Thursday, September 03, 2009

My Facebook World

It seems that my life is recently filled with discussions about the value (pro and con) of Facebook. In class the other day we talked at length about how technology, and Facebook in particular, could have the potential to impact the developmental tasks of emerging adults. In addition to the fact that this would make a fabulous study, it got me thinking about my own views of the uses and misuses of Facebook.

Then yesterday Ms. A and I discussed a recent article in the New York Times about the "Facebook exodus." Ms. A told me that she had recently left Facebook because it was a time suckage. No doubt!

For me it is a different issue. I probably log on to Facebook no more than 3 or 4 times a week and spend less than 10 minutes each time. My issue is simply this: I have 77 friends, a small number in the world of Facebook, but if I'm being honest there are not 77 people that I care to be in constant contact with. Yes, this is partially a function of my personality (or perhaps typology, I am an INFP after all). But more to the point, I am currently "friends" with people that I would not be friends with or hang out with in real life. I could better classify these people as acquaintances. Yet I have opened up my life, my personal thoughts, my ideas about the world to their scrutiny.

It is true that I don't need to post personal information on Facebook, I can just use it for a professional networking tool, but I do have close, lifelong friends on the site that I do want to share that level of information with. These are people that I would invite to a gather at my home and they make up perhaps 20% of my so-called friends on Facebook.

This thought was made exceedingly clear when I logged on this morning and browsed the updates/quizzes/polls/etc. Two of my former students had voted in a poll about whether or not Fox should fire Glenn Beck. Now, let me be clear, I have no stake in this discussion. As far as I am concerned Fox news can employ anyone they want, so I really don't care one way or the other what people think about keeping him on. What really rocked me was the individuals' posts in response to the poll:

"If anything they should give him a raise. Someone has to tell the truth or at a minimum offer sum [sic] balance to the state run media"

"Heck no...he's one of the only ones getting the TRUTH out to people!! Obama is an evil, evil man....the truth hurts!"
Those that know me (most of my dear and loyal readers) will understand how immediately incensed I was. But this post is not about how I feel about these statements (these incendiary and just plain false comments are why we have the First Amendment after all), but rather about why in the world I would be "friends" with these particular individuals. They would not be two of the 15 people invited to my party. And while I like them as people and enjoyed teaching them as undergraduates, their views are so divergent from mine that I wouldn't hang out with them on a regular basis. Would I see them at a reunion? Sure. Would I be happy to see them? Of course. But that's as far as my interest in them goes.

We all choose people as friends because we share a common interest and have some sort of connection. We even have friends with whom we vehemently disagree on issues that we hold most sacred. But there are acquaintances that we just don't feel that way about. Why then would we choose to open up our lives to them if we are not invested in theirs?

Additionally, and this is a note about the issues with technology in general, it is too easy to say something on line to someone or post a comment in response to a subject we feel passionate about that we would never dream of saying in person. That does nothing to further civility. And if there is one thing I think we, as a country, are lacking at this time it is civility.

I have not made a decision about remaining on Facebook or deleting my account. But I have made the decision to "de-friend" "friends" that aren't. My future on Facebook is uncertain, but I want to make it work for me, I want to use technology in a way that best serves my life, and perhaps that is simply the lesson that I should take from this realization.

1 comment:

Sally HP said...

This is a great post, because I was just having that discussion with a friend recently. When I first started, I was "friending" people I only knew a little bit. But now, I've gone through and changed some people to 'limited profile' etc. I've gone one step further and started thinking about the de-friend, but it's a hard call because I'd almost feel like I had to send them an email that said "It's not anything you've done!" I'm just to hyper-aware of how others perceive me, I guess...