Monday, April 25, 2011

In Defense of Facebook

When I was a kid in Indonesia far away from our extended families, on our birthdays we'd get a call from across the world from our grandparents. It cost a lot so they were short, and the distance delay made the conversation awkward, and sometimes for years at a time that was the extent of our interaction with our grandparents.

Facebook logo Between skype and facebook these days, it's a whole different story in communicating with family and friends across the world. I've spent a significant amount of time recently off of facebook... and off of blog reading.

DANG I've missed facebook.

It's good for me, of course, to take a forced break from the addiction to constant status updates and sliding into creating a persona on facebook.

On the other hand.... I really, really value facebook. Yes, it has problems, but I think the problems are more the fact that it's currently the medium we use to interact with each other, and so as much as our interactions with each other are characterized by envy, pride, anger, impatience, and criticism.... yep, those will be present on facebook.

While off of facebook, I missed seeing my sister's posted video of her singing during her high school talent night overseas. I missed the news of my cousin-in-law having her baby, and my sister-in-law posting updated photos of their baby. I missed my roomates' photos and updates from their vacation. I missed the engagement announcement from my high school friend that lives in Canada. Several times over the course of these weeks I would think of someone I miss and want to catch up with, but since I don't have their email or phone number there's no way to do that without jumping on facebook and sending them a message.

So ... yeah, there's no way I'm shutting down my facebook account - I'd be more likely to give up my phone, actually (I hate phones). And actually, I broke my facebook fast a few times because I deemed the situation important enough, like say when someone messaged me about a job opening.

I can certainly be a facebook addict, and the amount that I really DIDN'T want to give up facebook is what made me know I really needed to get off for a while to gain perspective. I think there is a lot to be said for not just putting my whole life out for the world to see all the time. I know facebook gets a lot of criticism for being fluff. Who cares if you got a starbucks coffee this morning? Well really.... if I know you... I do. Those small minutiae are things I share with people in my daily life. I chat with people at the office about who has what for lunch, or how bad the commute was, or who did what on American Idol. When you leave a place there is a deep sense of loss of losing the daily-ness of friendship.

So I count it a privilege to gather a little of that back via facebook. I love to see peoples' photos, to see clever or even mundane status updates, and to follow my friends' lives. Sometimes if I find someones' posting so inflammatory that I am consistently reacting in anger, or if I find myself feeling a bit voyeuristic because I'm closely following someone one facebook that I probably wouldn't reconnect with in real life..... I'll hide that feed.

Am I using facebook to complain? Am I starting to measure my value based on my friends list or the response I get to things I post? Am I being honest, or am I portraying a false facade of my life? Am I being critical or impatient or envious or flirtatious? Is time spent on facebook taking away from relationships where I'm at right now? Am I characterized by love?

Those are the questions I have to ask about the way I use facebook.... and blogging... and if I actually twittered, twitter as well.

But for facebook itself... I'm still a big fan.

Actually, after time off, I'm severely cutting down on my blog reader, because while I do love reading blogs, they're what can really be a time sucker with no real connection. The blogs of people I know (and a few people that I have actually gotten to know through blogs) are the most valuable, and a few other super informative or pertinent or well-written blogs.


AHLondon said...

M&M and I were discussing this on Easter. (They came over for the meal.) Our, yours and mine, expat lives make Facebook a real blessing. The people I would have lost touch with in five years here, the family photo thing... I do as you do and try to not go FB, or blog, tunnel vision, I take breaks, but Facebook is a valuable thing for me.
I'm with you on the hating phones too.

Kacie said...

I like the blending of social circles, Jaimie. I WANT my family to know my roomates, my school friends to know my childhood friends. I wish to high heavens that they were all in one place! But since they are not, I like that they can see me interact with others. I feel like they know me better when they see me in a wider spectrum... and it keeps me honest.

And I have tried twitter, and I hate it. I can see its place, but it's not for me. So few friends and family have it, and that's the point of it to me. Friends and family. Exactly what you said - it has less "family, work people".... and that's why I'm not interested.

Sarah said...

You summed up my feelings nicely. I do prefer blogging over Facebook as a way to keep in touch, but FB is easier for a lot of people. Our families and close college friends are all scattered across the country. On the occasions we get to meet up in real life, I'm glad we've had the FB connection in the meantime.

To deal with the time wasting and "stalking," I've grouped my friends and usually only read updates from family and the friends I really care about. It helps tremendously! I can also limit certain updates to those groups as well (though I don't often do that, it comes in handy sometimes).

I don't have the issues with social circles. I've never really gotten that close to any co-workers (I only have one I'm FB friends with) and that's pretty much the only group that would differ. I don't talk about politics on FB or many other issues that would cause a big fuss.

Jaimie said...

I guess what blew the whole deal, for me, was my ultra-fundie past. I was getting major stalked and chided and stuff, from people I hadn't seen in 10 years.

It's ironic because I bare my soul on my blog, or I used to. But I don't get ANY crap about my blog. It's was only on Facebook.

Jaimie said...

It's was. Yeah.

Kacie said...

Yeah, that would make a difference. If the people I was connected to were people I couldn't be honest with, it would make facebook impossible.

cclarebear said...

I can't give up facebook completely but that said, I hate it. I don't post really personal things on there anymore because it is so easy for people I don't like but feel bad de-friending to stalk me and comment on things. It's also turned into a huge old-person thing now too which annoys me - my mum is on there, all her friends are there, they obsess about it, and people post prayers on facebook... It's alllllllll too much.

I also don't like my social circles mixing either - but that's personal preference :)

Personally I'm with your friend Jamie - team twitter!!!

If I was still living in Papua maybe though, and didn't have a strong social circle, I can see the appeal. I'm also rubbish at responding to emails - so facebook's good for that too :P

AHLondon said...

What's stalking on FB?

Kacie said...

Stalking is when you grow fixated on someone's profile and go wading through their photos, status updates, etc. Essentially it's just looking in depth at someones' profile. Technically that is exactly what facebook is for, and if people leave their items public, stalking shouldn't be offensive.

However, it can start to feel a bit voyeuristic if you are looking in-depth at someones' life but not actually carrying out a conversation, particarly if it's actually more of an acquaintance.

So, for instance, one of the girls that I work with at church friended me on facebook right after I met her at a weekend retreat, and she told me the next week that she was "totally facebook stalking me"... which tells me she's been looking at all my information and finding out more about me. I'm okay with that. :)If I wasn't, I wouldn't have added her or I would have only added her with limited access to my profile.

matchingmoonheads said...

ha, that's funny. I use facebook to 'keep in touch' with all the friends I've met and then we've left and moved away from (military family) so I do feel like I value it as a tool rather than just a waste of time (although it can be both for me). Many a random reunion have resulted from checking to see who lives where I'm going for a conference and that's been priceless.
Anyway, my blog reader got cut down a lot too...guess its for the best.