The real problem with parents on Facebook

OK that title is a massive misnomer as the issue I’m about to write about actually has nothing to do with parents, I’m knowingly mixing correlation with causation here. I’m also going to use « Gen X » and « Gen Y » when it may be a massive generalisation but I think it’s the least offensive way of referring to these demographics 😉

Facebook is the reason I define as a feminist and an activist in so many ways. In spite of how uncomfortable I feel with the role a public entity holds in my life, it allows me to connect with people all over the world, to share images and posts and opinions and facts, to see what thousands of people are thinking and to see what their friends are sharing too. Exposure to this much thought, I think, is a really good thing – you have to be aware of what other people’s opinions are to help you form your own.
Every time someone shares a post about a cause, it normalises it a bit, and makes it OK to care and to talk about it. It makes it « cool ». It helps you learn about things, especially things that wouldn’t necessarily come up on BBC news (no comment!) but if you’re like me things you wouldn’t necessarily take the time to search through Al Jazeera to find. I don’t necessarily recommend getting your news update from Facebook and Buzzfeed, but if it at least raises awareness, it’s useful. Raising awareness can sometimes be a bit of a waste of time but in this case I think it’s making a huge difference.

It can also give you a bubble. I’m very aware that if I see something posted 100 times by my friends on Facebook, I assume everyone knows about it. I have over 1000 connections on Facebook so it may be that actually only 10% of them know about it, and it’s the 10% that know each other, and the other 90% don’t see these posts.
Similarly, Facebook only shows you what it thinks you want to see, so you can hide the Daily Mail and Britain First and UniLad and Russell Brand from your timeline so you never see people who share them. You can unfriend anyone who regularly shares these opinions. And that’s from someone who has a large group of connections to start with.

What, then, about the people who have only 20-100 or so connections? Generation X and before who add their children, their siblings, and a few people from school or work?
10 years ago it was normal to only have a small friendship group on something like Facebook. It shows your real name! You put pictures of yourself on there! You wouldn’t describe them as a « friend » in real life so why do it on Facebook?
Maybe that’s why I find myself using the phrase « connections ». No, I don’t have 1200 « friends ». But I have 1200 « connections » on Facebook and I am exposed to 1200 opinions that might differ from my own, and because of that my views become more empathetic and progressive and I can learn about my own privilege and the struggles of others. I can learn why the fact that I am white and young but not unluckily young (sorry £9k fees) and living in a developed wealthy country with open internet and free speech is a really big deal. I can also learn why what the government is doing is stupid without just saying it is and I can see corruption when it is exposed.

If you only have 40 connections, and 25% of them spent all their life with you, their views probably don’t differ from yours very much.
You may not see why people are so angry, why there is so much activism, why people take to social media to share their opinions.
I mean equally if I used the Facebook account of someone else for a day I may find that there isn’t much activism and people don’t share opinions and most of the world is still in the « had a great day today lol xox » stage of Facebook, it’s just my bubble that does it, because even though my bubble is SLIGHTLY larger it’s still a bubble.
But it may be that that will hold us back. We know that Generation Y-onwards are angrier, and they apparently have a strong sense of community but also a small sense of entitlement. We also know that demographically it is more likely to be Gen X and before who will disagree with progressive views, and will fight against them. But if these people have no perspective of these opinions, it’s going to be impossible to fight back.

I am approaching this from the point of view that « change is good ». I also know that many of the group I’m talking about wouldn’t necessarily say the same thing. I’m talking about people who say « If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all » when workers complain about earning below the living wage. People who say « if you don’t like (this content) don’t look » when a left-wing tabloid posts in praise of a right-wing action.
I think people should look, and they should comment, and they should complain if they want, and they should voice their opinion. Yeah be respectful, be factual, but don’t tell us to calm down and don’t tell us to keep our mouths shut. Facebook can be a bubble, it can be pictures of nightclubs and nandos and nothing else if you so choose, but it can also be a platform to share your opinions and discuss and learn from the experiences of others who put their opinions out there. I am a complete advocate of change and of learning from others and I think the way social media (Twitter too, sorry) is making the world smaller and that this is only a good thing.
Sorry if that offends you put I’m putting it on Facebook anyway.


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