With Facebook, does a young person really have a past anymore?

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Is it really possible to have a past when past actions are documented on Facebook, and old friends never really fade away because they technically remain “friends” with you online? These are some of the questions Peggy Orenstein addresses in her article in New York Times Magazine online, “Growing Up on Facebook.” Orenstein compares her own generation to the younger generation; while she is busy finding old friends on Facebook, she notices that young people, in a way, don’t really have a traditional past. After all, they have an online archive of their lives. Does this mean that the young people who have grown up with Facebook will have a more difficult time escaping their childhoods?

For all the discussion Facebook has prompted […] its most profound impact may be to alter, even obliterate, conventional notions of the past, to change the way young people become adults.

Online social networks are so new that it’s impossible to know their long-term impact. There’s some evidence that college students have mixed feelings about being guinea pigs for the faux-friendship age. One student interviewed for a study of why and how college students use Facebook, which was published last year in The Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, admitted that being privy to the personal details of “friends” who she had not seen in years made her uncomfortable.

A study published in 2007 in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication suggested that hanging onto old friends via Facebook may alleviate feelings of isolation for students whose transition to campus life had proved rocky. Evidently they took comfort in knowing that “Dylan is drinking Peets.” That may well be, but something is drowned in that virtual coffee cup — an opportunity for insight, for growth through loneliness.

This article provides an interesting, and somewhat unsettling, look at the way social networking may be fundamentally changing the maturation process of young people today.

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2 responses to “With Facebook, does a young person really have a past anymore?

  1. Just like in real life, you can choose to stay in contact with old friends or not. Facebook allows you to deny friends, keep things private and keep people on limited access. I think its all about knowing your limits.

  2. This also raises the question of how (or if) can someone bury something in one’s past if indeed ‘the past’ is carried around on FaceBook like a piece of luggage.

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