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A sorry sign of the times

I was a woman on a mission. Armed with my business cards I was on house visits in Tarxien, a locality in my con­stituency. It was 11am and I was targeting families who would be at home at this hour of the day. The house I was knocking on was a familiar terraced house and the owner was well known to me being of the same age group and having both studied at the same school.

We have allowed our children to grow up without boundaries and parameters
- Caroline Galea

We exchanged pleasentries, caught up on news and I firmly turned down her insistence ofa coffee.

The woman I was visiting assured me of her voting intentions and we spent the next 15 minutes discussing the local scene and the prospects of her children’s future. Throughout this entire time her 18-year-old son had not lifted his eyes or his fingers from his laptop choosing to ignore my presence from the moment I entered his mother’s kitchen.

I am no stranger to teenagers’ moods, or awkwardness but the sabotage was no generation gap but the ultimate electronic distraction – Facebook!

When his mother and I were his age keeping in touch with friends after school was a veritable task. Yet, I nurture to this very day friendships sealed at primary school age.

Keeping up to date with news was solely restricted to watching the 6pm news on national TV and the only international flavour was provided by the Italian channels. Things certainly have changed and I applaud and welcome changes which the digital world has brought us.

However, I could not help wondering at the irony of the manifestation of this youngster’s enthusiasm for politics. Hearing my passionate rendition of my party’s plan for further consolidating the work prospects for youths, he quickly abandoned his mindless surfing of Facebook and logged on to Partit Nazzjonalista’s profile page.

I was seated no more than two metres from him in his very own kitchen and not only had he still not shown the least inclination to acknowledge my existence but it seemed that he would rather download facts from Facebook rather than hearing them first hand directly from the horse’s mouth.

What’s on your mind? Facebook encourages us to share our thoughts and feelings in a public forum. All sorts of messages are posted with users changing their status with military regularity.

Some messages attract no more than a modicum of interest while others solicit more responses, both positive and negative. No doubt it is a platform which brings people together and is a convenient way of instantly conveying news feeds to a network of friends.

My problem with Facebook lies not with its use or its applications but with users allowing it to substitute personal intercommunication. Facebook helps us enhance our relationships but should not be used as a means to avoid direct conversation.

All too often I have heard parents moan the fact that their children are on 24 hour PC duty and only drag themselves away when either the fridge or nature calls. While I am sorry to say that this just won’t do! When I was growing up it was considered basic courtesy to switch off the TV and give your full attention to a guest in the house, whether she was interesting or not. Was this our choice?

No, it was instilled in us by our parents who demanded from us a sense of discipline, respect and taught us that socially correct behaviour meant listening and appreciating even when something else was screaming for our attention.

So I tend to believe that whether it’s TV, music, a good book or Facebook, the problem lies not with the actual distraction but with the fact that we have allowed our children to grow up without boundaries and parameters.

Facebook often comes under fire as parents and educators criticise its overuse. What should be considered instead is an overindulgent way of raising our children which has led to a decrease of personal skills such as moderation and self control. Can we reach a gold mean? Possibly I’ll just check with my Facebook friends about this.

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