Facebook Follies: (Hit) Enter at Your Own Risk

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Baltimore Fishbowl Intern Rixey Moore discusses the various social pressures teens face when Facebooking, and the double standard that stares them down. She will attend the University of South Carolina in the fall.

Facebook has become a wonderful mechanism for getting back in touch with friends, chronicling life and documenting our world in pictures. The average high school student has at least 500 friends and some have close to 2,000 (most likely having actually met about 300). For upper school students, it’s where we go to relive last night’s party, find out who got his or her license, who’s together, who broke up and who’s back together. It’s become the Mecca of high school life, or at least the water cooler.

Beyond high school, Facebook provides opportunities to stay in contact with people, reminisce about the past (if you’re in high school reminisce about middle school) and possibly to one day provoke a feeling of horror when you look back and see that you once “liked” the Jonas Brothers. These are some positive elements to the phenomenon that is Facebook. What Mark Zuckerburg is not advertising are the risks high school kids take when they go on Facebook.

It starts with mom and dad: “You can have a Facebook page as long as I know your password!” It’s the first of many privacy breaches kids face when it comes to Facebook. Ninth graders don’t want their mommies to know when Johnny writes on their walls. Tenth grade comes along, and now it’s the kids versus the schools regarding Facebook. The parties have started and the efforts to hide commence.

Some students believe that school administrators prowl Facebook in search of kids in the act of something honor board violation worthy. They’ll even go so far as creating fake Facebook profiles and “friend” students to see what they’re up to in their private lives. (No student would make the mistake of having a public account.)

By the time eleventh grade rolls around, students are in the midst of full-on college application panic. Changing names on Facebook (some invert the letters of their name, i.e., Sara becomes Aras) and making accounts so secure that even Zuckerburg himself couldn’t hack them, ensure that the college acceptance isn’t derailed. Some universities have been known to go as far as stopping an interview to ask the interviewee to log in to his or her Facebook account, effectively bypassing privacy settings.

The lengths students take to hide themselves does pose the question, what exactly are they hiding? In most cases, nothing bad, but when the school dean questions students for the mere act of holding a red Solo cup in a Facebook photo – as was the case at one local school — kids become guarded. Schools have put so much pressure on students to be perfect, it’s no wonder they don’t want them snooping around in their private lives.

Kids need personal boundaries between work and play; the faculty get “off-hours” — shouldn’t the students have that same right? Most adults would probably say no, because you earn the right to privacy as you age. But, is it fair to make an entire category of youth be “on” all the time? By the way, last time I checked, holding a plastic cup was not a crime.

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