Thursday, January 27, 2011

Is Facebook Healthy?

The topic of whether facebook is a good or bad thing seems to come up in conversation all the time.

I think it depends on how you use it.

I love that I have reconnected with friends from high school and college and former workplaces on facebook.  It has been so interesting to reconnect with high school friends and find that we have a lot in common, similar values and world views.  I have enjoyed many, many facebook mini-reunions.  I love that it has served as a catalyst for building some relationships that I had lost touch with.

Jason grew up in Southern California and moved here at 15.  He has reconnected with some of his friends from California on facebook.  He has also reconnected with friends from when he first moved here and we are planning a mini-reunion with these friends.

At the same time, facebook has also been a means to an end for some relationships.  Sometimes people's true colors can come out in a forum where they have little face time or when you end up communicating with them more than you had before.  Some people are very confrontational on facebook, saying things they would likely not say face to face.  Some people are very competitive on facebook, posting their latest purchases and conquests or trying to compete with someone else's posts.  Other people share inappropriately on facebook or post every breath they take.  Of course, you can "hide" these people.

I find that a majority of my friends use facebook to keep their friends up to date on what is going on in their lives.  Although I am not a sports fan, I get a kick out of the discussions that go on during games.  People can watch sports from the privacy of their own homes, but it becomes social with their friends on facebook.  A friend from Minnesota can interact with friends from New Jersey and Arizona while watching the game.  New Year's Eve 2009-2010 my friends and I, all home with small children, had a running dialogue all night on facebook that was a blast.

You can learn a lot more about people on facebook.  Some things you want to know (their favorite recipes or movies) and some things you may not want to know (when they are fighting with someone, the drama in their lives).  You may find yourself drawn into the drama in their lives just by their frequent status updates.

A year or so ago, I was introduced to Farmville and became quickly hooked.  I admit, it was not healthy and became somewhat of an obsession.  I was timing everything based on when my crops were ready.  Luckily it was short lived (only a few weeks).  During that time, A and P wanted to play Farmville.  I saw nothing wrong with them playing Farmville and actually thought there were budgeting lessons that could be learned from it, so we allowed them to play on my account at first.  Eventually, since they both wanted to play at the same time, we allowed them to get their own accounts.  We set it up so no one can search for them and we had to monitor all of their friend requests.  They were to do nothing but play the games.

Last weekend some things came to light that are making us question our decision to allow the girls on facebook.  It really is not a place for children and I know that, but I think the games are harmless and the girls don't spend a lot of time on the computer.  We felt that some monitored exposure to social networking, while we could teach them what was acceptable and what was not, would be fine.  I know a lot of parents think that it could be a place for drama, but we had naively believed that if we kept it to close friends and family and kept a close monitor on it, we could eliminate the drama.

I actually would never have even considered the potential for what happened -that just goes to show how naive I am.  The girls have not done anything wrong, nor are they in any danger, but being on facebook has lead to a level of drama in their lives that we do not want for them.

Do we take it away completely?  That seems unfair since the girls did nothing wrong.  They spend a minimal amount of time on, but do enjoy some of the games.

Do we go over their friend lists with a fine tooth comb?  Do we just allow them to use our accounts?  Maybe P can use mine and A can use Jason's?

I'm not sure.

We have told them to stay off of it for the last few days and they have.  Actually they have not complained or asked when or if they can go back on.

So, maybe until they do...we will let this sleeping dog lie...

Like the internet, facebook can be a great tool if used wisely, but unfortunately there are unstable people who enjoy creating drama and hurting others who make both the internet and facebook a place where you need to proceed with caution.