The Digital Age comes with its own problems, real and virtual: social, romantic, sexual, practical, parental. More than ever we need a good old-fashioned agony aunt for the Internet Age who will tell us how to navigate these new waters. Unfortunately, we only have Electra, who doles out her brand of Greek advice with a kick. Got a virtual problem? Ask Electra and brave her total honesty: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm probably the only Facebook friend over 16 that my niece has and probably the only one who worries about postings like "crystal meth is fun." Should I play the stern uncle, inform her mom of worrying posts, or do what I am doing, which obviously is nothing?
Dear Uncomfy Unky,
I find everything 16 year olds do these days shocking, and it would be difficult to discern between what is actually worrisome and what is not. At sixteen I had only one brow and thought of GAP sweatshirts—the ones with the huge logo upfront—as “cool wear” that I saved for Saturday night outings. I had yet to experiment with drugs back then, though I did have one brief close encounter with a penis, not to go back there for another three years. Mind you, this was pre-Britney Spears. But she came to change the age of sixteen forever, and redefine it as the one in which you’re “not a girl, not yet a woman.” And creatures in that transitional phase should be handled with tact.
Oftentimes, people—and not just teenagers—use Facebook for attention. They post things such: “So sad today :(” or “Life is just hard sometimes,” or “Best weekend ever!” or “I just gave Kanye West a blowjob YOLO!!!” They do this because some of their friends have the time and energy to comment with things such as: “Oh no!!! Everything okay sweetie?” or “It will get better, hang in there,” or “LOL What did you do???” and “Mom, that was NOT Kanye West.”
It is quite possible that your niece is just another GAP-sweatshirt-wearing, unibrowed, mostly-virginal teenager who is trying to sound cool on Facebook to make up for the fact she has a knack for math. So if you are close enough to her you might want to try talking to her directly. Keep it casual, and do not sound too concerned. What you should absolutely avoid doing is try to bond with her by “Liking” the questionable post, then proceed to explain the potential pitfalls of crystal meth use in consecutive comments under said post. This will likely result in her blocking you from her Facebook profile—which will not only prevent you from seeing what is going on in her life, but it will also hurt your self-esteem in unexpected ways. A Facebook snub sometimes cuts deeper than a real-life one, especially when it comes from someone much younger than you.
If you are truly concerned then you might want to start by asking her mother whether your niece has been exhibiting signs of troublesome behavior in real life, too—such as problems at school, or regular drunkenness, or bad boyfriends, and so on. If so, then her parents should definitely be aware of any drug use, potential underage prostitution, and gun trafficking.
Photograph by bettyx1138