SOME weeks ago, I dealt, in a general sense, with the subject of Internet Social Networking, and how our generation can deal with it; this technology that we are as much as disconnected from as our children are wired into it.
It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve dealt with this particular topic; but what has been happening with my articles on issues affecting how parents like me
interact with their children, is that I’ve been receiving a lot of feedback.
And one of the issues that people from my age group have had over time with the subject at reference, despite the general praise, is that some of the terms were not familiar to them.
My confession is that I am just as guilty of ignorance in this regard, particularly in relation to an incident I mentioned before involving a young relative, which had to do with her breakup with her boyfriend and its Online Facebook profile implications.
All I knew about Facebook at the time was that it exists, and people go on it and post pictures. Put a Facebook profile — and this is something I learned the basic concept of only recently — in front of me and ask me to do anything with it, and you might as well disassemble my Ipad and ask me to put it back together again and make it work.
What I therefore did, in the hope that I could share some of the enlightenment with my readers, was ask a couple of people to walk me through the basics while I took notes. This is what I have for you, in summary, a sort of basic breakdown of some features of the site.
THE PROFILE: Okay. Basically, this is the main thing on Facebook. A profile is like your own personal website that you have control over. You can put on as little or as much personal information on it as you would like. With regard to that personal information, it could be what school you went to, if you’re single or married, your e-mail, phone number, workplace. Two things stood out for me when viewing several people’s profile page: There is a field labelled ‘Interested in’, and options available are ‘Men’ and ‘Women’, regardless of the sex of the person who is creating the profile. I could imagine the reaction of many of my generation to that: Mostly shocked. Some church ladies I know would call Facebook ‘the Devil’s instrument’ for that alone.
Another interesting thing I noted is that there is a category on the ‘Information’ page called ‘Philosophy’, which had three spaces where people could write information on their ‘Religious views’, ‘Political views’, and ‘Favourite Quotations’.
I watched this and began considering the fact that the bulk of Facebook users have to be in their teens and twenties. How much of a personal philosophy does a sixteen-year-old have? Two years shy of being able to vote, how much politically sophisticated enough are they to make any sort of informed choice when it comes to voting, a relevant question in an election year.
In general, the amount of personal information people put on was astounding in some cases. At least two of the young women that I asked to show me the ropes had their cell-phone numbers on there, one of them being usually more conservative in giving out personal information in a real-life situation.
PICTURES: Apparently, the big thing now on Facebook is pictures. I have my family albums at home. If I have 100 pictures in total in them, and this is stuff accumulated over a lifetime, I have a lot. On Facebook, you check some of my ‘test subjects’ profiles, and you see something like 300 pictures!
WALL: When I mentioned ‘the wall’ in my earlier articles, I had no idea what I was talking about. And after having spent some considerable time looking into it, I admit that I can’t find the precise words to describe what it is. The most I can do is ask you to imagine a literal wall; a big plain white wall. And then imagine that a friend can come and put up a picture on it. And below that, someone else puts a poem. And then someone else puts up a link to a website. And so it goes.
MY CLOSING ARGUMENTS: During my research, I found that there were literally thousands of articles written about Facebook. The movie, The Social Network, was based on its founding. There are a couple dozen books and websites dedicated to not simply Facebook, but how parents should operate on Facebook. And they cover stuff that this little column can’t do.
What I have decided to do, however, is to continue to work with my Facebook ‘consultants’ to put together a special short series of articles explaining how the entire thing works. The idea is in its basic form in my head, but I think a three or four-part special series in this newspaper would go a long way in explaining to people of my generation at least some of the basic things to expect when trying to come to terms with Facebook.