Is Facebook creating the next generation of buttheads?

May 4, 2010: 3:32 PM ET

My generation grew up talking about peace, love and understanding. We didn't do too well about that. The world we've created is not appreciably better than the one left us by our square old parents, although there have been some improvements. I won't argue with you about those. If you don't know what they are, I can't help you.

My point is that the way people behave when they are young doesn't always presage the kind of adults they will be. The guys in the tie dyed shirts and leather headbands of my youth grew up to be pinstriped dicks crushing each other for the next greedy deal in the 90s. They drive BMWs and support a variety of wars. They sing along with John Lennon when he comes on the oldies station imagining no possessions while thumbing their next-gen smartphones. So there's some hope for us. The current generation of teens may not grow into the meanest, shallowest, most predatory class of management since the Persians mashed those 300 Spartans.

Then again, they might.

Anybody who knows a teen knows what I'm talking about. Facebook is an arena where lions and hyenas prowl, looking for dinner. Bullies rule. Of course, as always, it's easy to blame the medium. The medium is not to blame. But it's a big part of whatever is going on, which also has spilled over into the hallways where these kids go to school, the pizzerias where they grab a slice, the living rooms where they hang out.

The girls are the worst. As a group, I believe that teenage girls put the most hardened McKinsey-Whartonian to shame. Their specialty seems to be clustering together to form small groups dedicated to the ostracism and destruction of targeted classmates. The boys are somewhat better. This makes me fear for them, too.  And their destination of choice throughout the day, the forum where they get their mojo working, is Facebook.

Out in New Jersey, the Principal of a middle school has asked parents to ban Facebook.  In doing so, he said, "There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! Let me repeat that -- there is absolutely, positively no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site! None."

I might agree with the sentiment, but there's one thing about which this well-intentioned administrator is wrong.  In teaching social networking, virtual presence, aggressive electronic messaging and cold-blooded manipulation of group dynamics, Facebook is preparing young people to thrive in business life, particularly on the executive level. I'm just not sure it's a future office space that I would want to live in.

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