Have you been seeing lots of Facebook movies celebrating your friends’ Facebook “journeys”? Perhaps you’re like me and you took the bait, posting your own version of the movie as well (click here to see my Facebook movie). Facebook has turned 10 and is celebrating it with us by allowing us to post a cheesy montage of photos and posts marking our milestones on this social media site. I joined Facebook in 2006 and I’ve remained an active member for seven of its ten years in existence. I remember when I joined you had to have an academic or work email address in order to sign up, and my friendships on the site were limited to my friends with whom I was taking my Masters. I even remember that when Facebook finally opened up its doors to everyone, I had trouble convincing my friends (especially those outside of the United States), to ditch Friendster, Hi5 and Myspace because Facebook was the place to be.
As I read through the article Living and Learning with New Media (2008), the first thing that jumped out at me was the reference to MySpace. That was the point where I had to stop and search for the date of publication. Ah yes, 2008, it made more sense now, but even then MySpace was already making its way out, at least within the social media circles I was running in. Regardless of the platform, what is written about the role of digital media in the formation of social relationships amongst today’s youth still remains true and has probably gained even more importance since. Forget the ‘youth’, how many people have seen this video and realized that not only are they guilty of this behavior occasionally, but so is almost eveyone else they know?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti new age media, in fact, I’ve been one of the people in this video clip more than once myself. Media, especially digital media, has become a core element in modern day socialization. As the article mentions, participation in new media means that you are able to socialize anywhere, at any time. It creates a wall that you can hide behind if you are shy and gives you time to think through your words, especially if you’re not a talkative or outspoken personality. I know that I am able to share my thoughts more clearly when given the ability to do so through a screen, and it is because I have more time to iron out my ideas.
Reading further on in the article, it states,
“the integration of Friends into the infrastructure of social network sites has transformed the meaning of “friend” and “friendship.””
Swinging the pendulum to the other end of the spectrum, I also find it rather sad that people of today’s modern society are spending more and more time creating “friendships” on screen rather than face-to-face. I often have to ask, is it too much? If so, when is it too much? What’s the balance? New media has opened up so many doors, not only to socialization but has also allowed learning and information to be shared instantaneously. Information is literally at our fingertips! But are we losing something at its expense?
This brings me to my inner debate. I LOVE technology, I try to integrate it however I can into my classroom and try my best to find meaningful new ways my students can interact with it. I also know that most likely, my little 5 year old students have unlimited access to some sort of tablet or touch screen at home. It is inevitable that this is their future and they’re going to need to know how to use it to survive in tomorrow’s world. However, I still believe that it is crucial for children to learn how to engage in real, hands-on, face-to-face experiences and to understand the art of learning through doing, discussing, deliberating or even negotiating.
I am willing to admit that sometimes spending too much time on social media sites can be a waste of time. In fact, here’s a lovely little calculator that will show you how much time you’ve wasted on Facebook since you signed up. Here are my stats:
I’ve got people I feel are my ‘real friends’ I connect with on Facebook, and I’ve got connections that I would define more as ‘acquaintances’. So, at the end of the day, I still find that my ‘friendships’ are defined by shared, real-life experiences together and media has just made maintaining communication in friendships easier.
I try my best to find some sort of balance between my view of the importance of the digital world and its growing role in today’s education, with my belief that kids still need to learn basic social and life skills without the use of a screen. New media is here and it’s here to stay, so whether it be in my classroom or my personal life, I have to ask myself every day, “where’s the balance?”