The September 20th article in USA Today, “Meet my 5000 new best pals,” is an interesting look at “friending” in digital social networks like MySpace that is especially popular with young digital natives. Issues with “friends” in virtual spaces mirror those with face-to-face friends in many cases, but questions also arise about whether “bad social skills” are reinforced in online environments where friends can be readily “deleted” with the click of a mouse.
My own experiences with MySpace have been instructive– one thing I have learned is not to use my actual birth year in my profile, because marketers and other MySpace users are able to do search queries and send unsolicited invitations for “friendship” apparently based on my age demographic. The solution I have observed other people using (and have adopted) is to report my birth year as “1901.” Many of the unsolicited “friend invitations” I received have been from individuals owning or promoting adult/mature/inappropriate/offensive websites that I don’t want to visit, much less establish “friendship” with.
This USA Today article also discusses some of the issues with the “Top 8” friends in MySpace, which are user-specified and show up on a person’s homepage whenever someone views it. Feelings are hurt when some are included on the “Top 8” list and others are not. When we are talking to students about social networking, I think it is important we discuss the potential implications of “friending.” We have heard the saying “you are judged by the company you keep.” I have recently heard stories of fraternity and sorority rush procedures including analyses of the Facebook and MySpace pages of prospective members. The public record young people have written and continue to write about themselves on public DSN sites may undergo future scrutiny the kids themselves didn’t anticipate. This can also include college admissions reps and prospective employers reading their pages and profiles, and using that information to make admissions or hiring decisions.
I think one of the biggest challenges when working with teenagers is to help them think about future consequences rather than just making decisions based on the emotions of the moment. That is why encouraging students to dream, set goals, and write down their dreams and goals is so important. I also think these issues with social networking highlight the importance of providing fenced, moderated digital social networking environments like Imbee.com and Think.com for students to use. Blocking social networking sites is an insufficient response!
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On this day..
- Chance favors the connected mind - 2010
- The Ethic of the Link, Hyperlinked Writing, and Mainstream Media Link Hangups - 2009
- Theater magic in Wamego, Kansas and KSU football - 2008
- Value of blogs and citizen journalism demonstrated in Myanmar - 2007
- Please submit a proposal for K-12 online! - 2006
- Imbee is better than Disney - 2006
- CUE Opposes DOPA - 2006
- Education leaders propose more useless and counterproductive ideas - 2006
- Educational technology legal issues - 2005
- Apache Users - 2005