Photo courtesy of drinksmachine.
Feeling much like an entry in the entertaining “Worst-case Scenario” survival guides, I was faced with my very own online life-or-death challenge the other day—whether or not to friend my mother on Facebook. I remember logging on to the popular social networking site and wondering just who was behind the harmless little red notification flag that serves as an alert for new Friend Requests. I soon discovered, with what can only be described as a mixture of shock and chagrin, that it was my very own mother. Instantly, my entire Facebook life passed before me—every photo, every comment and every video. You get the idea.
Where do you draw the line with connections on social networking sites?
At this point, the “Ignore” button was looking increasingly attractive. Fortunately, I’ve never been one to over share so I soon realized that this situation might not end so badly. After all, Facebook has privacy protections and I can be selective about what I do and do not share. Choosing to look at the bright side and pushing aside any lingering thoughts about potentially embarrassing content, I hit “Confirm” and posted a welcome message on my mom’s wall.
At the end of the day I emerged with one more friend, but my online world would never be the same. Before this experience, Facebook represented a familiar online space where I went daily to see what my friends were up to, to post something entertaining from LOL Cats or to read the latest news from the Case Foundation (yes, that was a shameless plug). Things change though when familiar relationship roles are abandoned and the traditional rules no longer apply.
The reality is that social networking sites are rewriting the rules of etiquette, relationships and even friendships. This evolution of how we interact with one another will be particularly challenging in the coming years as different generations intersect in the online space. A recent study from the Pew Research Center revealed that while young adults still dominate the online space, older Internet users are growing exponentially. According to Pew, “Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010.”
I have to wonder how my own mom, and those who didn’t grow up with computers and social networking as part of their daily lives feel about the ongoing shift in technology and communications. With this growing rate of online use across age groups, the question now becomes whether or not we will merge together or collide when we meet at this important online intersection. To be sure, it's a tough intersection to find... my mom and I will see you there!