Daily Archives: August 2, 2009

Facebook, teenagers, suicide

Apparently, social networking sites prevent teenagers from developing rounded relationships, makes them treat friendship as a commodity and helps drive them to suicide.

It seems that Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols is not a big fan of SMS and email, either.

Friendship is not a commodity, friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it’s right.

Well, yes. But I suspect this little outburst confuses symptom with cause. Any examination of the teenage high school experience (albeit perhaps mediated by Hollywood) reveals that teenagers often treat friendship as a commodity. Facebook and SMS just help them refine this a little.

Should we be worried? Well, as I’ve found, teenagers can be a bit obsessive about keeping up with their Facebook wall, but on the whole I’m not going to panic about it. After all, what are they going to be doing if they’re not sitting at home damaging themselves with excessive virtual community membership? Sitting in big gangs in the park drinking cider and getting into fights? Well – at least that’s real physical interaction.

It all reminds me a bit of the Seduction of the Innocent panic in the US in the 1950s – the adult world got into a lather about kids reading violent comics and scapegoated them, with mass comic book burnings and Senate sub-committee hearings.

Nowadays the sight of kids reading comic books is more likely to evoke feelings of nostalgia than a fear of social collapse. And in a few decades no doubt the same will be true for video games – another contemporary adult bête noir.

Meanwhile, let’s have a look at that dysfunctional teenage experience, with not a laptop in sight…

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