Should I Delete Facebook?

by James Wallace Harris, Friday, March 23, 2018

Cambridge AnalyticaI’ve seen at least a dozen stories about people deleting their Facebook account because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Just now I read two news stories about Elon Musk deleting Space-X and Tesla pages from Facebook even though they had millions of followers. There’s lots of anti-Facebook sentiment percolating on the web right now with many users jumping ship.

But how many? Facebook has two billion users. Even if a hundred million people quit in protest will it matter? There have always been folks who grumped about Facebook. They are much like snobs who sneer at watching television. I look at TV and Facebook every day. Not much, in either case, but they both provide their little pleasures. And, little pleasures count for a lot in our social security years.

People fear Facebook because of identity theft or invasion of their privacy. But is any place safe on the internet? And if you read about Cambridge Analytica you’ll see that people happily filled out forms and shared them with friends. You’d have to be an idiot to not know that everything you do on the internet is monitored. No one pays to use Facebook. Have you ever wondered how Facebook makes its money? Our habits and opinions are valuable. Keeping America supplied with cat videos is expensive, so Facebook has to make its money someway.

When I’m on the internet I assume Big Brother and all his brothers and sisters are watching. I don’t care that they know I love cat videos and scans of old science fiction magazine covers. I have no idea what that information reveals about me politically or fiscally.

Before people rush to delete their Facebook account out of some kind of misguided protest, I think they should analyze what they get out of the service. Facebook keeps me in contact with relatives and friends I seldom or never see anymore. Facebook keeps in contact with people around the world that have the same esoteric interests as I do. And I enjoy seeing a half-dozen funny videos every day. They’re as good as a dose of Geritol.

For example, I’ve been reading old science fiction stories from the pulp magazines. I’ve made three online friends in South Africa, England, and here in the U.S. that also like to read such stories. I don’t know how many people left on this planet still love to read science fiction short stories in old pulp magazines, but Facebook has helped me find them. Facebook also keeps me in contact me with relatives I haven’t seen in fifty years.

Besides, Facebook helps me keep tabs on my wife. She always checks in wherever she goes.

I also find it very pleasant to share cartoons, videos, songs, beautiful photos, sayings, etc. with other people. For example, here’s one called Millennial Job Interview that has a passing dig at Facebook. I thought pretty damn funny and very revealing about modern times. Evidently, the young consider Facebook a hangout for older people. That might be true because most of my Facebook friends are older. And most of the people who write about deleting their Facebook accounts are younger. Should we consider this anti-Facebook movement an ageist attack on Baby Boomers?

I wonder if Big Brother finds what we share more revealing about our personalities than the facts typed into queries like Cambridge Analytica’s? For many people I know, what they share on Facebook reveals more about themselves than they reveal in person.

I share a lot on Facebook. My friends and family must think I’m odd from some of the content I post. However, I use both Facebook and Twitter as external memory banks. My biological memory is beginning to fail. I wish Facebook existed when I was young so I could scroll back into the past. When I scan through my timeline it’s like a stream-of-consciousness of what tickled my fancy. I’m sure if Big Brother applied a powerful artificial intelligence program to my timeline it could psychoanalyze my posts and provide me with the ads customized for my personality.

But you want to know something funny? If you asked me if there were ads on Facebook I’d tell you no. My mind is so good a tuning out ads that I don’t see them on web pages anymore. I do use an ad blocker, but they aren’t completely effective. I do know there are ads because I see them when I consciously go looking for them. But psychologically I don’t remember ads on Facebook. That might hurt them more than deleting my account. Sorry, Mark.

I suppose I could quit Facebook. Many who have quit Facebook claim their lives are so much better for it. Maybe mine would be better too, but I sure would miss those cat videos.

JWH

 

Is Facebook Replacing Older Ways?

by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, July 19, 2017

A few years ago an older version of our web site devoted to the Classics of Science Fiction would get hundreds of hits a day, some days going over a thousand. Now it’s lucky to get two dozen. Searching Google for “classics of science fiction” usually places the site on the first page of returns, which would suggest it’s still valid.

Why the decline in hits? It’s doubtful that science fiction has fallen out of favor. I’ve been wondering if how people use the internet has changed. I know our site is boring and statistical but it did have some fans. Now it doesn’t. I’m wondering if folks have stopped using the web in the same way they used it before. Are most people going to big sites and ignoring the small sites?

Or is everyone hanging out on Facebook instead?

Facebook

Pages and groups devoted to science fiction on Facebook often have thousands of followers. Are people spending more time socializing on Facebook than surfing the web? Facebook has over 2 billion members. Many of my friends and family use Facebook daily. Has Facebook reached a critical mass of users meaning it can’t be ignored?

I know many people who loathe Facebook. As online forums and Yahoo! Groups die from inactivity will those holdouts be forced to become a Facebook pod person?

The internet existed for years before the World Wide Web. It wasn’t until the invention of the web browser that people began surfing the internet purely for entertainment. Users jumped from link to link, going wherever inspiration led them to click.

Then came search engines. Instead of surfing, you keyword searched. Of course, search results could take you to unknown and surprising places.

The way we use the internet has changed again with smartphone apps. Whereas before I’d start with Google, I now tap Wikipedia, IMDB or other icons instead. There are times when I have to fall back to Google, but it’s usually when I’m doing writing research.

For years my online socializing happened on blogs, Yahoo! Groups, or forums at web sites. All those virtual meeting places are becoming depopulated. After the internet became universal I assumed it would always be the same. Now I’m thinking the underlying technology will always be there, but how we use it will constantly mutate.

Has Facebook become an alternative to web surfing, blogging, home pages, personal web sites, etc? Even more, is Facebook replacing family get-togethers, scrapbooks, printed photos, letters, postcards, greeting cards, telephone calls, and email? Many people now prefer texting to a phone call because it is less time-consuming. Has Facebook become the quick replacement for visiting online friends, or even some real life friends?

JWH

 

 

Google+ versus Facebook

Having two competing social networks is a problem.  Logically, you’d like everyone to be at one location for convenience.  Until recently, it looked liked Facebook was going to be the universal social network.  I’m not much of a Facebook user, but I can’t quit it either.  Too many friends, old acquaintances and relatives are on Facebook, so it’s easy to keep an eye on everybody.  Facebook is actually much better than snail-mail letters, postcards and Christmas cards at keeping track of people.  In fact I often wish all my relatives would use Facebook.  Facebook actually makes me feel closer to people.  Then came Google+.

google-plus-logo

Google+ has a few nifty new features, some a touch better than Facebook, but to make Google+ practical I’d need all my Facebook friends to move over to Google+ and that would be rude to ask.  Many people I know on Facebook are computer phobic, and it took them a long time to learn Facebook.  Getting them to switch would be cruel.

What to do?  What if Google+ is a superior tool?  What if we all move over to Google+ and Apple or Microsoft came out with an even better product?  Do hundreds of millions of people then move again to another new system?  Given time wouldn’t Facebook add the features we all want anyway?

Mike Elgan is fanatically campaigning for Google+  and currently 374,958 people have him in one of their circles.  Google+ definitely has more geek cred than Facebook, which makes me think I should use Facebook for people I know in real life and use Google+ as a geeky hangout for people I met over the Ethernet.

There are many things to consider.  Is social networking a fad?  Many pundits and friends have already abandon Facebook.  On the other hand, I can only imagine Facebook becoming better and more valuable over time.  Does that mean we should all stick with Facebook because of its initial momentum?  Are we already stuck with Facebook forever?

Mike Elgan claims Google+ can replace our email systems too and that Google+ can become a central hub for all kinds of communications Facebook doesn’t do and the average user doesn’t understand yet.  At least I don’t.

Which is more secure?  Which is more natural at organizing levels of relationships?  Which offers the most features I’d actually use?  Which is easier to use?  Which can be customized more?  And most important, which has fewer ads?  I hate ads.  I don’t have the answers, but I’m trying to find out.

And one last interesting tidbit.  Facebook isn’t indexed on search engines, whereas Google+ is indexed on Google, Bing and others.  Facebook is a closed system, and that’s appealing, I think.  Then again, should you ever put anything private and personal on any computer system?

JWH – 1/10/12

Can We Trust Facebook?

I’ve heard three stories lately that make me worry about Facebook.  First, my friend Sutton from work posted a message to Facebook about diet pills.  This threw me for a loop because Sutton is on the skinny side but since I’m on the fat side I read the message with interest.  I asked him about it and he said somebody had hacked his account, and it started with a woman he knew that was also hacked sending the same messages. 

Then another friend at work, Joe, told me how people called his wife’s parents pretending to be their daughter stranded on road trip and not being able to get ahold of Joe and thus calling her grandparents wanting them to wire money.  The scammers had all kinds of interesting granddaughter and grandparent details to fool the old people.  The old people just called Joe.

When I told these stories to my wife she told me about a circle of her friends who were getting messages on Facebook from a dead woman they hand known.  They didn’t know if the hackers broke into Rachel’s account before or after she died, but they got messages from Rachel long after she passed – rather eerie.

Sutton and Joe cancelled their Facebook accounts.

I would have quit Facebook long ago because I don’t really use it, except that I’ve discovered it’s a way to keep tabs on friends, family and acquaintances.  I was going to quit because I don’t do anything I feel like posting about.  Being on Facebook makes me feel old and boring because all friends are out doing stuff and I’m not.  However, I have to admit Facebook is a good way to keep up with people.  As a social network it works, maybe it’s far from perfect, but it’s worth having an account. 

People I would have quit thinking about years ago stay alive in my mind because of Facebook.

That still leaves the question: Can We Trust Facebook?

Just before Sutton was hacked, he recommended Pinterest.com, an online pinboard, whatever that might be.  He assured me it was fun and I should try it.  So I went to Pinterest and requested an invite.  When the email came and I clicked on the invite I was told to register with either my Facebook or Twitter account.  I was leery of this, but I clicked on signing in with Facebook and I was given a warning about how many rights I would be giving Pinterest and that scared me, so I closed the window.

I wrote Pinterest about this and they said they did this to make it easy to find your friends to share the pinboards.  Now there’s a certain logic in this.  Words with Friends and Spotify also want me to log in with my Facebook credentials.  All these companies are hoping to ride the coattails of social networking.  But it also solves another problem for them – they don’t have to maintain their own login system and manage accounts.

This brings us to question number two: Can We Trust Other Companies with Our Facebook Account?

Social networking is a fantastic idea, but is it being implementing safely?  There are always stories on the news about the dangers of Facebook with warnings about what kinds of personal information not to post on the site.  And Facebook has introduced more and more security features, but because Facebook wants to make billions it seeks all kinds of business partners and ways to integrate our personal lives into their businesses.

Facebook is now seen as a highway to nearly a billion customers so 21st century entrepreneurs are gold rushing to create apps that have symbiotic relationships with Facebook.

Which makes me ask:  How Far Will You Weave Your Life Into the Social Network?

What Facebook has become is a login system to the Internet.  When the internet first started people could be anonymous, but over time sites that makes billions have found endless ways to track us.  Facebook is a pub where everyone can know your name.

And don’t get me wrong, there’s a certain logic of networking people together.  What if all amateur genealogists were on Facebook and Ancestry.com was integrated into Facebook?  It could easily link you to all your living relatives all over the world, and let you follow various paths of maternal and paternal inheritance.  What if you wanted to remember everyone in your 6th grade class from 1962?  If they were all on Facebook and the right information was in the database, you could have an instant class reunion.  Facebook has the potential to change society significantly.

Social networking is extremely powerful.  There’s a reason why hundreds of millions of people flock to Facebook.  But can we trust it?  I don’t think so.  Should we abandon it?  No, we shouldn’t do that either.

However there is a new concept on the net called Infosuicide where you leave the internet and try to erase all references to themselves.  I don’t know if this will become a trend, but some people are being turned off by losing their anonymity.  If the Facebook trend continues true privacy will shrink.

What we need is a science of social networking.  We also need laws and etiquettes to match this knowledge.  We need tight controls to how our personal information is monitored.  Our identities need firewalls to protect them, so we can have control over what aspects of our lives are public, or to what degree they are made public.

I think it needs to start by allowing us to control our various social relationships.  Think about it.  We know things about ourselves we’d never tell anyone, but everything else we’d be willing to share with various kinds of people we know depending on the relationship.  I think those breakdown something like this:

  • Spouse/lover
  • Friends
  • Close relatives
  • Close work relationships
  • Acquaintances
  • Game associates
  • Distant relatives
  • Distant work relationships
  • Various level of public networks

Once you start using Facebook for all kinds of social networks you have to divide them into all kinds of categories.  Would you want to let your doctors, dentist, optometrist, plumber, electrician to post reminders and schedules to your Facebook account?  You would if you got up everyone morning and checked Facebook faithfully.  If you start thinking of Facebook as a super Outlook calendar and contact program you would.

I’m not sure most people realize the direction Facebook is taking.  They are letting Facebook grow at its pace and not theirs.  I know people that join Facebook and quit and go back and quit and go back because its so tempting.  Many people don’t want Facebook to take over their lives but as more of their family and friends join Facebook the harder it becomes to avoid it without seeming like a misanthrope.

We can’t trust Facebook one iota, but we do.  Why?  Because it’s too good of an idea of pass up.  This week I got a round robin email from my cousins.  My cousin Jane wrote the first email to another cousin and gave them a list of who to forward the email to next, and I was last with the instructions to return it to Jane.  She then resent it to everyone.  When I saw that I wondered why everyone just didn’t join Facebook.

I don’t read Facebook regularly but I should.  If I did I would know more about my family and friends.  And that brings up another question about Facebook:  Are we obligated to social network?  I’m a loner and I’m extremely selfish with my time, but I feel there is an social obligation.  I don’t know to what degree we should feel obligated to network with the people we know, but I think there’s enough of an obligation that Facebook should exist and be required to legally meet security obligations.  In other words I think we need to make Facebook into something we can trust.  Hell, it’s a lot easier to use than making phone calls and writing letters.  I would make a case that Facebook is the minimum social obligation.

JWH – 10/8/11

The Social Network – aka The Facebook Movie

Above all, The Social Network (2010) is a magnificent work of storytelling.  Especially considering that it’s a story based on boring litigation over the tedious topic of computer programming.  On the other hand, it’s a rare example of cinematic creative nonfiction.  How do you dramatize the truth, especially when all the action is cerebral?  I hate to say this because it might jinx some people from going to the movie, but The Social Network is an incredibly educational movie, especially about the nature of what it means to be an asshole.

The litigation over the creation of Facebook reminds me of the fight over who invented television, but few people will know about that.  Ditto for the radio, and many other major tech inventions of the past we take for granted.  It’s very hard to give exact credit when everyone stands on the shoulders of giants.  Few characters in this film come across as nice, many are assholes, most are viciously aggressive, and we see the very worse sides of greed and sex.

At a naturalistic level The Social Network is about alpha males fighting over intellectual territory while alpha females throw themselves at the perceived winners.  At the class level the story is about old money, old social networks, descendents of WASP wealth fighting Jewish upstarts who out maneuver the class incumbents to climb even higher on the social ladder.  At the economic level The Social Network is about the marketing of an idea as an invention and who really deserves the spoils of business.

The film is bookend by two women who try to enlighten the Mark Zuckerberg character about the specific traits of his asshole personality.  These are two of the three nice people in this film, the third being Eduardo Saverin, the nice guy who is fighting out of his league.  People who get into Harvard are by nature driven by ambition, if not naked aggression, so we need to factor such drives out of the equation to make all things equal.  But a bitch fight over billions is not pretty, so it’s hard to see the positive qualities of the combatants.  I’ve got to say the movie reflects the efficiency of our modern legal system because it took decades to solve the legal battles over television and radio.  And The Social Network does an apparently fantastic job of explaining to the public the complicated legal issues dealing with the foundation of Facebook.

To me, the saddest part of this movie is how poorly young women come across in this film.  For the most part, the females in this story are the prized toys that males win in battles of aggression.  They throw their beautiful bodies at any guy who succeeds, even the social challenged Zuckerberg, they frolic around lesser males who do the sweatshop programming, taking bong hits and acting sexy to spur on their coding success, and they lay on their backs to provide flat bellies for the rich to snort cocaine from.  The strong independent women in this film are savvy lawyers, but the endless hordes of legal teams, male and female, come across as brainy vultures.

Of course, the sex-toy women also reflects badly on the males, because they don’t see women as other than prizes for success.  Zuckerberg is portrayed as driven by envy, jealousy and desire, and the film makes a good case that Facebook exists because Zuckerberg was rejected by Erica Albright, and that he wanted the success of Facebook to give him another chance with her.  It wasn’t about the money, but female approval.

More complex to understand is the exact quality of Zuckerberg’s asshole-ness.  He’s brilliant and aloof, but he’s so lacking in social graces that you have to wonder if he has an autistic background.  Mark tries so hard to be liked while looking down on all others and squashing any attempts of communication with a towering superiority.  But isn’t that how most average folks see super-geeks?

I attended The Social Network on its opening weekend, a Saturday afternoon, and I expected the theater to be packed because of the overwhelming wonderful reviews and great word of mouth, but we sat in a mostly empty room.  Moviegoers might not find the topic of this flick appealing, but director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin have created a powerful, riveting and engaging story of our times.  It really shouldn’t be missed.

Finally, because the movie uses real names I must ask how much are the characters in the movie like their real life counterparts?  I’d love to find interviews with all of them where they talk about their portrayals in the film. Actually, someone should make a documentary of that.  Essentially the movie is metafiction, and that’s a fascinating topic by itself.

JWH – 10/3/10

Inventions Wanted: Universal Photo Database

I often wish I had photographs of certain people or places from my past.  I constantly damn myself for not chronicling my life better.  I’ve even wondered if anyone else might have photographed those people and places.  This gave me an idea for a great invention, the Universal Photo Database (UPDB).

I have lots of old photos of my mother and father, and some of my grandparents, with a few of my aunts and uncles and my cousins.  If there was a UPDB, I could submit my pictures to it, along with the names of the people in the photos.  Then if anyone in the world put in a search, for example “George Delany Harris,” my father, they’d find the photos I uploaded.  It’s not likely people would be searching for him, but he was in the Air Force for twenty-four years and maybe old service buddies wondering what happened to their old pal would.  On the other hand, other people might have photos of my dad that I’d like to see.

Jimmy-Patty-Becky-Jody-Christmas-1958

[Jim Harris (me), Patty Piquet (spelling?), Becky Harris (my sister) and Jody in front of house in Lake Forest subdivision, Hollywood, Florida, Christmas, 1958.]

When I was growing up, we’d often go outside to take the photos to have good light.  Us kids would stand on the sidewalk in front of the house, often grouped in gangs of friends.  Photos for the UPDB could also be tagged by location, such as Maine Avenue, Homestead Air Force Base.  My sister and I had a bunch of friends on that street but no photos, so maybe Arthur or Alice, or Gary and Gerry, if such a UPDB existed could post their family photos, and if I searched on “Maine Avenue” and “Homestead Air Force Base” and (1961 or 1962) I’d find them.

Or I could search for “Lake Forest” “Hollywood, Florida” 1958-1963 and I could find photos of the old subdivision where I grew up.  Facebook has accidently created a beginning of a UPDB for the Lake Forest (Hollywood, FL) Historical Appreciation Society.  The group has 90 photographs, some of which seem to come from the era when I lived there, so obviously, this idea of mine might have widespread appeal because there are other people feeling nostalgic for that neighborhood too.  Multiply that desire by millions and billions of people and you’ll see the potential.

Patty---Mike---Becky-April-1959

[Patty Piquet (spelling?), Michael Kevin Ralph and Becky Harris (my sister) in front our house in Lake Forest subdivision in Hollywood Florida, April, 1959.  Patty and Mike, are y’all out there?] 

The tremendous popularity of Facebook is due to nostalgia I think, but so far its technology is based on simple groupings allowing people to reconnect with old acquaintances.  A UPDB with key fields based on names, locations and dates would redefine our interest in the past, and it could be used for other purposes other than wistful remembering.  Think what it would mean to biographers, writers and reporters?

My favorite science fiction writer is Robert A. Heinlein.  What if every fan photo, interview photo, magazine photo, fanzine photo, convention photo ever taken of Heinlein was uploaded into the UPDB along with information, memoirs, interviews, etc. linked to the photos, wouldn’t that create a wonderful library of information for researchers and fans to study?

Also, how often do you find old family photos where you don’t know all the folks in the shot?  Uploaded those photos to the UPDB and someone might identify the mystery faces.  Or how often do you clean out old closets and drawers and throw away ancient photos?  That’s history buried in the landfill – ain’t that a crying shame?  Every photo is a snapshot of reality from a unique time and space location, and who knows what value it might contain.

Most libraries have a special collections department that collects local photos, but they are impossible to use without visiting each collection in person.  Imagine if all the special collection photos where uploaded to the UPDB?  Or old archive photos from newspapers and magazines?  Or all the school photo annuals?

Imagine if Google Maps was cross-referenced to the UPDB where you could zoom in and see photos based on location and time period?  What a fantastic mash-up that would make.  Now that we live with pocket telephones that have built-in cameras, wouldn’t it be easy to create photo diaries of our lives?  Especially ones with GPS tech built in that could date/time/location stamp each photo?

When I was growing up, buying a roll of film for the Kodak Brownie was a rare event.  For most years of my life I doubt there were no more than 2-3 photos taken of myself, and some years none.  There is a small chance I’m in other people’s photos.  During the decades of my parents life, they probably went years without being photographed.  And their parents and grandparents were probably only photographed a handful of times during their whole lifetime.  If we don’t make an effort now, those photographs will soon disappear.

On the other hand, the current digital generation will have hundreds, if not thousands of photographs of themselves, so they will overwhelm the UPDB and techniques will be needed to weed out the photos worth saving.  One of my favorite blogs, Times Goes By written by Ronni Bennett has a top masthead of 10 photos of Ronni taken across her life that makes a wonderful timeline image.  I wish that everyone I meet on the web had a linked page with a similar timeline photo of themselves.  At minimum, each person should have a photo for each year of their life.  Go look at Ronni’s photos – doesn’t that time dimensional aspect add so much to your immediate impression of her?

Everyone is amazed by what the Internet does now – I’m waiting to be blown away by what it will do in five years, or ten years.  Imagine and contemplate what Facebook could be in 2015?  or 2025?  Picture me singing and smiling like Al Jolson, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

JWH – 11/25/9 (My birthday – age 58)  

The Loneliness of Facebook Friends

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?

JWH – 10/11/9