(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:
“I’m so bored.”
and (drum roll, please)
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.”