convince me to give facebook a try. There was something about the idea that didn't appeal to me from the start. I don't like that it is immpossible to keep what I put on facebook private, and that whatever you post today remains 'out there' FOREVER. You really are letting strangers view your life. You can take precautions, but really there is no way to safeguard your info. I am often surprised by how much personal info people put in their status updates. Frankly I find it puzzling. On the other hand, I have a dear friend who struggles with health issues, and facebook allows me to check in on her daily. We live a few hours apart by car, so this daily contact would not be possible without the internet. It's a love/hate thing for me. I love that I can keep in contact with friends across the country, yet . . .

Lynnof60 said...

Wow...such interesting and thought provoking responses to this blog! I have been giving a little thought to opting out of facebook. My original purpose was to connect with my three teenage grandchildren. Well, my grandchildren are hardly ever on and I find that I am now just a voyeur of others lives. Having said that, when my brother passed away last week, I posted it on facebook - I thought it would be a good way to connect with a number of people. I was right. Within ten minutes I had 10 responses. Kind of makes me wonder if people are just sitting by their computers waiting for something new to happen on Facebook!
I have a number of American friends on facebook and the talk on the election is giving me a rash. If I'm going to opt out I will be doing it before November 4th. Thank you all for your "food for thought"

Nancy said...

The School Community Council at Bowmanville Senior Public and Bowmanville High, had a speaker in this week – Monday night, to speak to parents about this very issue. (Unfortunately due to the weather it was not well attended). My tween came home from school Monday after hearing Chris Vollum of Social Media Inc. speak, and said, “mom you need to go, it was really good, I want you to listen to the part about privacy settings on Facebook”. (on any given day I don’t get much from my tween as to what goes on at school so this was my cue) I listened to the speaker with two hats, educator and parent. With my tween we are in the process locking down our privacy settings in Facebook. It is something one needs to be conscious of on a regular basis, as Facebook changes things frequently. They do notify you, however only once and so if you think, “oh, I’ll do that next time” you’ve missed your notification.

I do not think social media is going to go away, and so we need to give our children the tools they need to stay safe, and make wise choices when posting – that’s the job of parents and educators, and the church is part of that education. As Chris said, it’s about managing your online profile the same way you manage your life, with integrity and respect. Or in another way, reputation management - you are judged by the company you keep. Students are becoming more and more aware that employers are looking at ones’ online presence when considering people for jobs etc. Like so many things, it is about educating people.

It is the old saying my mother used to say to me “don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read”. There is a poster I have posted in our school that says, "Before speaking, texting, blogging, e-mailing…..THINK"

T – Is it true?

H – Is it helpful?

I – is it inspiring?

N – is it necessary?

K – is it kind?