The New Extended Family – Facebook

People that know me know what a techie freak I am.  Since I am from the border generation (those over 55) people tell me I am an anomaly when it comes to technology with many of my friends coming to me for advice in regards to their computer issues.  And for the uninitiated, the world of computers has as many specialities as health care.  Just because somebody is very good using Word (as an example) does not mean they are a techie.

A computer to them is kind of like a car to me.  I can strip down my computer, install new audio or video cards, put in extra memory, reset or create new settings, etc etc.  If I were so inclined I could access your computer, record your keystrokes and you wouldn’t even know I was there.  The only thing I can do with my car is use the ignition key, make sure it’s kept fuelled and take it in for its regular maintenance.

With that said your computer requires maintenance as well and can be just as dangerous as a car if you don’t know what you are doing.  It can also be a useful as your car when it comes to getting things done and staying in touch with people.

When I was a kid dad would pile us in the car and off we would go to see relatives, yes relatives, members of our extended family.  In today’s day and age you wouldn’t throw the car keys at your kid and tell them to go for a drive without first making sure they were prepared.  The same is true when it comes to technology, proper preparation to computer use and social media is definitely a requirement.

Because I went back to school in 2004 to complete a two year program on e-commerce and business application in a digital world I was able to access Facebook in its very early days.  When it was first released in Feb of 2004 initially it was only available to university students so I have been at it coming up to ten years.  It has been continually morphing since its inception to what it is today.  From my perspective it has become an excellent tool to help maintain the concept of the extended family, something that has been under erosion for the past thirty years.

Lets face it we are a much more portable society today then we were forty years ago.  My family is spread from one side of Canada to the other.  I have relatives and friends all over the world.  Facebook is my primary tool when it comes to maintaining contact with friends or family.  I understand the importance of that extended family so Facebook has done wonders in maintaining that.  The other tool, Skype, has brought a whole new world to long distance grand-parenting.

So when I see a story like the one yesterday about the declining interest in Facebook, it makes me think of a number of things.  However right at the top of the list is how little importance parents over 35 years of age appear to be putting on the concept of the extended family.  What are we teaching our kids?

When I see a young lady on the news (she was probably around 16) telling the world she is leaving Facebook because her generation uses other forms of social media like Instagram, Tumblr, or any other of like programs which should be anybodies option.  However lets do it for the right reasons.  She went on to say she wants to hear from her friends on how good she looks in that picture or how cool her current activity is.  What she doesn’t want to hear is from some uncle or aunt telling her how much she looks like her mother.

I can appreciate her need for affirmation from her peers but I do hope that is not her only avenue for praise.  To me that is frightening.  But it also tells me that she has no concept of the extended family my generation grew up with.  Facebook has the potential to keep that extended family concept alive and well but when you have teenage users who don’t understand that I have to question the parenting.  What are you teaching your children?

I think people have the right to use whatever tools they so desire as long as others are not being hurt.  But when they fail to recognize the full potential of that tool then someone, somewhere has dropped the ball.  Seeing Facebook solely as a way to receive affirmation over your looks or activities is really very shallow which seems to be the direction our society is taking.  Pigeon holing Facebook as a dying social media because some relative you haven’t seen in years shares a family thought with you does not make it useless.  Limiting the scope of the potential of Facebook is right up there with spending $500 on Photoshop so you can scan pictures.

Not understanding the scope of a tool like Facebook is an indication that parents have even less understanding of it than their children.  Facebook has become the biggest contributor to the concept of extended families we have seen in over thirty years.  And parents, if you are serious about your kids growing up to be responsible contributing members of society then learn a little about the tools your kids are using.

Just one man’s opinion!


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