We all know people who tell us they have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but do people really have that many good friends? Friends that would pick them up at the airport or take them to the doctor’s when getting a colonoscopy? Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe Facebook is a marvelous invention for tracking all the people you meet throughout life, and if it had been invented before I was born, I may have paid more attention to the folks I associated with at each stage of my life.
I think young people today grow up more social than I did back in the 1950s, belonging to all kinds of groups, starting with their daycare centers. Some kids today seem to move through life in cohorts, and Facebook is perfect for them. I moved around so much that I can’t remember any individual classmate before the 5th grade. My memories are of neighborhood kids I played with after school. I only have one friend on Facebook from all my K-12 years, but then I’m 57 and not really part of the Facebook generation. However, I do know lots of people my age that are reconnecting with old names from their memories.
As my wife Susan told me, when I mention I was writing about Facebook, she thinks the young of today are adverse to talking to one-another directly, but instead love to tweet, text and write on each other’s walls, as if email or phone calls provided TMI. In other words they prefer scads of friends to share bite-size facts with frequently. I’ve never texted or tweeted, but then I’m a verbose bastard, and even feel silly typing a simple snappy line on someone’s wall.
I’ve yet to find much value in Facebook, to be perfectly honest. When I scan my Facebook home page and read what all my “friends” are doing it makes me lonely because most of my “friends” are people I never see, especially not daily. It makes me sad that I don’t want to keep up with all the tiny details of their lives, and I worry I’d bore these folks if I wrote about the little things in my life. Or would they be bored? Is it heart warming to follow a group of acquaintances – like watching a favorite soap opera? I have to wonder if Facebook provides a kind of mini-fame, so the young feel good about the number of people that follow their lives. But I have to ask, do people read as much about their friends as they write to them?
I like seeing my friends face-to-face, like last night when Anne invited me over for dinner when Susan went to play trivia at Swanky’s. We listened to the original cast recording of Phantom of the Opera while she cooked me a wonderful dinner and then she made me soothing herbal tea for my cold. So, should I describe our evening on Facebook? Would my other friends want to know what Anne and I did on Saturday night? Since there was no hot sex would they find our chit-chatting boring and again, too much information?
The question I’d like to explore is: How well does Facebook help with maintaining current friendships? Is it a good tool for genuine friendships? My wife loves Facebook because it’s useful for keeping tabs on all our nephews and nieces and other extended family members, and I know other women in our generation that use Facebook in the same way to follow children and grandchildren. We have so many friends that never had children we could create group just for them, and Facebook seems perfect for this task of keeping up with relatives.
Of course, how do all the kids feel about their old Aunty keeping track of their doings? Maybe they would prefer it to their Aunts interrupting their lives by calling them once a week to get the news. In my day my mother made me write my Aunts occasionally “Dear Aunt Sissy, How are you? I am doing fine” kinds of letters. I wonder if they would have loved Facebook?
I have to wonder if people really enjoy tracking the daily events of their old classmates. I’m curious about what happened to them all, but I’d just like to read a summary like those short where-are-they-now updates for each character at the end of American Graffiti. My memories are stuffed with fond recollections of childhood, but I don’t think I could regain paradise by tracking down old friends. A cooler invention akin to Facebook would be Photobook where everyone could register their old group photos to share with forgotten people in the photos or Memorybook where you could chronicle a memory of an event featuring past friends hoping they would chronicle the same event from their point of view.
If people are truly friends they stay in touch. I think a cool feature of Facebook would be the chance to collaborate old memories, but I doubt I’d want to make new memories with old acquaintances. Is that sad? I wouldn’t mind apologizing to some old teachers for not pulling my weight when they were trying so hard to help me, but I’m guessing those teachers, if they were alive, wouldn’t even remember me.
I know a number of people my age that joined Facebook and then quit after a few months. Is it just a fad for the youthful that will disappear in a few years, or will a new generation grow up and maintain lifelong contacts via the web? Will Facebook become as integrated into society as the telephone? I shall stick with Facebook a bit longer even though it makes me feel lonely to use it. I hope I’m an old dog that can learn new tricks.
Currently, I think I have two kinds of friends. The people I will spend real time with, either in person or on the phone, or those folks who I commune with via blogging. I tend to think blogging is my Facebook, but most of my real life friends don’t blog or read my blogs. Blogging seems to be a communication technology that has limited appeal, rather than the mass appeal of Facebook, Twitter or texting. What this all implies is we have many kinds of friends, and many ways to communicate with them, Facebook is just one tool in the toolbox. One that I haven’t trained with thoroughly, or learned its advantages.
Theoretically this means we can have Facebook Friendships that never overlap the real world. At this time I have no idea what value such friendships would bring, but then no one can predict the future. I love the TV show, The Big Bang Theory. I suppose I could use Facebook to find other folks who love the show too. I assume young people already do that. But do such friends reduce loneliness? Are people happy just having Facebook friendships? If Facebook has real value, what will it be like in 50 years?
- Facebook – Wikipedia
- All Facebook – site about Facebook
- Facebook 101: 25 Tips and Tricks
- 10 Solid Tips to Safeguard Your Facebook Privacy
- Ten Facebook Tips for Power Users
- How to Permanently Delete Your Facebook Account
- How to Develop a Facebook Application
JWH – 10/11/9