anne_mikolay_120Facebook is the 21st century equivalent of networking, a valuable marketing tool for businesses. If you want the world to know about your business or your profession, you must be “out there” on Facebook. On a personal level, however, Facebook's significance, in my opinion, is questionable.

On Facebook, it's all about “status.”

Facebook enables members to broadcast their social status using six relationship categories: single, in a relationship, engaged, married, it's complicated, or in an open relationship. Facebook estimates that approximately 60% of its users declare themselves “single” or “married.” And that's fine if you are an adult. But for teenagers in high school, the Facebook status has become a misunderstood and abused status symbol, utter nonsense. 

The moment a high school student is asked out on a date, he or she changes their Facebook status from “single” to “in a relationship.” Listen, kids, one date does not qualify as a “relationship,” nor does two, or three, or four! Where I come from, the word “relationship” implies knowing another person extremely well, sharing mutual interests, caring profoundly about their well-being, linking your lives together in commitment. While it can be argued that Facebook and similar social networking sites have redefined the “relationship,” it's clear to me that the Facebook social status is nothing more than a cyber-billboard for kids to brag about themselves. For teens, the social status of “in a relationship” is synonymous with shouting to the world: “Look at me! I've got a boyfriend! I'm cool! I'm accepted! And you're not!

In almost demanding that teens present themselves as successful, trendy, popular, Facebook has introduced a new kind of peer pressure, and created some rather self-centered, self-indulgent individuals in the process. (I know of one girl who has 900 pictures of herself on her Facebook; 900 pictures of herself!) If a teen doesn't have a Facebook social status of “in a relationship,” he or she unfortunately pales in comparison to those who do. Facebook pressures kids to show the world their friendships, their leisure time and aspirations, and convinces kids that the world revolves around them, and that they need to grow up quickly and be “in a relationship.”

Of course, not all teens are addicted to Facebook; not all take it seriously. There are some very mature young people who realize the implications of Facebook and regard the site only as an instrument of social networking, not as a vehicle to define oneself or engage in competition. Hopefully, these aware teens will lend a hand to those who do not yet understand that at such a young age, the Facebook social status is utter nonsense.