Two generations on facebook!

Where do we draw the line? When do we hang the “STOP” poster up?

Facebook (fb) is a social network, it’s also an eye-opener! Through it we’ve seen images of relatives and friends in many forms, whether normal, good or bad. My colleague came to me yesterday, tears filling up her eyes, after she’d discovered (from a family member of hers) the “other” side of her teenage daughter in facebook. Her daughter happens to be in my friends’ list in fb and I sort of knew what she was up to all along. Honestly speaking, I assumed her parents approved of her acts, there were no signs that told me otherwise.

Teens of this era are difficult to understand, they know we’re watching, they know we have a “mouth”, but to draw that connection from A to B, nope?!  The daughter knows I have access to her profile and she knows I have a mouth, wouldn’t she suspect that I may use my mouth to tell her mother of her “hidden” identity? Of course it wasn’t me who exposed the daughter this time, it was someone else, but you get my point?

The world wide web has allowed us to wear masks and hide behind those masks to portray more of our “covert” selves. Either an image of what we really are deep inside but fear to show the world, or more of how we want to be perceived by others. Well, that was achievable to us on some level 10 years ago, because we were the pioneers of Internet users, we had no parent/aunt/uncle watching over us when we’re in our discreet life on line. Youth of this era on the other hand, have us as an older generation watching what they say and do, observing their hidden or “covert” selves unfold, and also view “how” they like to be perceived on the digital world. What happens is that they, unlike us, do not have the privilege of hiding. They cannot maintain that double identity,  they are forced to maintain a mono-identity in the presence of both (1) “us” – those who know the teen within his/her family surroundings (2) plus their social network of friends, to those who they strive to portray a different image in front of!  If the teenager is usually the rebellious character among friends, they’re left with no choice but to continue portraying that image in facebook. The twist is that if an adult in the family or a family friend is part of facebook, the youngster is exposed, we suddenly see their other or rather “hidden” side.

What’s really interesting from what I’ve noticed, is that teens albeit showing off their “cooler” side  to satisfy their friends, do not really care how they’re perceived by the older generation, it does not matter anymore. I’ve seen images that left me dumbfounded and others that shattered my nerves for days! That in itself is another question, why and how do they have the courage to ignore what “we” ( us who can contact their parents if we wish) think of them?    

Now this colleague of mine is blaming me for not telling her long ago, and is now expecting me to spill the beans whenever I see anything again. I would like to deal with matters in my own way if something like this is to ever come up again, because I wouldn’t like to break trust with the daughter or any other. I have youngsters in my list, with pictures of actions that would not please their parents much, but so far I’ve resorted to disapproval within myself or in certain circumstances discuss it with my significant others.

What do you usually do in situations as such? Do you approach the teen or their parent?

When do you usually take action? When they’ve crossed certain boundaries or do you issue warnings before?

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19 Comments

  1. Nadia said,

    October 11, 2009 at 9:24 am

    It’s difficult to know what to do in such situations. Facebook is a problem especially with teenagers in Oman because it’s the only place they can be totally cool without worrying about parents, teachers, etc. The problem is when someone decides to tell on them and send photos to their parents, etc. Little do they know that being ‘cool’ on facebook is fake and unrealistic. They also have no idea about the dangers of adding people they dont know/don’t trust. I know someone on Facebook who spends all her time talking about her boyfriend in her status updates; when she slept with him, what they did, how she misses him, blah blah blah, and she’s only 20. Her mother is also added as her friend so I often think ‘What is her mother thinking reading all this crap from her daughter?’ .. How embarassing.

    But I’m curious to know, you said your colleague’s daughter was ‘misbehaving’ on facebook , etc. What was she doing? I’m curious to know what young Omanis are up to? the worst I can think of is photos in tight costumes. I’m going to tag your article to my blog.

    • Shahrazad said,

      October 11, 2009 at 6:52 pm

      It is a problem, but in a way it’s also become where you know what the teenager is up to. Thinking about it gives me the chills though, because like I said, they don’t care anymore if people knew or not, which is even more dangerous! If that’s what they proudly show off, you can only wonder what happens behind scenes…

      I hope this girl you talked about is not Omani!

      The daughter had suicidal images, those of blood, knives and blades with words like I want to die. Emo or Gothic style! She comes from a very conservative family, so images like these were a shock to the poor mom!
      The other teenage I had in mind was one who smokes with pleasure (in his images, that is), the mother commented on the picture with clear disgust and disapproval. Lucky she has access and I salute her for keeping an eye in an indirect manner.

      Thanks for the tag Nadia :)… I’ve seen some 70 silent readers of this post so far, I hope a discussion gets generated. It is an important topic.

  2. AD said,

    October 11, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    sigh!!! i wish it were that easy to answer 😦

  3. ynotoman said,

    October 11, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Facebook – its similar to where I live; kids under 10 roaming the streets at night and parents have no idea where they are; riding motor bikes – no helmets – 3 to a bike – Facebook’s Goths & Emos have virtual blood – the unsupervised kids will have real soon. Virtual or real – “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!“

    • Shahrazad said,

      October 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm

      Liked the link between the two, very true!
      I understand the “real” world has more trouble, but the “virtual” world is not doing good either. Many baddies kick off from the cyber world..

  4. Hamed Alazri said,

    October 12, 2009 at 3:15 am

    Important topic indeed! We live in a difficult age. Teenagers are under “peer pressure” and “freedom” candies and parents can’t do much to keep them “safe.”

    I think it is time now for another approach; continuous and direct dialogues with the youngsters. We need to get closer to their hearts, allow them some space, and convince them of our Islamic values.

    • Shahrazad said,

      October 13, 2009 at 11:19 pm

      True… Shahrayar has commented below on exactly the same matter with his own parents as an example.

      Technology speeds uncontrollably, do parents make the effort to compete with that speed?

  5. Bobby said,

    October 12, 2009 at 4:19 am

    As a teenager (I am in last -the 19), I too have come across this problem, luckily, I never added my relatives to my friends list…I kept pending their requests until they forget to question me!
    Better still, as all my family members are mostly active on Multiply (another social site) there problem isn’t dire

    …but yes I know of many “annoyed” teenie friends of mine who are being “bugged” (their language for questioned) by their parents about the unknown friends…and some pics…(imagine the shock when I saw my English prof’s teenie son with a mouthful of smoke…)
    But if its all within the limits,it is all right yet we all need to be careful!

    Ah yes! this post reminded me of the book Speedpost by Shobhaa De, where she discusses the same prob with her daughter…

    • Shahrazad said,

      October 13, 2009 at 11:31 pm

      Glad you posted here Bobby, it’s good to see the picture from an insider! So for you, you’ve resorted to ignoring requests to escape being questioned over your pictures?

      Do you think it’s healthy for a parent to keep an eye? Like if your parent chooses to monitor you on facebook, would that make you monitor what information/picture you like to share? Also, would that deter you from misbehaving in general, or would you only be “less public” about it?

      I should get my hands on this book, sounds interesting 🙂

  6. Shahrayar said,

    October 13, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    An interesting topic indeed. I remember a time (about 10 years back … gosh that makes me sound so old !!) when if you didn’t use MIRC you didn’t know how to have fun. Or sending postcards, birthday cards, letters by post was a nerd’s thing, the Internet was on and there was nothing to stop it. Every one had an e-mail, everyone had to learn how to type quickly and answer the famous question ASL ? … you were either in or out, and no one wanted to miss out on the action.

    Taking you way back ( 50 years ago….. and if you think I am that old you are wrong because this was way before I was born) when my dad saw one of the first versions of computers owned by shell. This was the size of a truck.

    Dad (who is almost 80 now), although laid his eyes on the first computer before most of us were born, he didn’t know much about them. His first encounter with computers was at work before he retired. He would follow the instructions below:

    1) Switch on computer
    2) Click on the dial up icon
    3) Listen to the fax like noise
    4) Open FTP (I am sure a lot of you don’t even know what is this)
    5) Transfer Excel file
    6) Click on disconnect
    7) switch off computer

    Dad would follow these steps once a week to send data to shell in Holland. After retirement, dad realised that there is more to computers than word and excel. Today, dad has a facebook account !!

    As technology was moving at a very fast pace, parenting techniques have not changed much. My mum would frown at me when I used to spend hours on MIRC flirting with the girl who is my wife now. She didn’t know much about what was going on but she sure knew that I was up to no good.

    Parents of the current teenage generation have no excuse, dad has mastered the use of cyberspace in his 70’s and mum knew that I was doing something fishy online. If parents keep vigilant and learn to adapt with technology, they would certainly see and act on their children’s behaviours.

    • Shahrazad said,

      October 13, 2009 at 11:46 pm

      I love long replies, especially ones from the Mr. 😀

      The example illustrated is a very common one. Most parents would question their child’s engagement (for exceptionally long hours) in a media they know nothing about. It’s their right, it shows they’re concerned. However, there are very few who would go that extra mile to walk on a dark road, to discover the “frightening” cyberspace for the mere interest of understanding the younger generation. I wholeheartedly salute those parents.

      The parents, whatever the generation gap, are always on one side of the river, and the child on the other. Unless they know how to “smartly” bridge the gap with sufficient knowledge and understanding, they will never reach their child on the other side.

  7. October 14, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Very difficult question! It seems to me that if these kids are posting stuff like this and at the same time adding you to their friends lists then they must know the risk? It seems weird.

    • Shahrazad said,

      October 15, 2009 at 6:38 pm

      tell me about it. Weird and a matter of concern also!

  8. Reality said,

    October 14, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    When I was in college there were a group of Gulf girls that had two identities. One they kept infront of their parents to let them go out freely, and the other they kept between their friends. The latter included smoking, getting high on regular basis, drinking, nightclubs…etc.

    Then when facebook became popular, their pictures doing all that stuff became public, but not to all. They used limited profile view for their family members! so some kids are still smart and know how to keep their identity secret.

    Personally, I dont add teenager kids to my profile.. cause you find out many things you prefer not knowing!

    • Shahrazad said,

      October 15, 2009 at 6:42 pm

      When I first joined facebook, I almost got a heart attack, not in the literal sense, but you know way too much without having to do anything and it’s quite depressing at times, specially when you least expect it! Now, I think it’s an eye-opener and of course it’s always good to know!

  9. Hicham said,

    October 17, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Facebook -for me- became like the ‘Club’ in the real life where everybody show-off as exactly happen in any club so although it seems a difficult problem, I think everything is related to how people raise their children up.

  10. 'liya said,

    October 23, 2009 at 3:16 am

    I never thought of something like that happening on facebook but I can see it’s possible. I have friends my age who use it regularly. I have older friends and family members who use it. And then there’s my siblings’ crowd much younger and they will post anything and everything. There’s bound to be some bumping into one another. And this is why I don’t have facebook. Avoid the whole thing altogether!

    • Shahrazad said,

      October 27, 2009 at 7:31 am

      Liya: So you think it’s safer to avoid being *in the know*? I had the same thought when I first started facebook, there was just too much stimulants, too many information, too much to see. I thought about deactivating instantly, but now I think knowing is definitely better. Facebooks tells you a lot, tells you what you won’t find in a newspaper 😉

  11. Um Haitham said,

    October 30, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Usually when i get a notification that some tenager from a family member wants to be my friend , i tend to agree, then i try to see whats going on in their profile , & if i see anything that needed attension from my side, i talk to her personally or send her an e.mail or so , this happend to me yesterday , & belive me some accept the advice if you are lucky
    Good luck


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