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March 19th, 2009
10:34 AM ET

Teens overdose on Facebook ‘drug’

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/03/10/nc.sex.offenders/art.myspace.page.gi.jpg]
Jonathan Zimmerman
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Imagine a drug that made American teenagers think and talk more about the timeless concerns of adolescence: who’s cool, who’s cute and who’s going out with whom. Then imagine that millions of teens were taking this drug, every day.

Actually, you don’t have to. The drug already exists, and it’s called “MySpace.” There’s a competitor drug, too, known as “Facebook.” Between one-half and three-quarters of American teens already have a profile on an Internet social networking site, where they spend hours per week — nobody really knows how many — sharing pictures, gossip and jokes. And we should all be worried about that, although not for the reasons you might suspect.

That’s because the newspapers keep reminding us about “online predators” and other malfeasance on the Net, which makes us miss the digital forest for the trees. In this medium, the real danger doesn’t come from depraved adults. It’s much subtler than that, and it comes from teenagers themselves — specifically, from their insatiable desire to hang out with each other.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Internet
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    When I growing up in the dark ages of the 1970's and 1980's, I used to write real letters to my cousins who lived out of state. They would write real letters back. We still do this every so often. My paternal grandmother would write me every week while I was in college through three degrees. My mom did the same thing. I have every word ever written stashed away. It really is a lost art. I love Facebook because it lets me reconnect with friends I haven't seen in years (a buddy from my undergrad years just linked up with me last night). But it does take away from the beauty of receiving a handwritten five page letter rambling about every dream and hope and wish. It takes away the joy of being able to go back and read those words once that person is gone (I think I've worn out the one I received from my best friend when he was dying). And we do somehow lose that real human connection when all we do is text and email and stop writing and chatting on the phone. That is my fear for kids today, that they will never have the joy of reading that return address from their best friend and open up to find love in words on a page that transcend life itself after he's gone. That is what Facebook cannot do.

    March 19, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
  2. Marie

    I'd have to agree with the friend's daughter. I'm over Facebook.

    After being a shameless addict from ages 20-25 (I went as far as having Facebook wall postings and messages forwarded to my phone via text message)... I went cold turkey for a number of reasons.

    Some of it was paranoia over viruses that were going around, but mostly because I kept seeing that comments referencing events I hadn't been invited to and other instances that made me feel left out of the loop. Admittedly, I'm overly sensitive and things like this bother me more than most. However since quitting about 2-3 weeks ago, I find that I enjoy being under the radar scope and not having to worry about what's going on with my Facebook friend base of 600+.

    I email and call the people that matter, and Its nice to know that its not gone forever and that I can get back on if I ever need to access information or to get ahold of someone, but for now, I'm Facebook free and enjoying it.

    March 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm |
  3. Isabel

    In Brazil, the drug is called "Orkut", but the evil caused is the same.

    Teenagers have no experience of life, they do not know very well until where to go and what the consequences of such lack of privacy can lead, then the risk is greater.

    But we are all affected by these "tools of relationship." Find people is good, it is good to meet people and exchange information, but like everything in life, there must be a clearly defined limit.

    There is a long time ago, a neighbor, that I have no intimacy, found me at night, and asked me if I had made good trip. She caught me by surprise, so I answered, but I was wondering how she knew I had passed that day in another city. Later I discovered that the neighbor was friends of friends, and a third person made a comment about my trip.
    So a hundred people should be aware of my trip! A trip to work, but that does not matter to people I do not know.
    After that, I was more attentive to these tools of "relationship" and I try to protect me as much as possible.

    March 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  4. Arachnae

    "I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on
    frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond
    words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and
    respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise
    [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint" (Hesiod, 8th century BC).

    March 19, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  5. Abilash

    This article reeks of unjustified alarmism. Teens will be teens, and they've always done this sort of thing. Granted, they've never had resources of this magnitude available to them, but they've always indulged in gossip and joking. Anyone that's concerned about teens' "insatiable desire to hang out with each other" has obviously never had children of their own.

    March 19, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  6. Michael "C" Lorton, VA

    Is it any worse that the garbage that is being aired on TV today? Have you seen anything "good" lately on TV? The media corporations are promoting nothing but "misery, doom and gloom-all of which generates tremendous revenues and ratings for their broadcasting corporations--at least with MySpace-one can be creative--

    March 19, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  7. Cindy

    It's not only teens that are addicted to these sites it is everyone of all ages! I know plenty of people who have pages on all of these sharing sites and twitters also. You can't escape it now.

    The thing that has to be done by parents is to limit their child's time on the computer. That way they have no choice but to read a book, have real conversations with people face to face, and have a real life outside of the net. That's all that has to be done. If the parents don't do it then it's on them.

    Cindy..Ga.

    March 19, 2009 at 1:44 pm |