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Facebook 911 | Should We Intervene on Social Networks?

With over 845 million active Facebook users, more and more attention and studies are coming to light about the Facebook statuses and updates of its users and what they might or might not mean. Two weeks ago, the New York Times had an article, Don’t Tell Me, I Don’t Want to Know, which talked about people sharing way too much information (TMI) via social networks like Facebook. The article mentioned how one study found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the sadder they felt because of their perceptions that all of the lives of their “friends” were better than theirs, based on looking at their Facebook statuses and updates.

When I looked more closely at the study, I found out that the people who were being “studied” were 425 undergraduate students!  If I were still in college, and I was staying in my dorm room all day and night (feeling sorry for myself, which I do remember sometimes doing back in the day), looking at other friends’ and frenemies’ statuses and seeing pictures of them partying, or reading and hearing about them having a jolly good time, of course I’d be sad (in more than one way)!  Does that mean Facebook is causing my unhappiness and I should therefore delete my account?  If I did that, that would make me sad (in more than one way).

The New York Times then had another article, Trying to Find a Cry of Desperation Amid the Facebook Drama, which I found much more alarming. This article talked about how Facebook users’ statuses could be telltale signs of depression or suicide. In one study that examined the Facebook profiles of 200 students, 30 percent of them posted Facebook updates that met the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for a symptom of depression (e.g., reporting feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, insomnia or sleeping too much, and difficulty concentrating). The article also questioned whether psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, or counselors should “friend” their patients or whether teachers should “friend” their students and how they should react or respond (if at all) when they read troubling statuses and updates. This also applies to parents and what they should do when their children are acting up or acting out on Facebook, broadcasting live to the world. Should they speak up or remain silent?

Cries for attention or cries for help?  To intervene or not to intervene?  Is it better to butt in or butt out?  Now, those are very serious questions that could have serious consequences, either way.  To me, this means face-to-face communication is more important than ever. It means spending more face-to-face time with our loved ones, so we can really listen to them and learn about them and to know them. I’m reminded of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits:  Habit 5 is Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Covey talks about communication being the most important skill in life. Reading about how our children are doing via Facebook rather than listening to them live?  Now, that’s sad.

 Renny Fong has been an educator for over 15 years, teaching pre-kindergarten through fifth grade; he currently teaches technology. His wife and his six-year-old son are his biggest joy and inspiration. He started his blog, TimeOutDad, in September 2009. You can follow him on Twitter.

3 Comments

  1. Christin

    March 7, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I think Social Media is great for long distance relationships, but for family and friends close enough for real “face time”, it should not be the primary link in the relationship. It seems people are losing the ability to socialize and interact without a keyboard between them! :-/

  2. Prime Parents Club

    March 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Thanks for this post. It was such an eye-opening read. And, YES, I believe as parents and teachers we have the responsibility to intervene when kids are posting inappropriate/threatening things on Facebook.

    Parents, police your kids! It could save their lives!

    /jackie

    • Christin

      March 7, 2012 at 10:41 am

      I agree. I am shocked when I hear parents say they are not even aware if what their kids say or post on Social Media Sites. I know one mother of teens that blatantly said she didn’t want to see what they were ding on Facebook! Crazy.