Facebook: Neither a Face nor a Book

Last night I decided to peruse my somewhat humble Facebook friends list and take stock of my collection. Like most Facebook users, from what I can tell, my friends list is an oddball collection of actual friends--that is, people I see or talk to regularly to share a laugh; old friends who have long since fallen off the map; bona fide acquaintances; and actual strangers I wouldn't know if I hit them with my car.

How is this friendship, again? I did a little stalking on a few of my "friends". One is engaged. I only know this because of a wall comment that said "heard you're engaged!" and a status of Engaged in the sidebar. Another actually got married, here in town, and I never heard a peep. An old friend has two kids, I learned yesterday (in fairness, he just joined Facebook, not that I would have been invited to a baby shower in any case). My "friends" have moved, changed names, changed jobs and been through many life experiences, but I only know about any of it because of wall posts and profile pictures.

So Facebook is not a face. Because when you see a friend's face, you know what's happening with her--in the moment and in general. You care. You ask. You make her a handmade card and put it under her windshield wiper. You don't just hit an icon of a thumbs-up to say congratulations on the new job; you actually congratulate her.

Nor is Facebook a book. Books are, by their very nature, in-depth investigations of a subject. In a book, you really get to know what the author has spent so much time thinking about and sharing with you. Facebook is a medley collection of tidbits that make no distinction between major affairs of life ("been away from the computer dad just had a stroke") and trifles ("Joe Blow has completed 17 quizzes today. Take this quiz!").

And I won't even mention the travesty of punctuation and grammar.

I admit it's neat to hear from old friends. Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with a few people and share some nifty emails. Also, I like being able to share what's going on locally as far as events, art openings and so on. I don't think Facebook is evil or anything; I just think that it's a poor substitute for real friendship. It really doesn't matter how many little pictures you have on your list. It matters if you have honest people you can talk to about matters of common interest. Really.

Now who wants to friend me on Facebook?


sarah said...

It's funny that you're writing about this, because I've been thinking about it quite a bit. A good number of the people whose posts I regularly see are people with whom I have no real relationship. I feel like I sometimes know more about the details of their lives than people I would truly think of as friends. A couple of days ago I had to unfriend my first person: it was a girl I barely knew, who spent all of her time on facebook complaining about how shitty her life was, but not doing anything about it. I found myself actually getting angry about it, and decided I either needed to tell her to suck it up and do something useful, or just cut her out of my life.

Then I remembered that it was just facebook, and I could cut her out by clicking a button.

Since then I've been considering purging my friends list to include only people I'd really want to spend time with in person. I figure it strangers want to know more about me, they can read my blog. It's completely public.

Robin said...

Thank you Sarah. Great idea. Just culled my friend list too and I feel much better.