Friday, September 26, 2008

The Exclusivity of Social Networking OR Cliques in the 21st Century

Everyone I know is a part of some sort of social network. We live our lives publically online for all to see. Middle and high school students use this new media almost exclusively to keep in touch with their "friends." As a parent, if you have not experienced for yourself firsthand the worlds of Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo, Linkedin, Twitter, etc., you're missing out. Not only are you missing out on making and reconnecting with people in your own life, but you're living outside of what our kids call the "real world."

No parent wants to be considered irrelevant in their child's life, so I strongly, yet at the same time gently, suggest that you get connected - and NOW!

As an adult my experiences on these networks has been a mixed review. I have joyfully rediscovered friends from the many different places that I've lived. I've even been able to keep up with grown nieces and nephews who are away at college in a way I couldn't seem to do the "old fashioned way." This was how I found out my son broke up with his girlfriend - he posted it on Facebook. Yet this is also a place where the cliques of high school still function.

Friends are made "by request." You either invite someone to be your "friend" or someone invites you. You can reject an invitation by clicking on "ignore" which is less offensive than saying I REJECT YOUR HAND OF FRIENDSHIP. But the result is the same.

You can BLOCK someone from even attempting to be your friend. We call this a pre-emptive strike. It's like painting a sign on the clubhouse door that says "No Girls Allowed!" Our online networks are as exclusive or inclusive as we make them. We have that power.

I could choose to collect friends like my children used to collect Pokemon cards when they were little. There is strength in numbers, but some cards are worth more points than others. But I don't do that.

I actually only have "friends" of people from my life that I desire to stay in touch with. I have no desire to be "friends" with people I do not really know. After all, it's not a competition, is it? Who can collect the most friends on Facebook? Who can get the most people to follow them on Twitter?

Or maybe it is.

I won't play that game. And believe me, it is a game.

Our kids know how to play this game as the experts that they are. I think it's important that as their parents, we know how the game is played too. Not so that we are the "cool" parents, but so we can have meaningful conversations with our kids about what's going on in their lives in a way that they can relate to.

I want to be relevant. Don't you?