Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Reruns: I'm Two-Faced About Facebook

(original post-date: April 28, 2010)

Social networking is a phenomenon that is clearly not going to go away. And Facebook – with how many registered faces now? more than 65 million? – is the biggest party in cybertown. It will get bigger, too. No doubt about it. There are no capacity issues when the party is taking place in a virtual dance hall.

I resisted signing up for a long time. The concept didn’t hold much value for me. Besides, I have enough trouble keeping up with the friendships I could be enjoying in person or over the phone. Do I need this added sense of social responsibility?

But when the prep school I attended created a Facebook community, I began to flirt with the idea of joining. Part of the draw was the fact that the prep school no longer exists, so the virtual alumnae association had no competition off-line. The dealmaker, though, occurred when I realized that – in lieu of a picture of my actual face – I could associate my profile with the cover of my novel. Anything to help market The Somebody Who.

So I joined Facebook probably a year and a half ago. And for a while, I visited somewhat regularly. I don’t regret my early activities in that most popular cyberland. Last April, I reunited with a friend I hadn’t seen in thirty years and hadn’t been in touch with for probably fifteen years. And in October, while I was in Virginia, I had lunch with one of my best buddies from elementary school and junior high. I had last seen her at my wedding, in 1987.

I’m grateful that I have found both these friends. But I also know that I probably could have found them without Facebook.

I should also mention, as long as I’m just a paragraph away from the subject of my marriage, that yes, my ex (since 1994) has a Facebook page. And yes, I’ve perused it.

This is the part of Facebook that makes me feel particularly uncomfortable. I am able to look at photographs that have nothing to do with my current life. I am able to see which friends belong to whom. I am participating in a collective surrendering of privacy, and so I am part of the problem.

But, when you think about it, the surrendering of privacy in this realm is fairly tame. There’s just not a lot of highly personal stuff revealed in most of the postings. Take, for example, some of these comments I’ve seen in the News Feed:

“It’s Friday!”

“I’m so bored.”

and (drum roll, please)

“Fixing dinner...”

About five or six months ago, I stopped visiting Facebook on a regular basis. I still occasionally (very occasionally) get a direct message from someone, and when I do, it appears in my email. I’m cool with that. And I’m even inclined to respond.

But the postings that show up on a daily basis? I don’t know that this is our greatest moment as a species.

…Chances are I already know it’s Friday.

…If you’re bored and you choose to announce it, I will likely remember what my mother used to say to me: “Katie, bored people are often boring.”

…As for your dinner? Gee, I sure hope you take pictures when it’s done!

I realize that, in sharing these comments, I might lose a few “friends.” But in the world of Facebook, I’m actually not even sure what it means anymore to have a “friend.”


Maggie S. said...

Well said. Facebook is a strange thing. 'Friend' is truly a misnomer.

Anonymous said...

Aha! Just emailed you and my email contained some thoughts about Twitter and Facebook. I belong to both for various reasons. I think all my 'friends' on facebook are either family or true friends. I do have a couple of contacts that I have made on the web but these have been carefully picked. Twitter followers - I have but few, most are writers or artists. When I can count a couple of 'celebrities' amongst my followers I see a way of broadcasting my writing or helping my daughter launch her latest fashion collection.Until then, I am not the world's greatest Tweeter. For me, Facebook is a cosy look at photos and a glimpse into the lives of my University age son and his siblings.My eldest sister joined Facebook but it worried her to such an extent that she closed the account almost immediately.Too many people wanting to be 'her friend'. Maybe, because I have worked in web and multi-media for some time, social media comes less as a shock LOL! Enjoyed this re-run Katie.

Linda Medrano said...

Katie, my daughter in law set me up a page a while ago. I use it, but I'm not sure why. "I'm having a sandwich" is a great status report, but why do I care? Still, it's sort of fun to look over the photos and every great once in a while, somebody says something interesting. Still, now I have a lot of "friends" on there but I'm not sure who a lot of them are. Oy vey!

Lazarus said...

Spot on Katie, you're right...and to think how much it has grown (and continues to grow) since you wrote this a year ago....

Jayne Martin said...

Did you see Elayne Boosler's original video "Facebook Is A Clocksucker?" I posted it on my blog a couple of weeks ago and it pretty much sums up my feelings. I find it hard to resist not checking in a few times a day and it's been fun keeping in touch with people I wouldn't talk to any other way. Plus I follow a lot of liberal websites through FB and it's a good source of news on issue that are important to me.

Colleen said...

The funny part is, people do take pictures of their dinners...

... and post them on Facebook.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Facebook has been good for hooking up with a few friends with whom I lost track, and I'm part of networked blogs, so whenever I post to my blog it automatically posts to my facebook page. Also, I'm friends with some writers and editors, so when they post to their blogs or say something interesting I catch it. Otherwise, I don't really employ it much.

Anonymous said...

Odd you should mention it - I can't tell yow how many people send photos of food they've made and are about to eat...? And they don't work for food magazines either!