Hey, if your reading this my name is Joel, unlike other teenagers that are my age I choose to not have a Facebook. Everyone my age at one point has been asked the inevitable question, “Can you add me as a friend?” Status, friendship, the family gossip mill and wanting to share our thoughts constantly, what is it that makes social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook so appealing to teenagers?
I go to a relatively small private Christian school in Kissimmee, Florida called Life Christian Academy. With around one hundred and twenty kids in my high school, the social scene is pretty much the same as any other high school, rumors, drama, the usual. So to find out better why teens use social networking I put on my best Bryan Williams impersonation and headed off. In total, I interviewed twelve people, each one of them of a different background, status and age.
One of the funniest interviews of my day was when I got to talk to a girl who is a lot like a tom-boy, always the first one to jump into a dare. She was very blunt and explained that Facebook was her “bad habit.” I thought it was really interesting when she said, “Its weird how you can get sucked up in it, no matter if you’re a gothic kid or a kid from the hood.”
Another fun interview was with one of my guy friends; he is loud, to say the least. Throughout my questioning he kept asking me why I didn’t have a Facebook, and kept trying to turn the questions back to me. But one of the questions I got him to answer was if he knew anyone that had been negatively affected using the social network giant. With a funny expression on his face, he answered, “Well if you really wanna know, I knew this girl named Cindy… last year she made a fake profile to find out about a guy that she had a crush on so she could talk to him. Ultimately, a friend of Cindy spoke about what she was doing behind her back. Eventually the boy found out and now makes fun of her with his friends whenever she’s near.
Another girl that I interviewed told me that she is using Facebook, to talk to her friends. I asked her if her parents had a Facebook and she told me that they do, but she blocks them on her page. As I started to think about what she said, suddenly it hit me. I was noticing a pattern.
Ultimately I came to this conclusion, for teenagers we feel the need to express ourselves. We feel that we are not heard so we turn to the Internet and other outlets of expression. Any way that we can let our voice out to the world, to have others know how we feel at a certain instance in life we’ll do it, and that is why it is so easy to get in trouble using social networks.
I’ve noticed that some of the ways teenagers can get in trouble using these websites is when they start to gossip or let their negative emotions out in comments or blogs. Some of their emotions negatively impact people. Like the saying goes, what you post on the Internet is there to stay; you already posted them and cannot take them back. Teens get in trouble when they post on their wall or “tweet” when they are trying to “vent” out their emotions. Sure you can delete a post afterwards, but once you press send, you can not take back what your friends have seen.
What’s worse is when job recruiters look at your page or family members see it because once something is said, your entire reputation or perception of you can be tarnished in an instant. As teenagers, we don’t think about the future. We mostly just think about the “now”. We forget how posting certain things can affect us down the road, and need to be reminded – often.
Another way that teenagers get in trouble is when they start to obsess over their profile and it gets in the way of normal interaction. An example of this are some of my friends, everyday at lunch my two best friends let nothing get in the way of checking up their Facebook. I watch them at lunch and instead of actual talking they prefer updating their status or tweeting about their day. So to put it simply, when social networking or texting takes up all of your time and distracts you from daily tasks like studying for a big exam, or from time with the family, you know you have a problem. As with everything, we need to keep it in moderation.
So what is the best way to stay out of trouble when networking online? There’s the option to not to have a Facebook at all, but we know that that’s just too unrealistic for teens in our digital age…
-Joel Rodriguez, Age 16 Intern Writer for Shawn Edgington