Just yesterday, Michelle Slatalla of The New York Times posted an article about her joining Facebook – where her daughter & friends have had accounts for quite a while. Her reason? Probably best put in her own words:
So last week I joined Facebook, the social network for students that opened its doors last fall to anyone with an e-mail address. The decision not only doubled its active membership to 24 million (more than 50 percent of whom are not students), but it also made it possible for parents like me to peek at our children in their online lair.1
But adults – and more specifically, parents – don’t belong on Facebook. Not because the system isn’t built for people over 30 nor because adults aren’t interested in moving existing relationships online, but only because Facebook and other Web 2.0 social network sites for students (and teens, too) are now what the mall was five years ago.
While Ms Slatalla goes off on a tangent, choosing to discuss the existence of mother-daughter ties online and her own troubled past (or something), there is a bigger picture there: why Facebook is so popular. Web 2.0 is all about taking things for real-life and putting them online.
Photo albums? Flickr. Diaries? Blogs. Home videos? YouTube. Book store? Amazon. Auction? eBay. And so on and so forth. So what does that make Facebook? Why Mall 2.0 of course!
You could argue that the very reason why Facebook is as popular as it is now is simply because it’s a place for friends – and friends alone – to get in touch and chill out… online. Unlike MySpace & Co. which are all about
prey and predators, as Jon Stewart so kindly points out putting up your info for the world to see, Facebook is a much more privacy-friendly website. People are glad to see that log-in page the minute you go to www.facebook.com – for them, it’s a shield, a protection, a layer of privacy, and a safeguard against all that is grown-up and too old to have fun.
“But adults want to make friends too!” Ms Slatalla explains. And there you have it, the biggest question of all. Is Facebook and the rest of the web a “First come, first serve” kind of gig, or is truly “a place for everyone?” Because, like it or not, there is an obvious clash coming. As the older generation’s interest is piqued in this new (and arguably better, more flexible, and much more convenient) form of networking and keeping in touch with your friends becomes more and more likely, will this drive the younger generation away from Facebook? It will, at the very least, most certainly change the way they look at it, that’s for sure.
So what’s the solution?
Facebook, for those young men and women that haven’t tried it yet (and the older people tabooed from joining!), is comprised of “Networks.” Since you’re a student of XX university, you’re therefore a member of the XX network. Since you live in Chicago, you’re eligible to “meet” others that live in Chicago. On Facebook, it suffices to have a single “network” in common with another person to “introduce” yourself, if you so choose. And of course, the person you’re contacting, in true Facebook spirit, can choose to reply, ignore you, or banish you forever off the face of their, err, Facebook.
So it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine Facebook adding a new “network” of sorts, one for the “older” generation (basically anyone with children old enough to have their own Facebook).
Unlike other networks on Facebook though, such a network should be mutually exclusive. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Chicago or not, whether you graduated from the same university (50 years earlier…) or not, if you’re in the “other” network, the “original” Facebook denizens should live their lives as if you weren’t there – and vice versa.
Facebook is an awesome place, for adults and young men & women alike. But unfortunately, many things in this are mutually exclusive, but that doesn’t mean that both can’t be there at the same time and enjoy themselves in their own little
island network, does it?
… Why not?!
Emphasis added. ↩
At what point do you throw out a person from facebook and tell them their “too old” to be on facebook? What happens if they have friends that are younger than them (by a year or two), but are no longer able to communicate with on the same ‘facebook’ place?
What about the (socially-seemingly rare – but how rare are they really?) families that actually get along? Perhaps cousins that span different age groups that like to keep in touch, or friends of different age groups? Grandparents and grandkids to get along? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to use facebook to facilitate this? Even if you restrict it to an age group, word can still get back to parents/adults (a sibling, or cousin, or friend who forgets to keep quiet about the party they’re going to).
What is the cut-off age for “anyone with children old enough to have their own Facebook”? Assume boys and girls on average start puberty around 11 or 12, and can therefore give birth to a kid at that age, by 18 (child would be age 6), or 24 (child would be age 12), you would be able to have a kid that could have their own Facebook (eg. they could have their own email account and could use a computer easily). So you’re suggesting facebook be open to people between the ages of 11 and 24.
And how would you tell people they have to leave at the age of 24? “Sorry, you’re too old. Get out.” I suspect there would be many people who would dislike being told such. I’ve got single, techno-trendy 30-something friends who are in love with facebook. They’re young, independent, free of responsibilities, and would hate to be told that they’re too “adult” to use facebook.
You do realize what you’re suggesting is segregation based on age? University and college is accessible to all age ranges. Even under the previous guidelines of Facebook, it would be open to all active students, which would include 70-something year old students.
Perhaps I’m biased, as just barely I fall into the range of “old enough to have a child to have their own Facebook”. If you’re so worried about your parents finding out what you’re doing, you can always find ways to circumvent them. Have multiple accounts, restrict what people can see. Even if you prevent older people from entering, what about the people who are already a part of it? What happens to them 5 years down the road? 10? 20? (assuming facebook lasts that long)
Who are you to say who belongs or doesn’t belong somewhere? Perhaps you’re hoping facebook to be a youth group. Perhaps facebook was originally meant to be more academically oriented (geared towards colleges and universities after all), and not the “omg! lol! i have toes! g2g” crowd its turned out to be. But it seems like the powers that be have said its open to all (more people == more money; it is a business after all). If you’re looking for a youth-only group, then I guess you’ll just have to work on your own site, get some good networking in (and a way to PROVE they belong to whatever age group it is that you have in mind), stay away from money making (even though servers for millions of people will drain your wallet), and remember to kick yourself out when you hit the age limit you’ve imposed. Good luck. 🙂
I understand you’d like to keep parents/”adults” out, but I think any implementation would be flawed.
The probably with your analogy is that parents COULD show up at the mall, when and how ever often they wanted to shop AND, if they chose, to check on their children. Parents were responsible for getting their children to and from the mall (still are, btw) and are responsible for their children’s ability today to be on facebook.com or myspace.com. More often than not, parents either purchased the computers the children use to access these spaces or take them to their friends’ houses or other places when they have computer access. So, why not allow parents to become involved?
Several of my child’s youth advisers at church are on facebook and are ‘friends’ of the church youth. Many of the unfortunate, sad and dangerous problems children (of all ages) get involved in are a direct result of too little involvement with the larger world, the larger community which has never been completely segregated.
Having a space that it is essential ‘kids only’ is dangerous because it sets kids up in a fake environment that they will never be able to duplicate in the ‘real’ world, which is where we all have to live and interact. While you may not wish for your parents to be able to see what you do and say to others, locking them out of the process eventually does you more harm than good. Kids need to want to grow up in our society which should mean, they want to learn and understand how to act; that won’t happen as easily and seamlessly if they are isolated from community, irl and on-line.
The thought that technology will unarguably add to a generation gap instead of delineate it is a horrible thought indeed. What is this person implying exactly? That youth are somehow privileged to technology due to their age? I have a friend from work who is in his 60’s and is just now semi-retiring. To get the man online in the first place was challenging enough, but doing so allows him to connect with others who are going through the same life patterns. I am young enough to not be slighted by this supposition, however at what stage of my life will I be ostracized for participating in the larger global community albeit online? Yes. I have a Facebook account, YouTube & Twitter account, Blog, et,… and will I be coerced from these social outlets due to my age by a group of people a handful of years younger than me? Whoever thinks that hasn’t thought out the full ramifications of this technological “mall” deplete of all ages. Do we not go online to learn and debate and find out about each other? So take away a demographic or two, and you are depriving the left over of their knowledge and debate and understanding of the world. What you do essentially is reduce the world down to a one sided debate. And to even argue this sets you up for judgment when you “come of age”. I fear that as time goes on that window gets smaller and smaller. When I was 10, I idolized the 17/18 somethings of the graduating class. I thought they were cool. I respected them. I didn’t, nor did I see them- backtalk and grumble about their parents or people older than them. How a few years change. And every consecutive generation loses something. I thought the internet was supposed to bridge that gap, not divide things further. Grow up Michelle Slatalla, or have you designed a world for yourself that makes you scared to? I feel sorry for you and everyone out there who agrees with you. You really don’t make things easy for yourself.
I wonder if this person will so easily inactivate their account and networking when they turn 30? Or will it suddenly be okay for the site to be for over 30s?
Facebook was just fine as a small website for college students. After it expanded to high schoolers and grown-ups, it has gotten horribly tacky and become an ugly mutation of MySpace. Crappy applications and breakdowns so you can’t use search/pictures or view profiles at random times are just the start.
Sorry guys, but it was much better as a college site, end of story. I don’t understand why grown-ups on Facebook become so angry at people who point this out.
Yep. I get it. Facebook was a great social networking tool for the college set when it began. But like most, Facebook expanded to attract a larger audience. Just because one is now able to display tacky “presents” given by friends, or a comprehensive listing of their personal traits, tactfully put or not… is not so much a reflection of the demo-graphical nature of the site, maturity aside, but a much larger picture of the society we live in. Which was at the core for the design of the site beyond Academia. Young kids will likely go to college one day. Older people can always return to college so long as they have the time and money to do so. I work with a lot of college students at my job. Intellectual giants they are not. I was one once a college student too. I stereotypically use the site to do research or touch bases with people too far away… I suspect Facebook’s popularity has a lot to do with this capability. And yes. I digress… People will litter any and every site they get a hand on (have you read Twitter?) However, Facebook and most of these other social networking sites, are invaluable to the way we understand ourselves, used properly. And just like society at large, EVERYONE takes part somehow. To lament over Facebook is really to lament over the community in which you live. If you do not like it, BE AN EXAMPLE for the sort of change you seek. Like I said… I’ve been using these tools for sometime now. I do not display for the world to see things strangers have no need to see… regardless of how “virtual” one may excuse their platform to be.
This blog post seems a little against people doing what they want to do with their free time. Some people enjoying chatting online, and who cares if they are over the age of thirty. I am am thirty-one, and I am not going to stop using Facebook or Twitter just because an article tells me to do so.
I am over thirty and have tried Facebook. My friends, most of which are over thirty aren’t on it anyway. I don’t understand why anyone over thirty would be on Facebook or should I say anyone born before about 1982. People born after 1982 grew up with technologies such as mobile phones and the internet emerging throughout thier school life. Those of us born before 1982 have other, more sociable ways of keeping in touch with friends and talking to others.
Leave the post-1982 kids to their sit-at-home social lives and the rest of us ‘oldies’ can leace sociable face-to-face lives.
By the way, I think parents should be on Facebook just to see what their children are getting up to.
It seems to the people who run Facebook that its present subscribers are never going to become adults.
Facebook was perfectly fine until HIGH SCHOOLERS started using it.
High schoolers? What about all the elementary school children on there now? Facebook jumped the shark a long time ago.