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 โ€œfriendโ€ and โ€œfriendship.””

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:

Click on the image if you want to find out how much time you’ve wasted ๐Ÿ˜›

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?”

8 Responses

  1. Interesting. I’m a total FB devotee. I have lived almost my entire working life overseas and I’ve met a lot of people in a bunch of different countries because of that. I recently returned from a trip to Europe over Christmas where I basically “friend hopped”. I visited friends that I have managed to keep in touch with purely through FB.

    I joined FB in 2007. I was working in New Zealand in 1998. None of the people I worked with there are FB friends of mine. The reality is that even writing consistent emails was too much for me so we have since lost touch. I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking any of them for free accommodation now. Not like my post-2007 FB friends.

    I feel FB has allowed me to keep in contact with people I have a shared “face-to-face” experience with that perhaps I wouldn’t have if I had to work for it. It is not that those relationships aren’t worth working to maintain, but more that I’m just a lazy writer.

    How cool is it that I can now maintain friendships through FB that traditionally would have bitten the dust!

  2. Hi Merilyn! First comment on my COETAIL blog! Thanks ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I feel very similarly to you about FB and agree that it’s helped in the maintenance of friendships tremendously! However, I have an idea that I keep pondering on and I hope it doesn’t happen but fear that it might:

    You and I grew up in a time where the internet and social media didn’t exist yet. As children we didn’t have the social media aspect of social skills. We learned basic, interpersonal human connection first, and began to integrate social media into our social lives later. But what about this generation that already has social media built into their lives? The results could be great, or they could be really bad too…no one really knows, but the thought of people who don’t know how to interact without some sort of device scares me!

    So as much as I really enjoy integrating technology into my classroom, I am also always thinking about the balance I mention in my post.

  3. Wow! That is scary! I wont tell you the amount of time I have ‘wasted’ on FB, but I do agree with Merilyn, it has really help to me to stay in touch with my friends and family. Almost nightly I talk to my father on facebook. He is living in the olden days with dial up internet (can you believe that! Dial up at 46.6 kbps) so skype is out of the question. Facebook chatting with him is awesome though.

    I wonder how soon FB will be leaving us like My Space did. My grade 6 students are not so interested in FB because they know the parents are on it too…the kids will find a work around (mainly being a different program).

    Great blog post though. Just a scary app! ha.

    1. Hi Scott,

      Absolutely, Facebook has made the world much smaller! My fiance and I are currently living on opposite ends of the globe, without Skype we wouldn’t really be able to see each other and talk twice a day!

      I never thought about how our current generation of youngsters probably view FB the way we did Myspace! Hmm…perhaps Facebook is making it’s way out, and if it is, how much longer?

  4. Being a mother of 4 older young adults (youngest is 19 and oldest is 24) who have grown up with technology and social media, all is not lost. They still like to be with their friends in person and hang out together, albeit playing video games, watching movies, but there is something different (and essentially good) about being in the room with someone doing the same thing, than just on line doing the same thing.

    What does worry me is parents who allow very young children to opt out of social occasions by giving them their mobile device as a babysitting tool. Will they ever be able to learn how to behave whilst dining out, how to have a conversation without being a part of what is happening?

    An interesting observation I made in a year 7 english class when the activity required a ‘discussion’. The students did not know how to have a conversation – listening, responding, taking turns. This may be just a developmental thing as they were just 11 years old, but thinking about it – maybe it is caused by being brought up in the age of social media. I will continue to observe. I have changed some of my learning activities in literature circles by removing the need to respond on social media (ie Goodreads) as I felt the students really did need to talk to each other about the books they reading about – not just respond to questions online.

    1. Hi Dianne! Great to know that there’s still hope! ๐Ÿ™‚

      I teach Kindergarten, so I’m totally with you when I see little kids unable to really sit for anything without an iPad as a distraction. This is where my fear stems actually, I’ve had my previous students try to add me as a friend on Facebook (accounts creted by parents). I recently saw a stroller that had an iPad dock attachment so the child could safely use the device as he/she was transported from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’. I know…scary right?! If there isn’t a screen with sounds and animation, they’re not interested. You are right, being able to sit at a dining table and converse is becoming less and less prevalent for these little youngsters. How long do you think these children can sit with a book? If they can’t sit with a book for more than a minute, it obviously makes my job of teaching them how to read pretty difficult! I guess my concern is for this generation of students that I currently teach. They’ve been using digital media from infancy with not only apps created for infants and toddlers but I’ve seen toy companies manufacture “baby-safe” ipad cases etc.! Prodcuts like this: https://www.fisher-price.com/en_US/brands/babygear/products/78030 are what scare me the most!

  5. I suspect that our generation will prove to be the last one that valued books as a source of stimulation. We’re experiencing one of those major shifts in human cognition that result from the introduction of a new technology–such as the development of printing, which popularized reading. Before that, few people had access to books, which were rare and costly handwritten manuscripts; so only an elite read. What strikes me as important about this fact is that books, newspapers, and other publications, and the information sharing they made possible, drove the spread of democracy. The real question we might consider here is, with the potential centralization of information control that the Internet makes possible, will we see greater control over information and a consequent decline in democracy? The globalization and automation of labor made possible by the Internet and other technology has already led to a shockingly small number of people and international corporations commanding a huge proportion of the world’s wealth. What happens when they commandeer the Internet to gain even further control? With humans enslaved to their Portable Digital Assistants, and locatable at any time of the day, will we become sitting ducks vulnerable to those who see the need to eliminate us because we don’t share their point of view? OK, so this is starting to sound like some kind of paranoid conspiracy theory. Presumably human ingenuity and the impulse toward freedom will prevail over the risk of totalitarianism sweeping the planet. But I must confess to a concern that those who are completely self(ie)-absorbed in virtual reality may by unwilling to pay the price of freedom, which is vigilance and active engagement with the social forces that generate political power. Fortunately, the Internet has so far enabled activism and facilitated such engagement.

    1. Wow Bill, you’ve introduced me to a whole new level of scary! What you say does seem plausible if certain people in power decide to see if they can take it that far. Although, for everyone’s sake, let’s hope that we all stay sane enough for this horrifying scenario not to take place.

      Ladies and gentlemen, meet my future father-in-law! I look forward to many more thought provoking conversations with you, Bill! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for visiting my COETAIL blog ๐Ÿ™‚

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