Opting out of cyberspace

By Julie Barzilay

Senior Ditch Day, numerous Prom limousines and Peer Support sleepovers have all been planned and organized via “Groups” and “Event” pages on Facebook.com this year.  Facebook messages have virtually replaced invitations, and clicking “attending,” “maybe attending,” or “not attending” has pretty much supplanted the process of an “RSVPing” among many high school students.  However, there are many Harvard-Westlake students who have voluntarily stepped back from the Facebook trend, choosing to communicate in other ways and take the risk of letting some events or photo albums slip under their radars.

One such student is Zaakirah Daniels ’10.  Daniels’ main explanation for her lack of a profile page is that she doesn’t have much time to spare and would rather not waste her free time on the computer. 

She says that she does occasionally feel left out, for instance, when her Advanced Dance II company communicates about rehearsals on Facebook.  However, she feels she has a solid perspective on the situation and is very comfortable with her decision. 

“My friends live on Facebook,” she said.  “I think it’s funny – in a good way.  I totally think that our generation relies on Facebook to communicate….I don’t see how it’s so hard to talk to someone face to face, unless you don’t see them all the time, I guess.”

Until she goes to college, Daniels is pretty sure she will keep on using her cell phone and E-mail address to keep in touch with friends.  But she thinks after graduation a Facebook might help her stay in contact with peers who go to college across the country.

For Jasmine Mcallister ’11, her parents’ wishes initially dictated her ability to make a Facebook account, but over time she has come to agree with their decision.  Initially, Mcallister wanted a Facebook , but her parents were worried about Mcallister using Facebook due to concerns regarding colleges, internships, and future employers looking on Facebook to research candidates.  For Mcallister, “getting [a Facebook] behind their backs was definitely out of the question,” because she didn’t want to jeopardize her relationship with them and their trust in her, “especially over something so trivial.”

Mcallister feels that her obedience and her parents’ wisdom were right on target. 

“I feel like I do a pretty good job of getting distracted and procrastinating as is, and I would definitely waste a huge amount of time on [Facebook],” she said.  “Also, I like to communicate in person or over the phone because it’s way more personal.”

She says she doesn’t often feel left out because if there’s a really funny video or quote online, she still hears about it or gets to see it via friends. 

Mcallister views Facebook as something unique to this generation, but as just another example of an everlasting pattern of trends that swell and then level out with each new generation.

“I feel like it was way bigger last year when all my friends first got one, but then they gradually started using it less and now it’s kind of reached a plateau,” she said.  “It has changed our generation, but every generation is different than their parents, and that’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just different.”

Mcallister had a deepened appreciation for the contrasts in different forms of communication because she acted in a One Act play called “Magic Touch” which predominately takes place in a fantasy world where school is “Facebook High,” everyone communicates with abbreviations and no one touches anyone else.

“It was pretty weird being in a play whose central focus is online communication and where it’s heading when I don’t even have a Facebook or do video chat,” she said.

Head Prefect Brandon Levin ’09 only made a Facebook account for himself in the last few months.  He says he knew “how addicting it can be,” and that he “didn’t want to become so immersed in the Facebook culture that [he] didn’t value that uniquely personal aspect of human interaction that is face-to-face communication.”

He decided to make one, though, to stay connected to high school friends next year.

Sal Greenberger has no such plans to make a Facebook – even with the impending start of college.

“I try to spend as little time as possible online,” she said.  “People really get absorbed by their computers and for me, it feels like wasted time I could have used painting, gardening, or talking to someone in a more personal way.”

She says staying in touch with people is unquestionably more difficult, but she says it forces her to write letters or call people. 

“While Facebook brings people together, it also creates impersonal relationships,” she said.  “It’s not very difficult finding out about things without a Facebook because people usually end up talking about events anyways.  I like to stick to the good old fashioned grapevine.”