The World is Flat And Now So Is Facebook…the kids are not happy.

by Marianne Richmond on September 29, 2006

At least the sample size of two that I live with who responded to the question{aire}. Last week after it was announced that Facebook, long the exclusive territory of those with an edu email address was going to throw open their doors to everyone. There had been an intermediate stop that allowed employees of certain corporations in and the addition of geographic networks to the existing  school networks. When I mentioned that to my two teenage sons they exchanged the "Mom has no idea what she is talking about"  look followed by the proverbial "how do YOU know?" question. I smiled and told them they could just wait and see.

On September 26 at 1:47 PM, Carolyn Abrams of Facebook announced on their blog, "Welcome to Facebook, everyone." I immediately signed up. Research of course. I broke the news to the kids at carpool. First the open admissions policy; then my sign-up. They did not take it well. In fact, they are still trying to make the case that having adults on Facebook is bad enough; having their mother on Facebook is mortifying. MySpace fine; Facebook, not fine.

According to my kids, MySpace is for weidos, businesses and other adults. Facebook is for normal kids to hang out with their friends in a place where their parents or any other adults are not permitted. According to my in-home panel of experts, permitting parents on Facebook diminishes the attraction exponentially for kids; a complete lowering of standards. Perspective is a wonderful thing.

To quote Schopenhauer, "Every man takes the limits of his field of vision as the limits of the world." And as James Friedman tells us, the World is Flat and now so is Facebook. And so we will see how this plays out on the homefront.

There has been quite a bit of discussion amongst the three of us. My kids feel a sense of betrayal and ask "why" Facebook would do such a thing in general; and of course the fact that I now have an account regardless of my business rationale is simply mortifying. My thirteen year old wants to be assured that I will not be able to be "his friend"…he wonders if there is some unknown way that I will be able to figure out to accomplish this.

My fifteen year old asks me if I am aware that if someone searches for "Richmond" that my name will come up and do I realize what an embarrassment that will be for him. He poses a solution. He will make his account "private" and then no one will search for him. I ask, "Isn’t that the point…that your friends are supposed to be able to find you?" Well he says he is not sure what he will do, then.

And again he warns, "Did I know that any weirdo will be able to get on Facebook now…just like MySpace; not that you are a weirdo, Mom….its just weird that you are on Facebook.

Danah Boyd writes, "I don’t believe that they can continue as a hang-out space. I know that Facebook will continue to grow but I believe that the core value of it will be lost for the sake of growth." Rex Hammock says he and his teenagers agree that it is a mistake for Facebook to allow him to join. He quotes Danah Boyd’s use of the term "conflicting social contexts" which is precisely the conundrum expressed by my kids with the word, "weird."

Hammock writes, " I think one social network can’t be all things to all people: "Conflicting social contexts." I believe that in addition to our desire to have public personas and to be members of the community at large, individuals also need to be members of walled-off, defined communities, families and extremely finite networks….– so why online should there be one massive social network that is all things to all people?"

Well, let me tell you a story, a sponsored story. We all remember the Facebook debacle earlier this month with the mini-feed and news-feed features that produced Students Against Facebook News Feeds? News feeds, meet ad feeds.

This week MediaWeek reports that ads, or Sponsored Stories will be placed within the user’s News Feed so that when the user clicks on an ad, their network of friends will receive that information and the opportunity to do likewise. So, not only will your friends know where you are going, they may be able to make an educated guess about what you will be wearing.

Mashable provides this "Update: the Facebook folks mailed to say that your friends won’t be notified when you click an ad. Nonetheless, ads are still coming to the Facebook news feed – something that’s unlikely to go down well with the community."

Call it a mash-up, call it a smash up,  call it conflicting social contexts; Facebook is flat and the kids are not happy. Mashable says, "Worse idea ever." He may be right. The deposits made in the authenticity bank account earlier may not cover the euphemistic use of sponsored story to mean advertising and the Facebook Brand may be a case story without a happy ending.

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