Teenager Sabeba Suri publishes her musings on ZDNet.com about why 40-year-olds want to be on Facebook. Although somewhat amusing to hear this perspective, her post is simplistic at best, offensive and callous at worst. She ultimately concludes that it is just plain “creepy” for people over 40 to use social networking. I think the major flaw of her argument is that she is confusing “old folks” using SN with them contacting her and other teens via SN. I agree that the latter can be pretty “creepy,” while the former would, ultimately, be none of her business. If non-hip, non-teen people want to use SN, why should she even notice? Wouldn’t it be just as “creepy” if a 17-year-old wanted to befriend a 40-year-old? Note: if that happens to you, I bet you it is To Catch a Predator looking for TV fodder, so don’t take the bait.
Some of the responders to her post raise some excellent exceptions as to why older persons may be contacting those significantly younger than they are. How about teachers who want to stay in touch with students (hey! that’s me!), or relatives who live far away and are not as savvy to Skype? The most powerful response, however, is one from a person in the military who states:
“So I am 30, and I talk to 18 year olds on a social networking site. Why? I am in the military and 90% of my troops are ages 18 to 21. Now I don’t have anyone on my friends list who is not family or close to me and no friends on my list are under 21. But, I talk to 18 year olds. Why, if one of my soldiers has a problem, how do I relate to them? They would loose confidence in me and wouldn’t come to me if I could not communicate effectively in their language. That Means I must stay current, and sometimes it helps to bounce ideas off of other people their age to get perspective. I also spend sometimes 200 plus days away from home, thousands of miles away. When I can get time to send a message home to say I am alive, It’s a little easier with a post, I’ll save the phone call for my family.”
While I will try to be sympathetic to a teen’s limited perspective, it would help if her editors shed a little light on the matter before writing such a hostile post.