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The Facebook Generation

They are media queens. They are familiar with everything it has to offer by way of example, insight, and reflection. . . . They are not just an audience of passive consumers. They are not even merely judges—though, Lord knows, they are that too.
They can do it themselves. They are performers.

Now that I am 36, I know I would have hated myself at 21. I was opinionated and cocksure and full of a sense of the promise that life holds. Not that I've lost those qualities over time. I've just toned it down a bit, having recognized that not everyone wants or cares to know what I think.

As a result, I can forgive 2007 Dartmouth grad Alice Mathias, who tells us in her October 6 New York Times op-ed that people who treat Facebook as anything but a lark are wrong. It is and always was intended to be, she tells us, "a circus ring" and any attempt to turn it into "a legitimate social reference guide" threatens it.

There is a huge aspect to Facebook that entails play—and far be it from a Playful Librarian to discourage play. But the point of play is that it can be both fun and useful. Elements of play should infuse our home and work lives, especially since digital tools now enable us to blur the lines between work and home.

As of May 2007, 39% of unique Facebook users are over 35—the largest and seemingly most unlikely demographic. They didn't grow up with it and didn't use it in college. But they are using it now and in growing numbers, and it's likely they're using it to keep in touch with friends, family, and business contacts, all at the same time.

Ms. Mathias ignores these statistics, probably because they don't fit within her experience. That's the danger of social media: it convinces those who use it uncritically that they are at the center of everything, it's about them. And with the publication of Ms. Mathias's op-ed we can pinpoint the coming of age of the Facebook generation.

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