Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In Defense of Facebook

I live 1,275 miles from the town where I grew up.  Some of the closest friends I have live a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 7,970 miles away from me.  I am an extrovert.  I don't interact with colleagues or clients throughout the day like I did a few years back.  It is for these reasons that I continue to use and love Facebook, in spite of my recent 40 day break from it, and in defiance of solid, scientifically based criticism of its misuse. 

An author and Facebook "friend" posted this fun little piece about Facebook yesterday:

Sometimes using Facebook makes me feel like an asshole, and people who would rather be receiving regular phone calls from me (i.e. my mother) have pointed out that my time would be better spent in face to face or voice to voice contact.  I truthfully wish that I could spend time in person with all of my family members every day, and that I could call each friend that I have, no matter where they live, weekly.  With my schedule and my two preschoolers, I am simply not finding that level of personal contact possible or pleasurable.  Phone calls are particularly frustrating for me, because during the time I have away from my children, I generally have a to-do list to accomplish and I don't like to limit personal conversations or break them off too early.  When my kids are around me, I am too distracted to have a quality conversation.  However, I really like knowing what is going on with everyone, and I want people to know what I am up to so that we can continue in relationship together.  I feel like the way I interact on Facebook with the people I care about (long list) is a good-enough way to maintain a connection until I have time for more in-depth communication. 

I hear my boys and other young kids talk about wanting to live in a huge mansion with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and all of their friends, so that no play-dates or road trips are ever necessary, and everyone can eat their Rice Krispies in community.   I remember wanting the same thing as a child, and I was able to experience something similar for a short time during my early twenties. 

During a brief stint back home in Joplin, Missouri, I got to experience something close to communal living.  My father had invited a branch of a spiritual commune to live in his house and on his land.  Some of them are still there, but they are now renting.  His wife at the time used to talk about how much communal living appealed to her.  She had to do a lot of work outside, mowing grass, chopping wood and clearing brush.  She and my Dad ran a restaurant together and had to do a lot of cooking and cleaning, there and in the home.  She felt like it would be nice to do all of that in community... so eventually they did just that.  I am happy that I was able to be there during that time, experiencing first-hand what it is like to work, eat and play in a big group of like-minded people.  All of us were Christians and we shared in praying, singing, bonfires, heated discussions, watching Saturday Night Live as a group...we had a lot of fun.  It did make me think about how amazing it would be to invite more and more people to join us, and my imagination ran away with utopian visions of all of the members of our extended families coming together.  In general, it was an unrealistic way to live in our current society and the fun didn't last all that long. 

Even though I can't run away from my life and join a utopian spiritual community, there is still a part of me that wants that kind of constant group contact.  I feel like Facebook fills that need for me.  I can log on and see what a whole bunch of people are doing all over the country and the world, and get instantaneous responses to my mundane queries.  I can partake in some heated religious and political discussions with people I trust will not defriend me, on Facebook or otherwise.  I really wish I could sing in front of a fire with every Facebook friend, but for many, many reasons, I cannot.  So instead I broadcast little pieces of my life on an ongoing basis and I am happy to see others doing the same.  Is this grandiose exhibitionism and selfish manipulation?  Perhaps at times it is.  Is it shameless oversharing?  Maybe so.  Back in the Missouri "commune," we all knew a lot of details about the lives of the others.  Sometimes we even shared sleeping quarters, clothing and communicable diseases with people we had known for only a few weeks.  That felt kind of thrilling for some of us.  I think this is a natural human tendency, one that has actually helped our species to thrive over the millenia.

I am over my love-hate relationship with Facebook.  I love it. 
P.S. I live in a house with next to no window treatments, because I like to let all of the light in, all of the time.  I don't care if that makes us look like grandiose exhibitionists.  I'm not a fan of hiding out. 

1 comment:

  1. LOVE it- I love fb too. Fantastic sticking up for it. I am in the same boat and totally relate to everything you mention.
    If not for fb our new friendship wouldn't stand a chance... but now.... lovin it!!!