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January 31, 2008 12:15 AM   Subscribe

PBS Frontline explores Growing Up Online. Here's what they learned.
posted by miss lynnster (43 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, very interesting article. I was particularly fascinated that the doc-maker said she learned in her research that most kids are highly conditioned NOT to be vulnerable to online predators, and it was really difficult to persuade kids over the internet to be in the documentary! I also thought it was neat that at the end of the interview she said if anything, she is more lenient with her kids about internet use than she was before. I am looking forward to watching the video (but I'll have to do it tomorrow...).

I was in grad school before I really started using the internet, so the first 2/3 of my life was completely internet-free. But now, I really can't imagine being without it. I am so glad I can keep in touch with friends and family who are far away. I am glad I have access to so much information and can be connected to people and ideas from all over the world. But it does give me pause to think that there are teenagers, never mind little kids, who have never, ever known a world without the internet. Those kids are getting some positive things that I didn't have, for sure, but they are also growing up in a completely different context than I did. But then I guess that's what people were saying after the invention of radio, or television, or the steam engine, for that matter.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:53 AM on January 31, 2008 [4 favorites]

Awesome documentary, still watching it. Thanks for the excellent post miss lynnster.
posted by nickyskye at 1:02 AM on January 31, 2008

I watched this and was kind of annoyed because Frontline is (outside of this) always just so goddamn good. They focused on these dumb little flash points in some "anywhere USA" town where parents are totally clueless and Facebook is the nexus for all social interaction with anybody under 25. I'm not saying the points weren't valid, but they seemed to focus less on the underlying causes and more on the personal interactions of unlikeable families. I think the pathetic need for young people to share their whole life with their "friends" is worth discussing, but in a less anecdotal way.

Also, the mom who ratted on the drunk kids is a horrible person. Not for telling on them, but for everything else she has ever done to become what she is. Ick.
posted by lattiboy at 1:16 AM on January 31, 2008

Huh. Haven't watched anything yet, just read the "notebook", and I'm impressed. It sounds like one of the most well-done looks into the "reality" of omnipresent internet that I've ever come across.
posted by blacklite at 1:17 AM on January 31, 2008

Holy shit, there's a huge fire in the building two doors down from me. As I was watching this video I heard all this stuff breaking. Yanked open my window stuck my head outside into the freezing night air. It's the firemen breaking the walls. And there is a guy on the fire escape filming it with his cellphone. It's probably already online.

Intense smell of smoke. Will go downstairs and see if anybody burned out needs a place to sleep tonight.
posted by nickyskye at 1:26 AM on January 31, 2008 [8 favorites]

Crazy nickyskye, hope everything is ok!

I started using the internet when I was 12, back in '95 or so. I would dial a BBS and look around, but then we got AOL and I was hooked. Before then I would just come home and watch tv or play outside. There is a very specific time in my life when I went from a sometimes user to an around-the-clock user. When we moved to Florida, we had cable internet installed and I wouldn't go to sleep for days, coding new websites, IRC bots, and Mux's. I got involved in the weblog community at its inception and knew deep inside that this was the key to the future. Over the following 12 or so years that I've been on the internet a lot has changed, I now consider having my cellphone with internet access as important as having my wallet or keys with me when I leave the house. My most prized possession is my laptop, and my twitter/myspace/facebook usage is high. When I was in middle school I was a nerd, now i'm the smartest guy in my office.

I've asked my teenage cousins what they use their computers for, not surprisingly the top three answers from all of them are AIM, Facebook, and doing work for school. They are all athletic, intelligent, and fairly confident about their futures, and I strongly believe that the speed in which they can communicate, research, and interact is a big part of it.
posted by Derek at 1:46 AM on January 31, 2008

Hey nickyskye, I just want to make sure this is clear: if your house catches fire, it's okay to stop posting to MetaFilter and evacuate. Don't be a hero.
posted by sdodd at 2:21 AM on January 31, 2008 [15 favorites]

Autumn Eddows feels that her portrayal in the film is a "misrepresentation." [fucked-up Myspace formatting alert]
posted by nasreddin at 2:32 AM on January 31, 2008

(Edows, rather)
posted by nasreddin at 2:33 AM on January 31, 2008

Fire out. Destroyed 5 apartments. Poor old geezer in Apt 2RW got up to go to the john in the middle of the night, heard a pop and thinks the wire in the wall by his bed burst into flames. In winter the old tenements get dry with the heat and if there's a fire they go up like tinderboxes. Before he knew what to do the wall was in flames. Firemen are just awesome. Red cross taking care of the tenants.

Of the hundred or so neighbors in a variety of jammies shivering out on the street talking about the fire, I noticed how so many were clutching their laptops, that was their main possession taken out of harm's way. I commented on this and a neighbor said, hell yeah he had all his stuff dating back to the 8th grade on his computer and I said I'd just been watching a documentary about how kids grow up online when the fire broke out and he said, oh yeah the Frontlline one, that's a good one. Then he said he was going to store his stuff online, at s3. So there you go, what's online goes offline and then back online. All is one.

Time to hit the hay.
posted by nickyskye at 2:39 AM on January 31, 2008 [13 favorites]

nickyskye, glad to hear you're ok. I had that happen to me, and I came home with my family and thre is a family in my living room watching their house burn down, and they spent a week wit me. Just got a xmas card from one of them.

As the parent of 4 kids, 2 who've grown up online, and 2 in the midst, I have a feeling that this is going to be a great read. Anyone suggest best journal to get additional peer-reviewed stuff on this topic?
posted by sfts2 at 3:14 AM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I watched this (a week or two ago, when it aired) I thought it was an old show being rerun. It seemed so, like, y2k to be hand-wringing about kids on the Internet.

Not that it's not worth discussing. Besides telling a few specific stories I hadn't heard before, it simply didn't reveal anything new to me on a topic that feels like it's been talked about a lot already.
posted by loiseau at 3:14 AM on January 31, 2008

Excellent find, miss l!
posted by Dizzy at 4:24 AM on January 31, 2008

Frontline is the bomb.
posted by Senator at 4:25 AM on January 31, 2008

What is the rough equivalent of eponysterical when the life of someone posting to a thread impinges on their posting in a way that relates to the content of the post?

What a crazy thing, nickyskye. I'm glad you're okay as well.
posted by umbú at 6:01 AM on January 31, 2008

From the Myspace blog of Autumn Edows that nasreddin linked above:
Four years ago, I was a girl that self-mutilated as a result of being depressed, and took scandelous photographs just to feel important - as if they gave me some sort of status. These days, being eighteen years old has changed my mind completely & utterly. The gal that once slashed her wrists just to catch someone staring at her would NEVER do such a thing! I would never feel the need to be provocative just for the sake of it!

And this is where the real danger of the Internet lies. Remember all those phases you went through in junior high/high school/college/your twenties/right now? Now imagine all those phases are preserved online forever. Infinite possibilities for embarrassment. Oh, Autumn -- why did you write this? What are you going to think of this four years from now?

(I've been keeping an online diary since spring 2000, and a lot of that? On the Wayback Machine. Sigh.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:03 AM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

-Also, the mom who ratted on the drunk kids is a horrible person.-

I remember when I watched this a day or two ago thinking that was one of the best parts of the show. Her son came off as very balanced and mature comparatively. It's hard to believe a parent watching it would come away with anything other than the conclusion that hyperprotective paranoia is absolutely the wrong way to go about staying up with what their children were interested in/doing online. Respect and communication.

I also liked the line from that Harvard researcher (well known blogger gal) - that parents have to start seeing the kids as participants rather than (potential) victims. Overall I think it was a pretty good doco, given that we aren't the target audience.
posted by peacay at 6:10 AM on January 31, 2008

Frontline missed the ball on this one. Basically it was a puff piece to highlight the latest generation gap. That's it.

Take the kid who killed himself. They never really ask the question why he did it. They just point out he had been talking about suicide over IM. They don't look into how being online affected his decision making (if at all). No compare/contrast done to say suicides of young people pre-internet age. Is this sort of event unique to "growing up online" or is it the same rare tragedy that teen suicide was 30 years ago?

They also never really explored how "growing up online" is affecting social skills. They had the interview with the girls who got into a fight after heated words had been exchanged online. In one moment the girls mention how the people they were trading jabs with didn't interact at all in person even though they saw each other daily. There's a huge subject to be explored here. How, because kids interact online more than in person now, they have problems communicating without the aid of a computer. How is that going to affect them once they're out in the real world? And Frontline completely missed it.

Another thing they brushed against, but completely missed, was how this online universe is giving children a greater and greater sense of self-importance to the point that it becomes vulgar and arrogant. Humility is a trait that's going to become extinct within 50 years. Again, how is that going to affect their ability to operate in the real world once they grow up?

This will sound a bit off topic, but I don't think it is at all. Watch "American Idol". Watch all these contestants, these kids and young adults that grew up on the internet, that come in and simply don't know how to behave and have this overinflated sense of self. When, for the first time, they are delivered a dose of reality from the judges they are either utterly devastated or believe their opinion is the only correct one and simply ignore the reality.

Welcome to the future. A product of "growing up online". How will it impact society in general? How will we be changed as a people 50 years from now. It's such a huge question to ask and Frontline completely ignored it.
posted by ruthsarian at 6:25 AM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

fiercecupcake - I started commenting on metafilter at age 21; I'm 24 now and I still shudder at my earliest comments. Thankfully, I have commented so much that they're beginning to become less noticeable, statistically. Once in a while someone will favorite something from February or March of 2005... terrifying. The difference between age 21 and age 24 is pretty surprising - can't wait to see what 30-year-old me thinks of the bizarre nonsense I put all over this website on a daily basis.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:50 AM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

this online universe is giving children a greater and greater sense of self-importance to the point that it becomes vulgar and arrogant

I've heard this complaint before. On the surface it seems true, just look at any MeFi thread and one can see it. However I think what's really going on is there is no enforcement of civility, disagreements (or simply trolls) quickly escalate into "verbal violence". When your online, reputation (honor) is the currency of the realm - lacking enforcement of civility by moderators (police), self-defense of your reputation becomes all important, there is no hierarchy of authority, everyone is equal. It's the nature of online culture, not a reflection of people in real life. Internet culture has not yet been civilized, it's still the wild west. Eventually the Internet will become more civil - in the process we will gain some things and loose some things. The processes are in motion from fights against piracy, pornography, etc. to discussions about the "vulgar" nature of children online.
posted by stbalbach at 6:56 AM on January 31, 2008

What always struck me about my kids' interactions online (they are 19 and 22, and have friends ranging from about 16 to late 20s), was their slowness in understanding that the internet is the agora-- it is a common space where your actions and words are permanent, public, and available. The age range is something that is particularly interesting, as Baby_Balrog said there's a big difference between 21 and 24. But interestingly, the older end of the set starting taking it upon themselves to act in loco parentis (in internet parentis?), by taking my daughter in particular in hand and reminding her that the 27 year olds among her "friends" were in fact often now her bosses and superiors, despite her having grown up with them. If she wanted to be taken seriously among the older "kids" she needed to behave in a mature way-- no pictures of heavy partying, no flaming, and in general no behavior that she wouldn't engage in publicly, because hey, on line you *are* in public.

I think in many ways, these interactions and mistakes helped her mature more quickly than she might have, and after all in a safer place than the local mall, because it was the members of her own community who took her in hand.
posted by nax at 7:41 AM on January 31, 2008

"One of the biggest surprises in making this film was the discovery that the threat of online predators is misunderstood and overblown."

No shit, Sherlock? I guess it's good that the mainstream press is finally getting it, but damn, that took a while. Still, I'm glad to read it, although the fact that it surprises anyone is a bit depressing. I think it's due almost entirely to our obsession with dramatic-but-rare cases at the exception of the more common ones. (The plane crash phenomenon, in other words.)

From what I've read in the text, it sounds like they really went about it the right way. But from some of the other comments, I'm afraid that the video is going to concentrate too hard on anecdotes rather than general trends.

"In fact, the digital divide is less about having access than it is about using the access that's available."

This really struck home with me, more than the arguments over risks. It's something I've seen a lot; a school district will convince the local Board to give them a chunk of money for computers, but they don't have faculty who are both computer-literate (and more importantly, interested and excited about technology) and who are educators. In some cases they'll have an "IT person" to manage the computers and the infrastructure, but there's very little thought given on how to actually use that infrastructure in a way that the students won't find laughable and irrelevant.

I think this is going to be one of the hardest things to change, because it's tough to tell someone who's been teaching for 35 or 40 years -- particularly someone who thinks that they're well-versed in technology -- that they're over their head and need a lot of retraining. My feeling is that when we get teachers who really understand both technology and teaching, then we'll be able to avoid some of the pitfalls (breadth at the expense of shallowness, lack of true mastery) of technology-mediated learning. Where you run into trouble is when you have teachers who don't understand technology running (unavoidably) into it: if you don't know what Wikipedia is, just for a trivial example, it might not be clear why it's not a valid source in a research paper on one topic ('factual information about x'), but useful in another ('what people think about x').
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:53 AM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Take the kid who killed himself. They never really ask the question why he did it. They just point out he had been talking about suicide over IM. They don't look into how being online affected his decision making (if at all).

This is a great point, and can be extended further. Why would a kid who is being bullied over IM on a daily basis continue to use IM? He has to go to school, but why would he voluntarily subject himself to further bullying online? Why not change his username, and only give it to his close friends?

Because the kid has other problems. Failure to take very simple steps to protect yourself emotionally is often a sign of some other problem. The kid made have a masochistic personality, or feels that he deserves to be bullied. Maybe he accepts the bullying as a form of acknowledgment.

But none of these problems start online. In kids, they very frequently (but not always) start at home, with overbearing or hypercritical parents. The same parents I saw in this documentary blaming the internet.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:54 AM on January 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

Being an old guy now (32) this was what I was afraid of. Kids view the internet as a clickyclicky portal to cruft like Facebook. I'd let someone younger see my iPhone and 95% of the time the first thing they'd do is load myspace or facebook. I recall a similar article in the news a while back about how the 'younger generation' thinks email is 'old.' One girl was quoted as saying "You have to type a message and send it and wait for someone to reply," seemingly oblivious to the fact that the exact same thing happens on myspace messages and/or 'instant' messages. The other user actually has to reply.

I'll enjoy watching this later. And for some reason, Parry Aftab has always irritated me.
posted by drstein at 7:55 AM on January 31, 2008

I'm so glad the web was nascent when I was young, and that only a few shards of my online self then remain. Even now, I get the jitters -- about ten minutes after finding Facebook's "Compare" app, I had to opt out of it. That would drive me mental.
posted by bonaldi at 8:01 AM on January 31, 2008

I saw some community/social worker type guy on a Dutch current affairs show. He related the story of a kid explaining MSN Messenger to him, and how when you want to talk you first have to "accept" someone, the notion of which rather pleased him, needless to say, on a wholly different level from the kid's appraisal of the term.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:14 AM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I first go on the Internet, Usenet was the biggest social app and there was much clever and funny chat going on between clever and funny people. I remember thinking at the time that technology would improve and eventually this would all be replaced by "fuck YOU!" videos and frat boys posting pictures of their dicks.

I am honestly grateful for places like Metafilter where there are still people who know how to deliver the goods with a keyboard.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:26 AM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

nickyskye, your thread in this post should be marked for some future "best of mefi" - it's the strange intersection between physical reality and online posts happening in dramatic real-time. Nicely done.
posted by stbalbach at 8:29 AM on January 31, 2008

Just read your comments about the fire, nickyskye. I'm glad you're OK and that everyone is in from the cold now.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:57 AM on January 31, 2008

ruthsarian, those are good points that you're bringing up, and it would be awesome to see someone research them. But don't knock what the researchers in this project did so far. I have not watched the video - only read the notebook portion, and found it fascinating.

I'm studying to work in higher education as an administrator - and it's going to be a constant battle, it seems, for me to keep up with the influences these kids will be bringing with them over the next ten years. I have a great working knowledge of all of this, but I think I'm just like the 20-something researcher who realized how much she didn't know when she started talking to the high schoolers (I'm also 20-something).

What was more interesting to me than the way the kids use the internet was the way the researchers reacted to the findings. I think that's the biggest part of this.
posted by bibbit at 9:11 AM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

this online universe is giving children a greater and greater sense of self-importance to the point that it becomes vulgar and arrogant

I think this is true not just of children, but a whole swath of the population. The notion that the mechanics of being able to comment on an article or blog post on the internet somehow validates one's status as an important and prescient human being is what I jokingly refer to as "intertitlement".

nickyskye, glad everyone seems to be OK, including yourself. I hope everyone who has been displaced quickly finds a home.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:02 AM on January 31, 2008

I remember I started using the Internet a bit in 1999, just to look at a website here and there. It was a fun little tool, but not something I used often. I was about 10 then, I guess.

I think 2002 was when I really started going online for fun rather than just for school. I remember a popular computer game (America's Army, if anyone knows it) came out in July of that year, and I got into the online gameplay aspects of it. That quickly led to general website browsing, and before long I was hooked. Some might say I'm addicted; these days I can easily spend several hours at a time online.

Do I think it's bad? Heck no. Through the games I've played, I've met a lot of great people that I still consider to be my friends, even though I've never met them in person. I don't draw any parallels between that and chatrooms--I talked to many of them with voicechat software while we played, and "saw" most of these guys every day, or close to it. I wouldn't recognize most of them if I met them face-to-face, but I do consider them to be friends. I've since stopped playing online games for the most part, but I still talk to some of them on AIM.

The Internet has also given me access to a vast pool of knowledge I never would have been able to tap. I was the kid in elementary school who read so many books that the librarian had trouble finding books for me. I attribute much of my knowledge today to the Internet. If I get online with the intent of learning something, I can easily pick up more useful knowledge in an hour browsing Google than I would sitting in one of my college classes.

People seem to forget that--that maybe some kids really do like learning stuff online. I have a Facebook and a Myspace, which I use to talk to other people. But I have to say that most of my online time is spent at places like Metafilter and other news and informational sources. I like learning stuff, and the Internet is great for it!

So I think the Internet has truly helped me. It's made me who I am, and I think it's a positive thing. It's certainly broadened my view of the world and given me a greater understanding of all kinds of things that I never would have learned otherwise.

In times past, humans never traveled beyond about a 3 mile radius from where they were born. New transportation methods allowed people to "see the world". The Internet has done the same thing for community and knowledge.

Just thought someone might want a perspective from one of the people this documentary targets.
posted by DMan at 11:34 AM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

Well, I'm not sure what it would be like having the internet as a little kid, but I was surfing the web when I was 13, and had my own internet-connected computer all through high school. There had been all kinds of idiotic media out at the time, and that continues through today. I've noticed while Frontline is really good on topics I'm not too familiar with, when they cover topics I know well, or at least know something about they seem absurdly sensationalistic. So, I kind of ignore their documentaries, frankly.
posted by delmoi at 11:39 AM on January 31, 2008

(or to put it another way Frontline = upscale Dateline)
posted by delmoi at 11:41 AM on January 31, 2008

They focused on these dumb little flash points in some "anywhere USA" town where parents are totally clueless and Facebook is the nexus for all social interaction with anybody under 25

Actually, I take issue with the 'anywhere USA' town that they chose. Chatham, NJ, is not just anytown. It's one of the wealthiest suburban towns in the nation (wikipedia says it has a median income of $101K!). I wish they'd chosen a community that is indeed more representative of an average American town.
posted by tippiedog at 12:13 PM on January 31, 2008

Well, the piece gives me one more reason to dislike Danah Boyd.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:52 PM on January 31, 2008

Hilarious comment sdodd.

Late to the party with my comment on the post.

Seconding Dman's comment, exactly how I feel about the internet.

Wow, I want some of that new teaching equipment in that film, almost beyond Minority Report. Reality is amazing. Why should learning about it be endlessly boring in school?

You know, this is such a timely post miss lynnster. I've been recently thinking and talking with online/offline friends lately about the role of the internet in my and others' lives.

Your post title, "We're friends now!" was such an interesting moment in the documentary. The young kid, naive, untrained in the ways of the world, thinks that collecting increasing numbers next to the word "friends" in his MySpace account, actually means friends. That was the tone of the documentary, sort of ridiculing the kid for thinking that. It made me think about what friends are at different stages of life, how the meaning changes.

The urban myth is that Eskimos have many words for one of the most important things in their lives, snow. Similarly, it like there should be dozens of terms for types of friends.

The internet adds a whole other dimension to friendships that never existed before, cyber friends in their many varieties. It also adds a whole other dimension to a sense of identity, as depicted in Autumn Edows (great name). The whole elebrity thing (great neologism I learned yesterday on MetaFilter).

For a nine year old having a number by "friends" on his MySpace page, may feel and/or be as meaningful as any of the friendships the kid has with people he sees in the school cafeteria. The fact the MySpace friends have stated they are connected with him, chosen to put their name by his name, may feel like a declaration of interest in him, that the kids in the cafeteria have not expressed. It may feel, to some degree, like a commitment of loyalty and support, which he may not experience as in the rest of his life.

Over the last 21 years in NYC, after having lived in intensely social India, I was deeply impressed how lonely and cold America is, how isolated people are. No regular community get togethers, no local meeting places that aren't connected with potential addictions, booze, coffee or carbohydrates. Eastern Europeans were the only ones I knew in NYC who formed social clubs where they drank, smoked cigarettes, talked/laughed raunchy and played poker together. People in NYC go to the gym, grunt and sweat together but don't converse. Over the years I spoke with Asians about this. They managed it by returning to Asia a few months a year and having a social/community life there or bringing their wife West and creating an island of "home" in the cold canyons of the city or suburban rows of boxes. The wives who came West often express bitterness about this isolation and frequently return East, taking the kids.

I wondered if it were just me, am I such a loser to feel so lonely in NYC, not good looking enough? I know hundreds of people but don’t feel especially intimate with them. Usually our conversations tend to focus on one main topic and not expand from there, with little variation. I found my complexity needs as a person weren't met, interests in science, art, history, psychology, trends, biology, the brain, human relations, silly things, learning and people offline tend to get stuck in communication ruts. I felt hungry for friendship that includes being interested in the bigness and variety of life.

Then I became a building super here in NYC, got to know my 40 tenants, now neighbors, really well. Among them, were/are exceptionally attractive people, an actress who plays Miss Saigon on Broadway, a well known actor, a beautiful manager of a GAP store, corporate human resources exec, world traveled concert violinist, Broadway show stage manager, magician/carpenter, therapist, fund raiser/event planner for non-profits, runs a comedy club, skyscraper building maintenance guy, real estate broker, stock trader. All of them living alone year after year, in some cases for decades. Some so desperately lonely or suffering depression, that a few have become alcoholic, coke addicted, married another alcoholic and live in booze altered isolation, one died of an overdose. Only the alcoholic found a partner in NYC. The lesbian real estate broker and the GAP store manager moved out of state with a new partner. Since the now ex-GAP store manager has 3 kids, living in Michigan, I think she has a community, mostly because of her having kids.

Things seem to have changed in the last few decades in America in terms of friendships. It's either have a live-in sex partner or risk isolation, or shallow friendships.

Then in 2000, in my mid-40's, I discovered the web at a critical moment in my life. It was completely transformative for me and has been for 8 fantastic years. It was the community I'd always hoped for offline, people talking about interesting and often deep stuff, caring enough to inform each other, soothe each other, fight with each other, make-up with each other, love, trust and distrust, like and dislike, criticize and praise, ridicule, flame, admire, the whole symphonic and cross-cultural range of human emotions - in writing. Getting to know each other, help each other and learn together.

As a 54 year old, old enough to be a frikkin grandmother to a number of MeFites, I feel quite a kid at times online, because the web is disembodying. It's one of the weird things of growing older, that one can in a second remember viscerally one's birthday party at age 8, the smell of the cake, feelings, senses, be there, live it. The mind can time travel. So when I communicate with people online I respond in the spirit of the moment. Naturally, I am more 54 than 8. I like getting older, what comes mentally with age, the understanding, perspective, clarity. It's such a relief compared to the lostness and being adrift in the world of my younger days. But I don't feel mentally stuck and the web is freeing that way.

What is most valuable about friends to me has always been the mental-emotional-communication aspect. It's been great in my life when my boyfriend of the time has ever been practically caring and helpful, as I would be with him. But I never wanted to be a wife to any man. Just didn't. Too independent and it wasn't worth it for me. Came with a price though, like in times of emergency. And it sucks not to have helpful offline friends since I've been struggling with cancer for a couple of years. But one MeFite, Brandon, has been a better friend online and by telephone than an entire rolodex of people I 'know'.

Not only that, I genuinely care about my MeFite friends and feel cared about. What they say impacts me, deeply, meaningfully, as if they said it to my face. I do learn to edit, it doesn't all come pouring in. Just like walking NYC streets, a lot of editing is needed.

Kids of the internet generation can play with their identity online, like Autumn Edows. There may be a real life danger of being afraid to connect their offline persona, who they are in the flesh with the well liked, admired, cherished online persona. There is danger I think in that splitting. And I understand that in part because physical appearances can be shallowly despised compared with the mind of a person. I was very afraid of admitting in MetaFilter my age, gender and work for fear of being judged harshly or becoming only some old fart mother type. It was a risk and so far, so good. I'm still anxious about being loved as I am, the ordinary me and can understand that is an ancient, human fear.

The marvel of online physical anonymity is, imo, particularly true for females if they are fat, not "a babe", not "hawt", not a teen or struggling with something that might be socially ridiculed as 'ugly'. In many ways the web has been freeing for females, to be minds, persons, characters, writers, creators, have opinions, even give themselves genderless names, so they can play free of being judged by their physical appearance only, either by males or females. Or they can play on the photograph aspect, like Autumn Edows did, acquire an online persona she didn't dare have offline.

The web is a very different social arena than ever existed and I think it's created a generation of more writing kids, brainier kids, who also educate each other more intensely than ever before, globally. There are cyber towns of sorts. MetaFilter is that in my mind. Some cyber places are like the island in Lord of the Flies, dangerously isolating. I can understand parents being worried, especially because kids say and do stuff online that may ruin their offline reputations.

The endless variety of places to connect in the cyber geography, where people can gather to exist, spend their time, energy, lifeforce, intelligence, loyalty, camaraderie, means something, communication is meaningful whether heard or read. The fact that the internet is, in most of the planet, radically democratic, a free for all, will, I think, also profoundly change human communication in the years to come. It's exciting for me to be a part of the beginning of this. I can't believe my great luck to be around when this internet thing was invented.

The Frontline documentary is, imo, a step in the right direction for mainstream understanding. Curious what you think about the documentary miss lynnster. Thanks again for the post.
posted by nickyskye at 4:12 PM on January 31, 2008 [9 favorites]

Web 3.0 is currently aged 7. We might hit 2.5 in the next decade, but it's what those who grew up with facebook/youtube/twitter extend upon those ideas that will shape the web to come.

In the future, the web will have breathalyzers, and metafilter will be but a pleasant memory. The time to impregnate your internet crush is now, so you'll have a tutor for the terrible, terrible future.
posted by Sparx at 4:57 PM on January 31, 2008

I caught the last 35 minutes of this Frontline last night. I have kids in high school so my interest was piqued.

I agree the PTO mom in Chatham was disingenuous. She was afraid her attractive daughters would be stalked because of online activity, but then invites a camera crew into the house.

My high school kids aren't on myspace or facebook. My 18 year old did a bit of that 3 to 4 years ago, but lost interest. My son has to have a limit set on game playing or he would not get homework or chores done or get enough sleep. They are both busy, kind of arty/alternative kind of ...not as much social butterflies as the Chatham kids were potrayed to be.

The difference with this present generation lies also with cell phones. My kids have them. Their friends have them. People in their lives no longer go thru a portal (the family telephone, the front door) to reach them. Kids call from phones as they pull up at the house. I call when I am picking kids up and have them come out to me. It would be considered rude to ring someone's doorbell at 10 or 11 to get kids.

Kids can have friends that are very important to them who a parent has never really met. I do my best to get to know them, we always have extra kids for dinner, etc. But I realize there is a lot I do not know and could not know without some level of spying.

So I came away from Frontline with a bit of a feeling of , Duh.
Popluar kids will always have the need to check in repeatedly with their peers to reinforce their popularity quotient. Misanthropes will find their niche, life goes on.
posted by readery at 5:12 PM on January 31, 2008

In the future, the web will have breathalyzers, and metafilter will be but a pleasant memory.

I hope not.

Anyone ever try to model MetaFilter in the real world? I can't honestly think of anything in reality that would come close.
posted by DMan at 5:17 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, I grew up without the internet so I often wonder what kind of MySpace page I would've had, or how I would've related to it. Whatever internet activity I would've had, all I do know is that my mom would've probably been snooping around the computer when I wasn't home. Because my friends didn't nickname her Inspector 12 for nothing. Not big on giving her children privacy, my mom.

Personally, I never expected to spend as much time as I have on the internet. I never thought I'd get involved on a site like this one. Go to meetups. Actually be considered a recognized part of an actual online community. But I found metafilter (or it found me, really) during a time where I was going through severe withdrawal from all of the conversation I was used to having before I moved 300 miles from where I'd lived for decades. I was working at home and I felt really alone because I didn't have my friends around. But there was metafilter. At the time, I felt like I didn't have people around to talk to who "got" me the way my old friends do, I felt like an outsider. Still do sometimes. But people on here laughed at my jokes and my stupid stories. So that made me feel good and that's when I got addicted to being on here for a while. Which was sometimes a good thing and sometimes not so good.

Anyhow, at first it was scary for me... I worried about putting thoughts on the internet because I was raised to believe protecting your privacy within a community was a sign of dignity. I was just sure I'd end up having severe regrets about it and end up being totally ashamed or something. But truth is that hasn't happened because I haven't pretended to be something I'm not. I think that's the key... I'm a pretty consistently honest and opinionated person so I've never really said anything that I'm ashamed of or that my friends wouldn't hear in person. I think that it's the people who are trying to be a totally different person online than who they really are inside that things get kind of fucked up. OR the people who are actually really fucked up and they let it out online but hide it from the rest of the world. It's when there's a disconnect and almost a split personality between the online person and the real person -- often a scary, hidden disconnect -- that things seem to head into dangerous territory. Well, that's my observation anyhow. There needs to be healthy balance.

Privacy is so rare now, kids feel like if something wasn't captured on youtube it didn't happen. I still like my privacy but I think there's something to be said for opening yourself up and being comfortable with putting your thoughts out on the table for all to see without worrying about what anyone else thinks or if they agree. It's kind of freeing. I really learned the biggest lessons from going to meetups and how kind people have been to me in person. The first few meetups I walked in expecting to be embarrassed but found a lot of kindness generated towards me. People here are really nice, and I'm happy that I've gotten a chance to meet them. I wouldn't have otherwise. So I'm not sure how that could ever be a bad thing.

Although that said, I've had a few meetup conversations which reminded me that thousands of people I've never met before know WAY too much about me... and that feels kinda freakin' WEIRD.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:39 PM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

Can you fav+ a person instead of merely adding them as a contact? nickyskye, thank you for that insightful and optimistic comment.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:44 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

My Wired Youth - a nice piece by Virginia Heffernan for the Sunday NY Times.
posted by Locative at 3:28 PM on February 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

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