I am unsure if we should be really, really scared and cautious of Facebook and the likes, or if it is just a new form of the old Friday night Police and Citizen's youth groups, so popular with myself and my teen friends in the late 70s to mid 80s.
I mean there was all that unmediated contact with the opposite sex - just like on Facebook, except a lot more up close and personal. Lots of playing games, basket ball, ping-pong and spin the bottle were all favourites of the youths of the various groups I attended - some of our games where obviously better at beating obesity than others ....just like the digital ones the teens play today! In the 80's some of the games might have even led to a form of temporary weight gain ....for 9 months anyway - yep - that up close and personal!
We had friends act as 'lookouts' posted at the doors of the youth group, and we would all be called down to witness other packs of teens as they cruised by in their spruced up Sandman panel vans and we would either 'friend' them or not....we usually didn't choose to 'friend' them by shouting after the disappearing panel van such things as "Rack of Normie - you and your mates!" or other choice words that have now become immortalised in various song lyrics of the time. "Jump in my car" by Australian band the Ted 'Mulray Gang comes to mind straight away, I am sure he must have attended one of the same youth groups I went to.
We had pecking orders within the groups and experienced heated exchanges with others that could make or break your social status for the following week , month , year.- Just like on Facebook - and believe me not only at the youth group would the 'socially' be ostracised - but at the beach, school, deli, local park and the drive-ins....at least of Facebook once you've been 'defriended' you can close the computer and walk to the fridge and eat something, or hang out in lounge with the olds or tidy your sock drawer ...no such luck in the days of the 'reality' youth group, we had to wait until youth group ended and we could catch the bus home or our parents would collect us!
Today, with the innovation of digital media and twitter-book-face-tubes, etc. we all seem particularly terrified of any unmediated time teens spend digitally, or incidents of cyberbullying, (whilst we continue to ignore 'realtime' real life bullying in the work place, school and our homes. Is Facebook and the likes such a new threat for our young people? In the past we could share our teen years with a group of similar teens from similar backgrounds with similar homes in a similar suburb, but now - my teens can actually talk with other teens from anywhere in the world - global - viral, however they need to also be connected via google and this huge filter tends to attract teens with similar homes, in similar suburbs in similar social economic situations.........like I say is it really that different?
Are we frightened of something we do on-line going viral? I remember fronting up fully dressed in skimpy outfits to the local cinema in dingy downtown during the 1980s to watch the Rocky Horror picture show at midnight several Saturday nights in a row - waiting for the moment we could all storm the stage and do the time warp with thousands (OK, 100 tops) of similar zany, scantily dressed young people - wasn't that pretty damn viral? it is the only way I can explain my ability to sing and speak most of the lyrics to the time warp - it must have been a virus I caught !
Is it the fear of the unknown? Cyberworlds are not as known to my generation, we have not had digital texts as a constant in our lives. Teens today have. If it is unknown to us, is it necessarily dangerous or any worse than what we did as teens?
I think we have to let teens be teens - yes they will be exposed forever in some cyberworld data bank that will allow instant downloads of what they did at 14 to be endlessly played in some sort of horrific video loop well into their 50s and 60s. But what is the actual harm of seeing footage of teens in shorty shorts, sporting a tattoo of a small colourful dragon and with enough piercings to double as a kitchen colander actually going to do to the reputation of the head of the world bank in 2030? And will anyone care as long as she is running the bank well - besides most of her clients will be friended on Facebook back in the good ol' days, with possibly even more horrifyingly embarrassing footage to suppress - not!
I still have friends from my youth group days who I know have Kodak Instamatic images of me that they like to pin up every tine we get together for a Saturday night bar-b-cue so we can all gather around the photo board and point and laugh at the various teen antics we 'wild things' used to get up to, this usually happens just before someone lumbers off to home early due to their bunions, and or arthritis and or the need to get an early night before the kids wake up and we have to run them to gym or soccer.
So how delicious is it to view the photos and slumber away with refreshed memories of what we all used to look like and do in our youth- bliss - I really did have quite a nice bum - just didn't need to expose it towards the camera in the crotchet bikini quite as often as did. But considering what has happened to it now - I am thrilled I have the photographic proof that I too was once young, beautiful and buoyant of bottom!
I believe my friends are able to laugh and acknowledge that today, in my role as Head of World Bank (Domestic branch) I have moved on - the crotchet bikini is not such a huge embarrassment to me in the board room. However, getting caught up in yet another global financial crisis due to willy-nilly consumerism, might be. I am now expected to know better. Does anyone seriously think that what I wore and did at Friday night youth group has any bearing on what I do and think now? Will tweeting on Facebook really have any bearing to what our teens will do in their futures?
....oh....I do know one worrying aspect of my personality that was shaped from those youth group days and perhaps does serve as a warning to our teens today .....I can still dance the time warp - and usually do so at any opportunity .......its just a jump to left ... and a step to the righ - righ- righ- rightttt .......