Sunday, October 12, 2008

Looking at my kids facebook pages

There is some interesting stuff going on there. These kids are making and keeping friendships across years and miles. It's weird watching a high schooler rediscovering a friend from 3rd grade and seeing them pick right up where they left off as if the 7 or 8 intervening years never happened.

Our society is returning to an earlier day, in a way I had not anticipated.

I remember in the 80's that the big drop in long distance rates, and the dawn of the PC led traditionalists to moan that letter writing was becoming a dead art. Gone were the elegant letters saved in trunks to be found by later generations. Private thoughts of great leaders, glimpses into the life of the common man were becoming a legacy of better days gone by.

At the same time our communities and neighborhoods were fracturing. We were moving from a society where neighbors all knew each other. We socialized with them because we HAD to. It was inconvenient or inexpensive to go anywhere else.

Cars became cheap and common. Dining out became the rule rather than the exception. Hobbies became more expensive and diverse. We no longer needed to associate with people we didn't like, or with whom we did not share common interests. Moving across the country, and away from local family support networks, became commonplace.

This too had a price. It cost us the safety of our homes and neighborhoods. Strangers were common. Neighbors didn't look out for each other because they didn't know each other. Pedophiles used the anonymity to prey on our children. You couldn't warn your children about the weirdo down the street, because you didn't know the names of anybody on your block. Kids could were no longer allowed to freely roam the new, anonymous neighborhoods.

What was lost is being regained. Online.

The letters are back. Emails, blogs, IM's. Just ask Sarah Palin if private correspondence is again being saved, only to be turned up by enterprising historians and reporters with somewhat more base intentions.

Neighborhoods are back as well. My kids have already demonstrated that. Moving to another town doesn't sever the tie with friends the way it used to. These kids are looking out for each other and protecting each other. They know who is in their group, who fits in, who is a little odd, and who is a stranger to be treated with suspicion.

There is no need for a neighborhood gossip to warn you about the odd behavior of your neighbors, the software itself is a tattletale.

People are starting to rate each other. Software is coming on line to predict who you will like and won't like. If you designate someone a friend, you get to see who THEY have as friends, the groups they join, how long they have been in the neighborhood, and what other people think about them.

Sure there are risks, challenges, con men, predators, bullies, liars, casual teenage cruelty, and a host of other problems. But these kids know how the system works. Kids that are vulnerable can always find pimps to gain and abuse their trust. But that is getting harder and harder for the bad guys as these online communities and support networks strengthen.

It still takes good parenting. I insist that I be on my kid's "friends" list. I can see who their friends are, and get a sense of what is going on in their social lives. Their music plays from their pages, and I know their favorite authors, films, and foods. Even their mood and thought of the day is available to me. Even better, my kids welcome my presence. They can stretch their wings while knowing that daddy bird is still there to keep them from falling too far. (OK, so it's hair, not feathers, but you get the point.) My parents certainly never knew all that about me.

This new neighborhood will probably turn out to be safer than my old home town. Of course, I may be a little biased. I have good kids.


No comments: