Monday, December 6, 2010

“Please define me Facebook, I need you to be whole.”

By Dean Kalahar

Not so long ago, teenagers learned the hard realities of life, face to face, while they were busy hitting the books. This process was a predictable and stable series of life events, challenges, and personal achievements that guided them to adulthood. In fact, Eric Erickson, a pioneer in psychology, detailed why this interaction and group dynamic is important in the maturation process of teens. First, group interaction allows teens to feel acceptance, fit in, and find a temporary identity. Secondly, the group acts as a manageable measuring stick for a teen to psychologically compare and contract their unique temperaments, values, and principles. This interplay eventually solidifies into a unique sense of self where individual acceptance occurs. In short, the process allows a teen to grow up.

Today, however, technology such as Facebook has unknowingly removed the fundamental aspect of personal interaction and juvenile maturation. The devastating cost of this cyber-disease that ravages the minds of our most vulnerable citizens needs to be understood and evaluated.

Facebook, the social networking site that has become a primary link for many aspects of commerce and communication is robbing our youth the ability to answer the most important question of the maturation process, “who am I.” As a result, children are reaching adult age without undergoing the orderly and sequential experiences and associated cognitive growth necessary to become adults. The result is a generation who are immature, confused, self absorbed, and incapable of handling rejection, disappointment, challenges, and reasoned thought.

Facebook creates a lifestyle of empty friends, phony group dynamics and self-promotion that inhibits the behavioral interactions necessary for personal growth. Today’s teens do not learn about life, face to face, they covertly create a cyber identity where they hide from themselves and the realities of growing up, while believing they are becoming mature and ready to face life’s challenges. The group dynamics created by Facebook is an ironic mirage that has nothing to do with true social interaction or networking.

Teens using Facebook are forced into an unmanageable and unpredictable maturation process based in a cyber reality where the dominant need is to “fit in.” This is done following a software model of being “friended,” updating ones “status,” and obsessively self-promoting and visually glorifying every trivial second of one’s empty existence. Maturation with Facebook is an unstable series of cyber interactions, cyber attacks, and worthless cyber achievements that create psychological confusion and hold hostage a child’s ability to grow and mature.

In a seemingly safe attempt to build a persona and ultimately accept one’s self, kids are actually placing themselves in an experience that does just the opposite. Facebook offers the non-adult mind severe identity confusion, moral relativity, anger, and depression- just to name a few potential maladies. Our children are not becoming productive self reliant adults, they are becoming slaves to a false world of human interaction and surface noise where everyone is connected, everyone communicates, yet nobody speaks. The result, psychologically stunted adults.

Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook from his dorm room at Harvard has been portrayed as a social outcast in his youth. What began as an alternate reality to replace genuine interaction for Zuckerberg was turned into a multi-billion dollar practical joke as if to say, “If I had to suffer, so will the rest of you.” In Facebook, we truly have the Revenge of the Nerds.

We are losing our traditional system of self acceptance through personal growth and replacing it with a dangerous computer application that transcends the guidance of the family and tangible friends. In the end, adult children who are empty, confused, and lost can thank Facebook for their inability to face the world. How do we know Facebook is becoming a surrogate to accepting self? Half of the 500 million users log in every single day. “Please define me Facebook, I need you to be whole.”

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