The Family Reunion You Can Never Leave

There’s an interesting article at The Verge on why teenagers seem to be moving away from Facebook, the thing I loathe but feel compelled to use anyway. The takeaway is simply that what makes Facebook Facebook, sharing stuff about your life, is no longer hip. The fad, like so many pet rocks, has died:

At some point, adding these details, like hundreds of photos from a recent vacation and status updates about your new job amounted to bragging — force-feeding Facebook friends information they didn’t ask for. What was once cool was now uncool. Worse yet, it started to feel like work. Maybe the burden of constantly constructing immaculate digital profiles of ourselves is tiring. “I find it boring, and I don’t really care about knowing all my friends’ details anymore,” my fifteen-year-old cousin Neah Bois wrote to me. “I think it’s stupid when people post a lot of pictures about their lives and all that stuff… I go on to talk to family and connect, but really I only go on once a week or so.”

Mmmmm, no, I don’t think that’s it. I mean, I do think that this kind of nest-decorating on the Web can become laborious for some, I don’t believe that’s what’s happening.

Neither does this person:

“I think it has less to do with kids consciously looking for ‘the next big thing’ than Facebook just no longer being a space that serves them,” says Laura Portwood-Stacer, author of “Media Refusal and Conspicuous Non-Consumption: The Performative and Political Dimensions of Facebook Abstention”. “I think kids are less self-conscious about trying to be cool than marketers would like to think,” she said. When Facebook launched, it was cool to expose details about yourself, like what movies you like, what you’re doing right now, and who you’re in a relationship with.

Closer, but I think it is still cool to do those things. The sharing of details and airing of one’s guts all over the Internet goes on in a million different other forms and on a bunch of other platforms.

Here’s what I think is going on. Remember that the kid Neah from the first quote says it’s now for talking to family. If there is, indeed, an exodus from Facebook by teens (and let’s put aside for now the idea that this may in fact may make Facebook more appealing to me, being crotchety and whatnot), I think it’s because of one simple fact, or, perhaps, a set of simple facts.

Mom is there. And dad.

Oh, so are grandma and grandpa, probably.

Your relatives, your teachers, your principle, your boss at Dunkin Donuts.

Yeah, there are privacy controls, but no one understands them. Which means every dumbass thing you put up on Facebook might be seen by all manner of figures in your life that you’d rather just left you the hell alone.

What Facebook offers is still “cool,” I think, but people who aren’t cool are now all over it. What was once like hanging out with your friends at the mall is now like a family reunion and school assembly that never freaking ends. When I was 15, I wouldn’t have wanted to be in that, either.

Kids are still living their lives very openly on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Google Hangouts, and Tumblr (which also gives them the chance to be both open and anonymous if they wish), and other services that, at 35, I’m probably too old to be physically capable of becoming aware of. And other than Twitter, none of them are in an open-forum kind of format that allows them to be flooded with undesirable relations that spoil it for the young’uns. You interact with whomever you want, or nobody.

But I’m only guessing that’s what’s up.

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7 thoughts on “The Family Reunion You Can Never Leave

  1. One site that began to die after the rise of Facebook was Myspace. Myspace has recently been “reinvented” as a site for independent musicians, though it’s old form of pages is still available.
    http://www.myspace.com/music
    From a look at the site, independent musicians seem to be flocking there in droves. I think that’s a good thing. After the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA) died in 2006, there really wasn’t an artist-only website where people could discover new bands.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Underground_Music_Archive
    For anyone who was a fan of IUMA, much of its content has been rescued and republished on Archive.org, by the same man who runs Textfiles.com (another very good site for obscure but useful information and historical documents).
    http://archive.org/details/iuma-archive
    http://textfiles.com/

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  2. Another side of things, speaking as someone in my mid-20s: You don’t have control over others’ posts about you.
    So, if they decide to share some horrendously embarrassing story about you, you have no recourse.
    And that’s really where the family reunion you can never leave feeling becomes a huge problem.
    Because some older relatives respect that young folk might not want stories about their charming mispronunciations when they were a toddler or all the things they ruined with vomit as an infant spread around in a public forum, but some don’t. And some take malicious glee in being as humiliating to their younger relatives as possible.
    Online bullying: not just for classmates.

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  3. Why do you feel facebook is necessary?
    It’s just another big social media site. Theres’s a good chance that in 10 years it will be as relevant as compuserve, aol, facebook, geocities and who cares what else?

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  4. I got out of Facebook immediately after the first time someone used it to spy on me. “You didn’t answer your phone but hey, you were on Facebook the same night! What gives?”

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  5. And other than Twitter, none of them are in an open-forum kind of format that allows them to be flooded with undesirable relations that spoil it for the young’uns. You interact with whomever you want, or nobody. But I’m only guessing that’s what’s up.

    Makes sense.
    Also the awareness that people esp. prospective employers can search facebook in the future and possibly or quite likely find embarrassing details may be a deterrent too.
    Personally I use facebook to share news items on astronomy and funny / magnificent pictures and stuff mostly. Personal stuff rarely and embarrassing &/or intimate stuff – hopefully – never being aware of this potential.
    I think facebook, like almost everything in life, has its pros and cons, uses and misuses and I’m wary about it.
    (Note : Be even warier about buying stocks in it!)

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  6. FWIW, my 10yo daughter is utterly uninterested in FB. Her friends all use instagram, emulating their early-teen siblings and cousins. Anecdotal evidence that FB is seen as “adult”.
    Also, re: 1.- myspace appears to be essentially returning to its roots.

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  7. I am a far cry from a teenager, but the reason I don’t use FB is pretty much the one you described: it’s the family reunion I can never leave. That and I have no desire to be stalked by people I’ve worked very hard to get away from nor to get into any more internet fights than I already do. FB seems to be a bastion of every conceivable social dysfunction that exists, magnified in horrific, embarrassing permanence. I’m not sure why that doesn’t appeal to me, but appeal it does not. Even if all my friends (and family) are doing it.

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