Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Future With Facebook

The Future of Us
When I tell my students there were no real cell phones (remember the car phone in a bag??) and Facebook hadn't been created yet when I was in high school, they look at me like I was alive when dinosaurs roamed the earth. But what they don't realize is that their iPhones and Facebook and wireless internet are very young in the grad scheme of things. Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler examine what a teenager in the 1990's would do if they stumbled upon their future selves as is represented in Facebook in The Future of Us

It's 1996 and Emma's father got her a brand new computer as a consolation prize when he got remarried and started his replacement family. When Josh Templeton stops by, she is surprised since things have been awkward between them since he admitted he liked her. They are still friends, just not the kind of friends who hang out at each other's houses regularly anymore. So when he comes over, she is shocked, but excited by the AOL disc he is carrying. His mother got it in the mail and thought she might like it for her new computer since Josh's mother doesn't believe in the internet. when Emma pops the disc in, something strange happens. A screen called Facebook pops up. Emma checks it out and realizes the woman named Emma Nelson Jones is her... in the future.

She calls Josh over because she just can't believe what she is seeing. Married to a man who doesn't come home at nights and might be cheating on her is not how Emma hoped her future would turn out. But Josh is convinced this is all an elaborate joke. Until he sees his own Facebook page and he is married to the hottest girl in school. But every time they open up the program, their lives have changed. They begin to realize every choice they make changes their future in small ripples. Emma, sad about her depressing future, starts to do things to purposely change her future, but Josh is worried about ruining what seems like an awesome future. What they quickly realize, though, is that the future is something you can't predict or control. Or can you?

I loved Asher's book 13 Reasons Why. It rocked my literary world. So I had high hopes for this book. I liked this book, but it wasn't as good as 13. I think it had a much younger feel than the first book. Even though the characters are thinking about college and talking about graduation, their reactions and actions feel very young- almost middle school-like. Also, I LOVED the nostalgic nods to life in the 1990's (when I was in high school- yep. I'm that old). The music (Dave Matthews and Green Day) and the greeting when you first open AOL, instant messenger, etc. It was like I was back in high school again! Oh wait, I hated high school. Never mind! But seriously, the references were fun, but they would be totally lost on kids of today. The references to old technology would be interesting in an anthropological sense, but I don't think they would enjoy the pop culture references.

Still, the book was interesting and fun to read. The way small things changed their futures was something that makes you really think, especially about fate vs. free will. How can your choices change what you become in the future? This would be fun to talk with your students about, maybe even plan out how some choices could lead them to different future possibilities. I think the characters might seem to young for more mature students, but middle school through youngish high school students would appreciate this fun story. And most important moral of the entire book? When Josh asks, "Why would anyone say this stuff about themselves on the Internet? It's crazy!" (although this was a close second: "Why does it say she had three hundred and twenty friends? Who has that many friends?").

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