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Kids and Social Networking – Your Thoughts?

I am going to be doing a little presentation next week at a luncheon at an organization regarding children being online and social networking. The focus is keeping them “safe” in some sense, but it will be more along the lines of just being aware of what is out there, how to keep tabs on it, building the necessary vocabulary to understand it, etc.

I think the big thing I am going to harp on is just helping people understand why people join these sites and do the things they do. Once you understand the why, everything else falls into place. As far as I can tell from observation and my own personal experiences, the main reason is just selfish validation. What I mean by that is that people are using these sites basically for the purpose of having their own existence justified and validated by receiving positive feedback. Whether it’s Digg promoting things, Facebook with the “like” button and status update responses, Twitter and getting responses to tweets… everything is intended to be a virtual pat on the back to just prove that you exist.

While narcissism extends far into adulthood, there is no denying that it is far more prevalent among children (especially teenagers) and their rebellious age. It is always about finding your place, understanding where you fit into the world, blah blah blah.

What does everyone think about this? Would you describe it differently? What other reasons do people have for joining and participating in these social networking communities?

8 Comments

  1. Wow, I guess I’m part of that group of kids with social networks, huh?

    Why am I on that? Well, the main reason is becuse it allows me to connect with people who share similar interests and allows me to keep up with people I may never see again (i.e. classmates). It’s also rather fun to be like this, while maintaining safety of course.

  2. I’ve never really looked at my participation in online networking as a method of “validation”, but after reading this it does seem to fit; both for myself and what I know of my peers. As someone who very easily fits into the category of “kids involved in social networking” I would sum up my reasoning for my involvement as it being the simplest and most practical way of communicating/discussing/inquiring about the things I am interested in.

    Despite validation being a large part of the reasoning behind online networking, for what I would say are most of the kids involved in it, I think finding people of like interests is just as big of a factor.

    I think a good think to make note of in your presentation is the differences between a blog, a public message board and a private chatroom. I know my mom sees little difference between the three in the areas of safety, privacy and purpose, and that is one of the reasons she is so apprehensive about online networking as a whole (and also why I haven’t disclosed to her the extent of my involvement in the online world… which I will say is limited to the Dragonball online world).

  3. Sure, some of it is narcissism, but the reason I’ve jumped into twittering and blogging is to help deal with my insanity. I have social anxiety (like, I’m on the Zoloft so I don’t kill y’all) and one of the ways I deal with that is the low-anxiety interactions of social networking.

  4. nakoudo.ninjawedding.org

    April 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    In addition to narcissism, I suggest that social networks enable coattail riders — and there are a lot of those people in the world. By that I mean people living their heroes’ lives vicariously and/or basking in glory of association. (“I followed David Tennant and NOW HE’S FOLLOWING ME!!omg”)

    Networks such as LinkedIn explicitly promote this sort of behavior.

    I have to go chase some kids off my lawn now.

  5. This coming from a guy with four podcasts and however many sites? Talk about seeking validation… Haha. I kid, of course.

    I’m a high school senior, so I suppose I fit into that “kids involved in social networking” group.

    I was pulled out of public education for two years, and home schooled by my mom, due to anxiety issues. I used Xanga, and then myspace, to keep up with my friends and have some sort of social interaction.

    I use Facebook now for the same purpose, even though I see these people every day. However, I also keep up with cousins that I don’t really get to see anymore, or random friends I’ve made on internet message boards or extra-curricular events.

    I agree that there are a lot of kids on social networking sites that do use them for validation (camwhores, for example), but it’s hardly fair to lump every user into this “attention whore” group that you seem to imply.

  6. Hmmm…I think we all seek validation to some degree. I know I did when I first showed up in this community. I seek less now than back then, but I know it’s something I’m looking for.

    Facebook…I never understood it’s propose. I usually just to leave out while doing homework or some such. It is great to use to connect with people you may not see everyday or normally talk to. To be honest though, I mainly use it for school related things: functions, tutoring (I’m somewhat of a tutor), spreading the word on something, and the school podcast I produce (inspired by this community).

    That last comment was a bit of self-validation, but I think or I believe it gets my point across.

  7. I think thats certainly a part of it, though I think another chunk of it is pure lonelyness. Kids these days are often shut inside for parental fear of child abduction, or simply left by themselves with a TV and a computer to babysit them, and that gets boring and lonely fast for a kid. I remember when I was a little guy I’d run around and play with friends at a park or something like that, even through my teenage years I’d always see kids outside playing, I don’t see that nearly as much these days. Limiting a kid to inside activity except at school limits frienfships. because lets face it, at school, (most) kids either are in hive mind with the group of kids but not really friends, or only have a few real friends (sometimes a bit of both).

    My best friend in grade school didn’t even GO to my gradeschool until the 5th grade, but we lived in the same town (the school borderline was line right in the middle of town). So after school we’d both play around and such. If I’d been stuck inside, I’d have been pretty lonely.

  8. When I was 14 I signed up to Myspace to validate my existance. I did not understand that reason at the time, but subconsciencely I did not feel that I existed in the eyes of others so Myspace was a way to make ppl aware of the fact I existed. None of that was narcarsistic in any way. Half a year later I saw myspace to be fairly boring. My main reasoning became to discover new music with the Myspace Music profiles with some of my mates joining and starting up bands. Over time I discovered that Myspace was a means by which I could download music illegally so I started using Myspace not for the Social Networking aspect but rather the Pirate Networking loophole. I joined up with Facebook prior to it becoming a significant social networking site among my own peers for another means to pirate music but I was disapointed to see that Facebook had more privacy in regard to this loophole. So now I just have a Facebook account for the sole reason that it is such a huge thing.

    Hope this provides help for you Mike.

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