Remember teenage angst? Remember being mortified at the thought of telling your parents what was troubling you?
In our modern age (which is all I’ve got to go on), it has become typical for teenagers and their parents to separate emotionally and philosophically. Even if certain teens and parents have good relationships, there may not be a whole lot of deep conversation between them, not because the parents wouldn’t welcome it, but because teens may not know how to broach a particular subject. Along with angst comes embarrassment.
Facebook (FB) has gotten a lot of criticism because it’s a major hangout for young people. Of course, if you ask the fuddy-duddies, wherever young people hang out, they’ve got to be up to no good.
FB was first intended exclusively for college students; one had to have a college email address to sign up. Then FB opened its web doors to high school students, who flocked to the site. Finally, the site allowed anyone over 13 to join and we oldsters have been steadily trickling in, many of us following our children and other family members.
I dare say, even though more adults are using FB, we probably aren’t using it as heavily as those between 14 and 25 are. I have no research to back that up; it’s just a hunch based on how much Daughter and her friends use it. Because the site allowed exclusive access to young people first, they had a chance to build their networks and make the online space their own. They feel safe there.
Given the impulsiveness of youth, teens and young adults tend to post things it may not be wise to reveal in public, hence the criticism of the site. However, it’s precisely because young people post to FB in a spirit of abandon – thinking only their friends will see – that the site can serve as a bridge to span the generation gap.
Hubby and I experienced a recent personal example. Over the weekend, I was checking out my Facebook feed and found a message posted by Eldest Son. He’d had a classroom experience that brought to the fore feelings of loneliness. He’s been in two new schools within the past two years and hasn’t had as much contact with us or his childhood pals in that time, so this is understandable.
As soon as Hubby and I saw that first message, we contacted him via FB’s chat feature and had a long, long-distance talk. Eldest Son posted a few more status updates about his loneliness over the weekend, which we followed and commented on. We also Skyped him. We tried to get him to a place where he knew that people cared, and gave him advice on ways to alleviate the loneliness. We also wanted to assure him that he wasn’t alone; Hubby and I (and everyone else on the planet) have gone through periods of loneliness. By the end of the weekend, Eldest Son indicated, again via FB, that he was feeling better.
This entire exchange would not have happened without Facebook. For as much as we’ve indicated to Eldest Son that he can talk to us about anything, his personality is such that I think he would have had difficulty bringing his feelings up directly. FB was the perfect intermediary. It gave our son time and space to broadcast what was happening in his life without the discomfort of facing us and trying to arrange his thoughts before vocalizing them. It gave us a way to track his mood and send periodic messages of encouragement. What more could we ask of an online application?
Eldest Son – If you’re reading this, know that we love you! – Mom & Dad
P.S. I’ve got a feng shui suggestion for you, if you want to hear it. – Mom