Hi, everyone. Now that summer is truly over and I have accomplished my three main goals of getting my daughter graduated and off to college, my son his driver’s permit and the four new cats neutered, I am back to blogging. Life does go on...thank you to those of you who checked to make sure all was well. It’s nice to be missed.
I just had woman on the phone this morning who identified herself as the mother of a teen. She wanted to know if children were allowed to come to the library and get on Myspace. When I said yes, she said, "Oh! My! That should be illegal!”
Shocked silence on my end, then she said, “Thank you. Goodbye.”
This literally was the entire conversation. I have no idea what her personal concerns were, what her child is like, what other convictions they may have that are coloring her experiences. But the interaction raised several questions for me, some more difficult to answer than others.
Social networking is a wonderful way to keep in touch when people can’t be together. It’s a way to meet, collaborate with and co-create material across miles, disciplines, continents and oceans. It is extremely cool…
…as long as everyone involved is also extremely cool. What if they aren’t?
I’m all for Web 2.0, interconnectivity and online communities. But I have my reservations, for all that. Some time ago, Michael Stephens was relaxing at his cottage, and some people in kayaks came by. Turns out they saw his photos on Flickr and came in search of him.
It has a happy ending – they were fans and thought he was cool and he was happy to have met them. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and I feel more physically vulnerable, maybe it’s because Michael expects the best of the world and gets it, while I know from past experience that there is also less than the best out there, I don’t know. I can't speak for him.
But I’ll tell you this: if any of you hunt me down while I am on vacation, I will not be amused. I will be terrified. As in, “What is it that you want of me? Are you hiding an axe behind your back? You’re not after my bank account number or my children, are you?” Unfortunately, we all know there are predators of many stripes and stations out there.
Now – before you put me into the same category as the poor woman who called me, remember that I have a distinct online presence that I value very much. I use other social networking sites. But to me, as perhaps to this woman, online is one thing - when it becomes physical, it is another.
The questions: Do all of the Web 2.0-or-bust people realize that this is what I am dealing with, at least here in the Midwest? Frightened parents, deeply concerned for the well-being of their children, concerned enough to say “It ought to be illegal” but not well-informed enough to know that isn't necessary?
How do I take those frightened people gently by the hand and show them it's not so scary? How do I teach their teens to operate safely on the web so that it doesn't have to be scary for their parents or for them?
How do I let the 2.0-or-bust people know I’m doing my best with what I have to work with?
Where is the line between online life and in-person interaction? How do people draw the lines, make the decisions? How to teach teens to do it wisely and well?