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Ackerman: Social media and knowing who your real friends are

Published: Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 5:31 a.m. CDT

As reported right here in the Kane County Chronicle, the Naperville Police Department recently arrested a man who allegedly posed as a 15-year-old on Facebook and exchanged explicit messages with local teenagers. This “teenager” claimed to go to my school, St. Charles East High School.

I really don’t understand how something like this can happen, especially to people I go to school with every day. Sure, our school is big – we have around 2,500 students – and I certainly don’t know everybody,  but I wouldn’t say it’s to the point where a student could be totally unknown.

Why didn’t any of his “friends” look for him in the yearbook? It seems obvious to me that you should only be friends with someone online if you at least know them in real life. Sure, you may not be besties with that kid who sits next to you in math, but at least you would recognize the person behind the profile.

I have to admit I have a bias – I am one of the few remaining teenagers who doesn’t have Facebook. Yes, our kind is still around, though we’re very few in number.

My Facebooklessness isn’t because my parents are really strict – they actually want me to get one – it is solely my choice. It’s not worth my time to scroll through screens depicting things that happen to people who I see every day. Social media seems like another excuse for teens to brag about how many “friends” or “followers” they have or how many “likes” or “retweets” their posts have gotten. A lot of my friends actually don’t have Facebook either, and the ones that do only use it for clubs and organizations at school. 

Of course, social media isn’t just Facebook. It all started with MySpace (but that was way before my time), and now includes Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. I don’t have any of these, but I do have Pinterest. I like how it’s less about other people and more about exposing myself to new things, even if it’s just a cute pair of shoes. Social media should enhance our interactions, not replace them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally against social media. It’s great people my age are communicating and adapting to our changing world, but there’s a time and a place for it, and I know that I don’t need it right now. Maybe I’ll feel differently in the spring when I graduate and go away to college; I know I’ve made friends in high school that I’ll want to keep in touch with for the rest of my life.

Right now, the selfies can wait. We have people to meet, new places to explore and bad haircuts to regret, all of which are much greater than any computer screen.

I hope that everyone can learn from this incident. Sometimes it’s better to take a step back and take a look at the situation from an outside view. S/O to all my friends on @Twitter and other social media sites: Remember 2B safe b/c #yolo. (Translation – this is social media speak for – shout out to all my friends on Twitter and other social media sites: Remember to be safe because you only live once.)

• Brigid Ackerman is a senior at St. Charles East High School. She enjoys playing the trumpet, eating bread and writing this column, which will run every other Thursday in the Kane County Chronicle. Contact her at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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