People on Facebook ignore mother's advice to keep life’s details private

April 6, 2011 

Once you become an adult, you can no longer wear your varsity letterman's jacket, and not just because it doesn't fit anymore. For anyone looking to win the equivalent of "Best Personality" or "Most Likely to Succeed," there is a mechanism to gauge your importance in the adult world: Facebook.

Recently, the American Pediatric Association issued a warning to parents about children and social media sites coining the term “Facebook Depression.” This can occur when teens spend a significant amount of time on social media sites.

The association believes that the intensity of the online world can trigger social isolation, rivalry, and risky behaviors in teens. Perhaps “Facebook Depression” is a condition that afflicts not just our children, but us adults as well.

When Facebook first came out, it was a safe haven from MySpace. People in their 30s finally had an age-appropriate forum to stay connected and live up to their yearbook promise to K.I.T. (Keep in Touch). You got to see which one of your former high school classmates succeeded and who still lives at home in their parents’ basement.

But once you reconnected with the girl who refused to dissect the fetal pig in biology (yes, that was me), you developed an insatiable desire to create a fiefdom of acquaintances, co-workers, family, and friends. You didn’t want to be the Facebook equivalent of the high school nerd. So, you “friended” your friends’ friends in some vain attempt to become the big man on campus.

Facebook is “Keeping up with the Joneses” on acid.

You can instantaneously receive status updates as to what all 500 of your closest friends are doing. Yes, I really need to know that my former college roommate is going to “get her drink on” tonight. Thank goodness the Joneses just informed me, and all of their friends’ friends, one of whom is on parole for residential burglary, that they are leaving their house vacant on a trip to Las Vegas.

Facebook can make you feel like the pimply girl home alone on a Saturday night with her pint of ice cream. I’m glad it was girl’s night out last weekend, but I was home with a sick child dodging projectile vomit. Facebook has become a popularity contest, and no one wants to be the last kid picked in gym class.

Because of our innate need to feel important and relevant, Facebook becomes a platform to let the Joneses know that our lives are exciting too, even though the highlight of our night is playing Farmville until our fingers bleed. But, “Keeping up with the Joneses” becomes “Guess what crazy thing the Joneses did on their trip to Vegas that is now captured in a tagged photo on Facebook?”

But, as more of the details of their wild vacation emerge via status updates, my depression quickly becomes a mild case of the Facebook blues. My jealousy over the fact that they got to see the sun quickly dissipates after being bombarded by details of their weekend of debauchery. What happened in Vegas certainly did not stay in Vegas and all of the Facebook community, including Mr. Jones’ boss, now knows about their misadventures.

Facebook has become a public forum where people foolishly document the intimate details of their lives when they should heed the sage advice of their mothers and keep some things private. Perhaps if we model restraint on Facebook and exhibit appropriate online behavior, our children’s Facebook Depression will be cured. Or, in the alternative, simply adjust your privacy settings. Our hijinks should stay in high school where they belong.

Ami Peterson, who lives and works in Olympia, is a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors. She can be reached at amipetersonoly@yahoo.com.

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