17-year-old CNET summer intern Sabena Suri publishes a startling finding today: there are creepy people trying to befriend random teenage girls on Facebook. Her example, a 40-something guy from another state, added her as a friend on Facebook, despite the fact that they’d never met. Sabena was rightfully freaked out.
Sabena could have looked at this objectively. For example, she might have commented on the fact that we learned earlier this week—sadly, 41% of teens might have accepted this stranger as a friend without even selecting their “limited profile.”
Instead, she looked at this man, deduced that he and all others in his age group must have no real purpose on a social networking site, and dismissed him and all other “old” people. She titled her post, “Ick, old married guys on Facebook,” not “Ick, old married guys on Facebook are trying to see young girls’ profiles.”
She struggled to find reasons why “old” people might want to use a social networking site, which was difficult because she thinks “most of the older folks hanging out on MySpace and Facebook are creepy.” Sabena finally acquiescing on a few legitimate reasons (and I commented on them):
We all know businesses want to keep up with the times. And granted, many businesspeople have Facebook profiles to network–CEO-to-CEO stuff–but why are you adding me? . . .
Good question—but why does she assume that most people above the age of 25 are on Facebook to stalk teenage girls and not to network? It is a social network….
Keeping up long-distance friendships
It’s unclear why you and your long-distance college buddy Mike couldn’t just talk on the phone or e-mail, but Facebook is apparently considerably hipper. . . .
Is there some reason why she can’t talk on the phone with or e-mail her friends? Odds are probably higher that she has their phone number or e-mail address than people who graduated 20 years ago.
Looking for votes
Okay, I know there are a lot of candidates out there, but really, the 35+ demographic is the largest group on Facebook. Such a small fraction of them are running for office that it’s almost ridiculous to even mention this.
Hoping to feel young again
As if it isn’t enough that your mom gets checked out more than you do whenever you go to the mall, now she has double the friend requests on Facebook. . . .
Maybe it’s just me but . . . are you joking? Again, I would think this is so infrequent that it’s almost ridiculous to mention.
Spying on your kids
Being just plain creepy
And this one brings us back to John Smith. Most teens learn at a young age not to add friends they don’t know personally. But, if the above examples are any indication, that rule of thumb can get tossed out the window on MySpace and Facebook, where it’s sometimes hard to distinguish the creeps from the nice older folks. John Smith may seem like your average too-old-to-be-on-Facebook kind of guy, but he’s probably a lot worse than that. Look, if his favorite music includes Kelly Clarkson, 50 Cent and Beyonce, there’s a chance he’s trying a little too hard to fit in. Plus, his Facebook status is “Duuude. Soo wasted rite now.” Soo lame.
Yes, that’s creepy. The first indication that he was creepy was him trying to add you when he didn’t know you, not his age or his location or music choices or status.
Here Sabena labels him as “too-old-to-be-on-Facebook.” How about a “too-old-to-be-a-teenage-girl’s-‘friend'” guy? That’s the real issue that prompted Sabena to write—and somehow her story morphed into an overgeneralized attack on anyone over the age of approximately 40 with a Facebook presence.
Her example is definitely suspect—from her description, he sounds like someone trying to take advantage of naive teenage girls. But it’s also naive to think that you only have to worry about rather obviously scary people on Facebook. People that you know—even people under 40!—can behave just as creepy and perverted as strange men.
The bottom line of Sabena’s story should have been that there are perverts on Facebook who happen to be over the age of 40. Creepy? Of course. Newsworthy? Probably not.