Slate’s Emily Yoffe takes a somewhat hilarious journey today through the amazingly alien world of children’s online social networking. It is, she finds, a world full of penguins, Froot Loops, Barbies, and oddly enough, flagrant capitalism. Yoffe was worried that her children weren’t learning important life lessons while they were logged onto the Internet, and also that they were exposed to predators. But in the end, she concluded “that these sites are mostly benign.” Yoffe obviously didn’t read the spectacular Talk of the Town piece in the New Yorker this week, which we’ve been waiting for an excuse to link.
In it, scribe Michael Schulman sits in on a seminar at NYU for freshmen who don’t know how to translate their social networking from the Facebook to real life. “Meeting new people face-to-face can be … intimidating,” reads an orientation week pamphlet. “Ask questions,” advised the professor. “Try to discover commonalities and/or connections with the other person ” Yeah — it was that bleak. Students in the class described real life social networking as “harder than Facebook” and struggled with replicating online interactions like “poking” (ask your kids what it is). The Facebook was founded in 2004, so most college freshmen could only have been using it for a couple of years — and yet they’re already socially crippled. In other words, Yoffe, your adorable daughter decorating her online igloo? She may be safe from predators, but she’s still screwed.