Imagine approaching your teenage daughter ten years ago with the following suggestion: “Honey, let’s go buy some poster board and paste a picture of you on it. Then we can add some photos of you with your friends, and you can make a list of places you like to go, the food you enjoy, and all sorts of other fun facts about you. Then we’ll hang the board in the hallway at your school, and your friends can write their comments on it.” I don’t know what her exact reply would have been, but it would likely have been something akin to, “Are you nuts, Dad? That’s all personal stuff! I don’t want just anybody to be able to look at it!”
And now, jump ahead to the Facebook Era, where the idea of “personal stuff” seems almost quaint. Lost in all the talk about IPOs and instant millionaires is the sea change that has overtaken our lives. Facebook horror stories abound, and today’s high school student is likely to deal with more anxiety from the number of Facebook friends he has or doesn’t have, or from the number of likes and dislikes he amasses, than from anything as mundane as taking a final exam or choosing a college.
I understand that there’s no going back, and that any anti-Facebook screed is likely to be viewed as the rants of an out-of-touch Luddite. However, it occurs to me that we may be confronting one of the most fundamental societal changes we’ve ever faced without ever having thought much about it, discussed it or planned for it. This generation is acting as the guinea pig, and there’s absolutely no telling what the results will be. Will we look back in twenty years and give thanks? Will we curse the world we created? Or will we see Facebook and its successors as just another creation with good and bad aspects to it?
What do you think?