The Facebook phenomenon

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Facebook, the nation's largest on-line social networking site with an estimated 150 million users, used to be the exclusive realm of teenagers and college students. These young people use the site to keep in touch with friends and post information about themselves in the form of notes, wall posts and photographs. But in the past year, it seems that adults have discovered the world of Facebook and are joining the social networking site by the millions.

I am one of those adults who have joined Facebook in the past year. I established my own Facebook presence in order to view my son Nick's photos from his college soccer team's trip to England this past summer. I told both my kids that I was going to get on Facebook and also explained that they didn't need to be my "friend" if they didn't want to. Becoming someone's friend means you give them access to your Facebook page. Both Nick and Ryan "friended" me, and I must say it's been a great way to stay in touch with them while they're away at college. I try to keep my posts on their page to a minimum, because I noticed that when I put up a post on their wall, the posts from their friends seem to diminish.

Some of you are asking - what's Facebook? If you've ever spent any amount of time around your children or grandchildren when they have access to a computer, you will probably see them going on-line to check the site at various times throughout the day. For those of you who think you'd like to check it out, go to www.facebook.com. There is no charge to create a Facebook page and it's really pretty easy. My boys said I would never figure it out on my own, but I called their bluff and created my own page in just a few hours one evening. The site allows you to post pictures and information about yourself and also gives other Facebook users the opportunity to become your "friend" and communicate with you through posts on your page or "wall."

Others of you may be asking - why would I want to join Facebook? First of all, it is a great way to stay connected to your children if they are away at school. It's also a great way to re-connect with old friends and stay in touch with family members. I now have 94 friends (I'd love to reach the 100 mark, so any of you who are reading this and decide to get on Facebook be sure to friend me and help me get to this friendship milestone.) Some of these are friends from high school who I haven't communicated with since I graduated back in 1982 (yes, I'm getting old), and others are friends who have moved away from Cassville. I am also friends with some of my sons' friends and with some of the young women who were in my Sunday School classes over the years. It's really incredible to see what's going on in their lives and nice to have that connection again.

I love being able to post family pictures on my Facebook page for others to view. In the past, I would have to e-mail photos or make prints and send them. Now I just put the photos in albums on my Facebook page and people can access them if they're interested. Because I love looking at other people's photos, it's also fun when friends and family put up new photos that I can view.

I think my boys are finally comfortable with having me on Facebook. I have kept the "creepiness" to a minimum by making it my policy not to ask people their age to be my friends but rather wait until those younger than myself make the request themselves.

The internet has definitely changed the way people communicate with one another, and Facebook has been a big part of that process. For example, Michael Phelps used his Facebook page to apologize to the public about his recent pot-smoking scandal.

For me, Facebook has become another communication tool, but as great as Facebook is, nothing can beat the opportunity to see my friends and family face to face. Facebook provides a way to keep in touch but can never replace human contact or conversation. Young people should also take note that employers often access an applicant's Facebook page before making a job offer, and the posting of questionable content has been known to keep a person from getting a job or has even cost people their jobs. So be careful what you post.