Dear Straight Talk: A middle school teacher friend of mine says he’s noticed his students are less interested in Facebook. My 16- and 19-year-old are constantly on Facebook, which drives me crazy, as a father, because I feel it distracts them from focusing deeply on anything substantial. What does the panel say? Is there a slacking off? — Hoping It’s True In Santa Ana
Matt, 19, Boston: I’ve seen a slight decline in Facebook use, too. Unfortunately, there’s no decline in social media in general. Users have just shifted to Instagram, Twitter, Vine, etc. — partly due to all the parents, adults and snoopy employers on Facebook.
Katelyn, 18, Azusa: The pie is being shared with Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, SnapChat, even DeviantART, along with myriad instant-messaging apps for smartphones. So, no slacking off. In fact, social networking is young people’s most frequent “social” activity. It’s great for keeping up with friends and spreading awareness about issues, but most focus on trivia. I worry that people can’t focus deeply enough to affect life for the better.
Savannah, 19, Amherst, Mass.: This is the AGE of social media! It’s more prevalent than ever. Those burnt out on Facebook are using Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest (mostly girls), Tumbler and others.
Brandon, 21, Mapleton, Maine: First, there was Myspace. By 2006, everyone was on Facebook. Now we’ve branched out to what expresses us best. The class clowns hang around on Reddit, the girls who used to post food and flower pictures are on Pinterest or Instagram, gossip girls are busy retweeting Snooki on Twitter, promiscuous kids usually hang around MeetMe (formerly MyYearbook), “Farmville” players, who annoyed everyone with their invites joined the PlayStation network, and those enjoying a good laugh are on Tumblr. There are plenty more sites, but these are the most popular locally.
Currently, I use Facebook (less), Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn (ouch, I feel middle-aged!), MySpace to support a band occasionally, and email for all professional communication. I love Tumblr. There’s no drama, no 13-year-olds bragging, “3 wksz til im indewsed!” (an exact status I saw on Facebook, which was pretty alarming).
There’s a slight uptick in kids hanging out at malls again. You can send your friends only so much stuff on “Candy Crush Saga” before you realize your life is outrageously boring. Note: Introverts have more online profiles than extroverts who are busy maintaining IRL (in-real-life) popularity.
Sarah, 15, Monclova, Ohio: Facebook is definitely less popular with teens. All I see are posts from parents, relatives and adult friends. At my school, it’s Twitter! It’s easy to write a quick, witty tweet with your smartphone, and everyone’s CONSTANTLY checking to see the latest. Instagram is also popular for sending pictures via our phones. We thought Facebook was distracting! These two sites are even more addicting and hazardous for homework and free time. Email is in the past unless it’s for school and other official things.
Molly, 21, Berkeley: I’m not sure if I use Facebook less because I’m busier or I’m simply tired of it. In my middle-school days, creating an online identity was new and exciting; now, it’s a given.
Dear Hoping: You heard it from the source. Frankly, many young people share your worries and want help controlling this extremely seductive medium so they can develop their IRL (in-real-life) identity. (The stronger this is, the happier the teen.) Some ideas for teens: stick with or revert to dumbphones and desktops, keep desktops in a central household location and enforce a no-social-networking-till-homework-is-finished rule — all while cheerfully espousing the benefits of boredom and not getting one’s way. They will be ahead of the curve — and so will society. — Lauren
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