I got my first ‘Like’ on a post yesterday and spent about five minutes feeling inordinately thrilled. Then I was off that high and wondering how someone’s random click impacts my life. (Yup, the story of my life – cannot just sit back and enjoy something!) This led to all sorts of weighty thoughts about the Like button and the sociological and psychological implications of social networking.
As a parent, I was thinking specifically of middle schoolers and high schoolers. What does it mean to believe that you have to have several hundred friends on Facebook and to feel that you need the validation of several people clicking Like on your every thought and action? Will they go through life feeling as though everything they do has to be worthy of a great Wall post or a Twitter update? – “Is this a photo that I can share? Is this breakfast cool enough to win approval? Can I do anything dramatic enough to get a reaction?” As though life has to be one long high-light reel. As though life always has to be played to an audience.
There has been discussion about the way social media impacts children and young adults. There has been increasing coverage about cyber bullying; also, young adults are being warned to think twice about what they post on their social media websites because a future employer will one day get to see it all. However, I have not yet seen much out there about the long-term psychological implications of Facebook or Twitter. The official Facebook statistic page says that there are 500 million users and each user has an average of 130 friends. While today the average age of the Facebook user is estimated at 38, there is little doubt that many school-age children are a substantial part of the Facebook 500 million. It is hard enough as an adult to come to terms with the subtle pressures of social media and it leaves me wondering about what is in store for the younger users.
I’d love to know what others feel about this. Will Facebook increase the demand for therapists? Or, do you feel that this is not going to be a big deal – the kids will get the need for approval out of their systems early on and just move ahead with their lives? How do you handle all this ‘liking’?