I really take issue with facebook for two key reasons. I know some people are upset about the advertising and the crummy privacy settings, and I agree those are all valid issues. But my primary issue with it is what it does to human interactions and the quality of my friendships.
- There's something uncomfortable about knowing so much about people you never talk to. TMI. When you do run into them finally there's a real awkwardness when you have to pretend to have no idea that the other person was dumped/fired/engaged/knocked up. Worse than that, I found that I refused to post anything on my own facebook because I resented the fact that people would just look at that and never actually get in touch with me personally. If you want to know what's going on in my life how about you send me an email? Or text me? The more I interacted on facebook the fewer actual interactions I had. It aggravated me. I turned off my birthday notification the week before my birthday this summer to see who actually knew when my birthday way, and it was a good way to sort out who my real friends on there were! Since turning off FB one of my old friends actually emailed me to ask how I was doing. Less facebook stalking = more communication.
- My other issue is fact that majority of people on my FB are people I don't actually have any interest in. Still, somehow their big faces and babies of questionable cuteness show up on my feed. I realize I could just take them off the feed, but then why did I add them in the first place? Plus unfriending them seems like some sort of unconscionable social faux pas. Last time I turned off my FB one of my older quasi-friends who I never talk to assumed that I had unfriended her and was offended. The whole thing is ridiculous. It provides me with information about people who have no role in my life, yet I somehow feel compelled to read about them. I don't need to know that my ex-coworker's son likes to wear sunglasses and watch sports. I don't need to know that my old high school friend got food poisoning. I just don't. And it encourages my judgmental side to no end.
So, to recap: 1) too much information without requiring actual interaction, and 2) way too many of the wrong people. Don't get me wrong though, it's (clearly) not that I disapprove of online communication. I love online communication. I've been on and off livejournal since 2000 or so. I really enjoy instagram (although I have unfriended people whose photos are unusually ostentatious. If all you're posting are pictures of yourself lighting $60 candles, drinking cocktails, and wearing $600 designer cat shoes, there's a problem. That's a post for another day though...). The difference is that there's not the same expectation to add every person you've ever worked with and that the communication is more genuine (minus aforementioned instagramers). I've made longterm friends on LJ who have come to visit me from across the country. Not so much on FB. Blogging is clearly less intimate, but so many bloggers do put themselves out there in a way that fosters actual dialogue.
So if you're irritated that you are spending time facebook stalking people you haven't talked to in years, or if you are tired of people knowing what you are doing and in turn never actually talking to you, then I suggest turning the darn thing off for a week. Then at the end of that week turn it back on and scroll through the missed posts and ask yourself:
- Did I actually miss out on anything? Is any of this news important?
- If something important did happen why didn't they let me know? Are these people actually interested in maintaining a friendship with me personally?
- Did I focus more on my immediate friends and family?
- Did I spend time on reaching out to individual long distance friends instead?
- Do I feel better without reading all of this information every day (several times a day)?
For me at least I've realized that it's really not information I need, and if anything it makes me feel kind of disconnected and burnt out from information overload. It also encourages me to either think negatively of others because I am judging them or because I feel like I'm in competition with them. Am I tempted to turn it back on when I graduate just to gloat? Yes, that thought has crossed my mind! But I think that's the whole point. That's kind of a ridiculous and unpleasant thing to do and just further plays into the fact that people generally only post for congratulations or sympathy. I'm choosing to squash that part of my psyche, and someone please hold me to that!