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Why Facebook’s Days are Numbered: A Lesson Learned from “Stand by Me”

April 22, 2011

A few years ago, I started talking to my college students about social media, particularly Facebook. Most of them spent a considerable amount of time every day “Facebooking.” As we discussed the positive and negative aspects of digital sociality, a complaint quickly rose to the surface. “My mom is on Facebook now. That sucks!” one kid said. Half the classroom exploded in agreement. One young lady said, “it creeps me out when one of my friend’s dad asks to be my friend on Facebook.” I had to agree with her on that one. Another student told of “de-friending” her mom because she kept commenting on her wall.

When I started talking to them about it, I did not have a Facebook account. One of my classes told me I needed to get one, that it would be the best way to get a message to them (at the time I wasn’t using our university Web-CT), so he actually set up a Facebook account for me during class one day. Most of the students in that class “friended” me, but it never worked very well for me as a classroom communication tool. That same account is now my personal account, and students occasionally send me friend requests, which I always accept, but mostly it is for personal connections and posting pictures or videos of family and friends.

Point is, in the last few years, the parents have moved into this virtual neighborhood and taken over. Young people still use it, but I think I’m noticing that Facebook has lost its luster. Here’s a guarantee: once Mom and Dad move in, the teenagers are going to start looking around for another place to hang out. Hasn’t it always been that way? When I was in junior high, my friends and I built a cabin in the woods near our homes with an axe and a hatchet. Why were we hanging out in the woods? Well, there were many reasons – some illegal – but first and foremost was that OUR PARENTS WEREN’T THERE!

I’ll never forget reading Stephen King’s Stand by Me (and watching the movie). I was surprised how deeply it resonated in my bones. I mean, my friends and I never saw a dead body, and we didn’t live in fear of the older guys in the neighborhood (more like in awe). But then it hit me: I resonated with the world these guys had carved out completely apart from the world of their parents, their own domain where untold things occurred. I experienced that same thing when I was a young teen hanging out with my friends in the woods, riding motorcycles, shooting pellet guns, telling dirty jokes, and smoking cigarettes.  

Sadly, that completely untethered life is hardly possible today, but that is another topic for another post. The point of this post is that Facebook was pretty much a “parent-free” domain until a few years ago. Now that parents and their friends are prowling about creeping on their youngsters, it’s only a matter of time until the youngsters find somewhere else to play.  They can’t help it; it’s in their blood. Thank God.

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