I have been on Facebook for a little over a year now. I have gone from loving it to questioning its personal relevance. I have purged my friend list from almost 300 to now 73. I am seriously considering taking down my page. “It’s not you, oh used to be beloved social networking site, It’s me.”
The above statement is my most recent status update on Facebook. Yes, I am beginning to question why I use this site. Is it to connect with friends? I can say that over this past year I have reconnected with old friends from middle school, high school, college, former jobs, and even befriended folks for the first time. However, these re connections have for the most part been very superficial. In one instance, I was able to set up a lunch with an old college chum who incidentally works for the same university where I used to work. Essentially we worked at the same time for the same company, but rarely kept in contact. I can give Facebook some credit for helping to facilitate our lunch. However, we bumped into each other a couple of times, even going to the same hair dresser for awhile so it can be said that those chance meetings could have spawned our decision to get together. In fact, we could have used e-mail just as easily. The lion’s share of my connections with people on Facebook have been me either receiving or sending a friend request and the subsequent acceptance of said request. Thereafter, no direct contact followed. I did make a couple of great connections, though. There is the one poet who shares my name and lives in South Africa. We gift each other a lot of inspirational gifts and respond to each other’s posts. When I was going through a life transition, she sent me this wonderful poem. There is also the one guy who wrote such thoughtful comments. Another heartwarming thing is receiving virtual high fives or confirmations about something you posted in your status update.
Is it to exchange information or share ideas? This is perhaps the greatest single reason I have use Facebook. I post countless articles to my wall mostly about politics and current events. Initially I shared my thoughts and musings about these topics using Facebook notes. Then I was inspired to start my own blog. After posting there, I share my thoughts from the blog on Facebook.
Is it to play virtual games and send virtual gifts? What I initially thought was cute and endearing soon became a burden. Seeing those “gifts” sitting on my page screaming out to be attended to made me regret ever sending or receiving my first one.
In my Facebook hey day, I was on a couple of times a day, posting, commenting, eagerly looking to see if anyone responded to anything I posted. If I couldn’t getting online, I felt like I was missing out on something or giving up an opportunity to get my voice out there. Now I realize how superficial it all is for me. These are not real connections although the set up gives the impression that your page is like a space or a room where your “friends” can pop in anytime. What Facebook has become for me is a stealer of time, a waste of time. I also don’t like the fact that I was always trying to come up with pithy, witty things to say in my status update. If I thought of something when I wasn’t online, I would make a mental note to add it later as if this virtual community needed to read what I thought. Interestingly, I sometimes felt like posting personal things as if this space was a safe place to vent or reach out. In most cases, wisdom prevented me from doing so. I knew in the back of my mind that this was not appropriate.
It may seem like I am trying to malign the site, but I am not. Facebook is a tremendous tool that when used correctly can spread information with lightening speed, galvanize a group around a common cause, facilitate real connections between people, and probably much more. However, I have come to recognize that it is not for me. I would rather get together with a group of friends and meet face to face over coffee or tea. It would be better to call up a family member and hear their voice and ask them how their day is going. This is embarrassing to write, but truthfully, I don’t have a group of friends that I meet up with regularly or a community of people with whom I can fellowship. One of my best friends lives in another state, though we speak via phone and electronically, regularly. Though I’ve tried to connect with old college friends face to face, I am often the one making most of the effort. I am an extrovert by nature and meet people easily. I do find it difficult to make new friends that I socialize with regularly in any meaningful way. This is not for a lack of trying. I have even tried to start a book club, but the members were so busy that they didn’t read the books and couldn’t keep to the committed upon dates.
I have a big extended family, but don’t communicate with them that much. You know the nature of families and how animosities between different factions can breed estrangement overtime especially when everyone grows up and the matriarchs and patriarchs of the family die. These were the folks whose very existence kept the family together because their homes were a gathering place for everyone especially during holidays and special occassions. This is the case with my extended family and thus I don’t make the effort to fellowship with them like I used to. There was a time I decided to reach out and make all the effort to stay in touch. I went into this decision knowing my efforts would not be reciprocated. Overtime, I stopped calling and visiting as is common with most people when life gets busy. It is during those times that reciprocation would have been nice, but it didn’t happen. I admire my Mom who is so selfless. She reaches out to her family despite the fact that they do not really do the same for her at least not in the way she does.
On the homefront, the nature of my husband’s job prevents him from having a lot of freedom for quality family time on a regular basis or during holidays. Now that I am not working, I have more free time which makes the imbalance even more pronounced. My daughter is my window into a community, namely at her school working with the PTA, Girl Scouts, and her sports activities. One would think friends could be made in those circles. Most of the people I meet here already have dedicated friends. Our connections begin and end with the specific activity we are there for and the cause of the specific group.
Upon reflection, I think Facebook has become a constant reminder, in all its feigned connection, that I don’t have the sort of community I want. Given my need for authenticity in life, I have to reject this falseness and pretentiousness and work on trying to build the community I so want and need. I love to serve others and am just now moving into a profession that will allow me to fulfill this love, this calling professionally as a teacher. One is hard pressed to focus on their own shortcomings or problems while engaged in helping others and working towards a common good. This is why I always say, “yes” when asked to volunteer at my daughter’s school or when I volunteer to head up the beautification efforts in my homeowner’s assocation.
Facebook is not bad. In fact, it is a great resource that many have used to help launch careers. In the final analysis, it is just not for me.