Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On Facebook, Does High School End?

"When I was your age, milk was a nickel. And we had to walk three miles to school. In four feet of snow. Uphill. Both ways."

If you're like me, you probably swore you would never bore your offspring with rose-colored memories of the "good old days."

And, if you're like me, you broke that promise a while ago.

Actually, I have no idea how much milk cost when I was a kid. And, I didn't walk to school either. I took the 66th street crosstown bus and transferred at Madison Avenue. The things I find myself making comparisons about are limited mainly to fashion, music and technology.

Especially technology.

Here is a partial list of the things that my fifteen-year old daughter takes for granted that were nowhere in the picture back when I was that age: the Internet, laptops, personal computers, remote controls, email, voice mail, DVDs, iPhones, iPads, iPods, iTunes.

Back then, Apples were fruit.

I'm not complaining really (yes, I have my share of iDevices); I'm just observing. What is more troublesome than the ubiquity of digital gadgets is the lifelong repercussions of being constantly connected. Our toys have certainly changed (cue The Jetsons' theme song here, please), but the real issue is how social media has changed our evolution as individual people.

Think back to your freshman year of college. Chances are, you were nervous about fitting in. You may have been on your own for the first time and had to build new friendships. You may have worried or you may have been elated at the idea of reinventing yourself. Either way, it was pretty much a clean slate.

Now fast forward to Thanksgiving break freshman year. For many of us, that was the first time we returned to our hometown and our old gang. You were glad to see each other but you were also aware that a new chapter had begun and that in some ways at least "you can't go home again."

Facebook completely changes this. Sure, a modern-day college freshman may still be on her own on campus, but as soon as she gets to her dorm room, she's instantly connected to every one of her 652 "friends" from back home. In fact, she probably doesn't even have to go that far. She can check-in with them via text or video-chat right from her phone. Anytime. Anywhere.

Less lonely? Maybe. But, how do these kids ever get a fresh start if their (granted, enormous) circle stays right there with them when they move on? What about the class clown who wants to be taken seriously? Or the nerd who wants to be cool? Or the victim who wants to leave the bullies behind? 

Several years ago, members of my high school class started a Yahoo group in order to spread the word about a reunion. It was wonderful to reconnect and find out what everyone had done with their lives. My classmates took turns posting their bios and one industrious woman put all of the stories into a booklet for us. It was wonderful! We had rocket scientists (yes, literally), educators, doctors, lawyers, writers, political figures, philanthropists, musicians. We reminisced (oy vey, did we reminisce!) and compared notes on mothering (or fathering) our children. Had we grown up in the age of Facebook, there would have been no need for updates of any kind. 

What I have to wonder is would we have achieved the things we did and become the people we had become if our entire class had been looking over our shoulders for twenty years?

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