Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Facebook Pros and Cons

Lately, I am getting the sense that everyone is on facebook. You can stop laughing now, yes I am internet savvy, I have a blog, after all! However, until the last six months, I thought that facebook was just for people about 5 years younger than me, or for those who were really into online networking.

Then I found out that my mom is on facebook. Frankly, it struck me as a little bit lame, I mean, really, who is she friending on facebook, is she sixteen? Well, I guess her facebook page must be pretty interesting, because my friends started asking me about it -- as in, is your brother really in the Opera, I read that on your mom's facebook page. So, who is she friending out there in internet land? My friends, my friends parents, my in-laws, extended family on both sides, the list goes on, but it seems my mother has an awful lot of friends!

After sitting quietly at the last two parties I attended while friends who had not seen each other in a while picked up quickly because of facebook updates, I started to wonder whether I should be on facebook. Then, someone (well, my mom, actually), sent me a link to a picture that I couldn't see, because I am not on facebook.

So, I started asking around, and friends tell me that I am the only person they know who is not on facebook. They tell me that I have missed the invitations to several parties and get togethers because I am not on facebook. They also tell me that they have found old friends on facebook, and it has been lots of fun. Then they tell me that facebook is annoying and a huge time suck. Then they tell me very honestly that I do not have time for facebook. Then, I started hearing about how people get hurt by facebook. Elizabeth is not alone in being 'unfriended' and I know one woman who was unfriended by family. I also know that I have a tendency to over share and wish I could take things back, which is part of why blogging only once a week is a good fit for me. Also, I know people get contacted by people from their past with whom, perhaps, they would prefer to remain out of touch. Now, instead of letting a friendship drop, you have to actually reject someone? Or do you just say "yes" to everyone but then block their messages so they don't annoy you? I already get easily annoyed by people on group yahoo lists, when they start getting political or just post too often, or ask obvious, google-able questions.

I can see lots of value in online social networking, but fear it is a distraction from real life social networking, after all, I have an extensive social network right here in my home! What do you think, am I missing out by holding out on facebook?


Jennifer Frey said...

If you are really missing out on social events, I don't see why you wouldn't. Facebook can be really fun-I use it to feel connected to all my far-flung friends. But it's a personal choice. Also, I have "ignored" many, many friend requests from people in my past that I do not wish to reconnect with.

Sophie said...

Facebook gets lots of discussion, positive and negative. I think people should see it for what it is...ONE tool for communication. It is isn't the be all end all. If you're missing out on invitations to things b/c you don't have facebook, that's sad, because people are using it incorrectly and assuming that everyone else has it.

I use facebook to connect with cousins, friends, and family long distance. But if I have somethign important, I email or pick up the phone! I have reconnected with one person on facebook from my past and it has become a positive change for both of us.

The mistake I made at the beginning was to accept most of the friend requests I got. I should have just ignored them. Hey, if you made fun of my in high school and I would probably avoid you if I ran into you in the grocery store, what are you doing trying to be my friend? I don't really want to expend energy worrying if your feelings will be hurt because I ignore your request for friendship.

Be selective about who you friend, they should be people whose presence will be an asset to your life, not a source of stress. They should be people you'd want to have come into your home.

Set a time limit for yourself. It CAN be a time suck. But so can anything else we do online. It's up to us to just be responsible about how it is used.

Anything out there can be used for good or it can be abused and take over your life, but only if we let it!

The other tidbit is that if you don't want people from your past digging you up, just register under your married name. Cuts down on a lot of silly stuff from the past trying to eke it's way back in your life. I wish I had done that. Also, your settings can be such that only people you approve as friends can see anything about you.

Kristen said...

I'm so grateful to hear someone else is NOT on facebook. I've chosen not to because relationships are very important to me, and I would rather have personal, meaningful interactions with my friends. I've noticed that facebook junkies (not all, of course) tend to not know how to interact when they are in a face-to-face conversation. You can share everything about yourself and learn about everyone else, but never come into personal contact.

And there's something about the immediate gratification of facebook that strikes me the wrong way. Maybe we shouldn't know everything about everyone. There seems to be a lack of discernment among facebookers. I certainly wouldn't want my children to live that way; why would I model it for them?

Is that too harsh?...

Mary Alice said...

I think that the things that you describe are real pitfalls for me socially of being on line at all. I have a bit of social anxiety, and the more time I spend online the worse it gets, and the worse I get at actually communicating. I also over share, and tend to get broiled up in conflict or over analyze what people say -- I would be the one losing sleep over all of you ignoring my friend request. This is just my own insecurity, but self awareness may cause me to hesitate further on this.

Elena said...

Oh Mary Alice, I am on Facebook and I regret it. I have tried to cut the cord but it has a way of working its way back in again. I would advise against getting an FB account. While it is helpful in staying connected I also feel like it is an exercise in over-exposition - make sense? It really is addictive in a gossipy way and I think I might just go over and end my relationship with FB.

Elena said...

I almost forgot. Check out this link to my mother's blog - she posted Garrison Keillor singing Unfriended (a song about FB) - a la Prairie Home Companion.

JMB said...

I've been on FB for a little over a year now and it's changed my life, no doubt, in good ways. I've found a few people whom I've lost touch with since college and high school and even elementary school. We were able to share news about our families. It comforted me to know that people still remembered my father who passed away in 2008 (pre FB days). I often think how easy it would have been to notify all the relatives and old friends after his death via FB than sifting through my mom's phone book and making all those telephone calls.

I don't believe that people are any different on FB than they are off FB. And no, the majority of FB users aren't social misfits who don't know how to hold a face to face conversations. Many I believe, are very comfortable with the written word. Do we catagorize those who prefer to text or email as social misfits? Let's not over analyze these things.

FB is popular for a reason. It's convenient and interesting and easy to use. It's easy to post pictures and youtube videos and all those fun things that used to pose difficulty for the technically challenged. Try it before you knock it.

Joanne said...

I don't live where I grew up, so it's been just great for me, to get in touch with old friends. It's true there is a lot of ways to waste time on Facebook, but I don't do any of it - there are games and Mafia Wars and Bejeweled Blitz and all sorts of nonsense. Well, I take it back - I do play Scrabble with some friends and with my mom.

I am home with my kids, but I wouldn't call it social. (Demented and sad, but social.) Ha! My oldest has autism and is not much of a talker, and the younger two are less than two, so not much there, either. Because of naps, I have to be home a lot, and it helps me to feel connected to the world outside to chitchat with people that I know care about me and I about them.

Elizabeth M said...

I think you can make of FaceBook what you choose to make of it. I'd never considered joining until last Fall. I was visiting my sister many states away after her twins were born. She had started using FB and had connected with some old friends. I joined mostly to be able to easily share pictures of our kids with each other. Then I connected with cousins around the country and felt better connected to them and their families as well. Once grandparents are gone, it's sometimes harder for cousins to come together. But now we can share pictures and news easily.
Some friends from high school found me, a couple from college, and I'm also "friended" by some real-life local friends.
I don't post often -- at least not regular "status updates." But I do post pictures of our kids (first day of school, Halloween, etc.).
I have my settings so that only my friends can see my info or my pictures. I have ignored requests from people I don't really know and from anyone I have had a business relationship with. FB is for personal use, LinkedIn is for business.
Sorry to ramble. But I guess what I'd say is that you can use (or not use) FaceBook as it works for you. I don't play any of the games or do the "gifts" or join causes. I can ignore the status updates of people I choose to.
Think of FaceBook as you do your home and your phone -- you invite in those you want to hear from and want to see. Use it to share and have fun with people you would like to share information and pictures with -- and ignore the rest.
Again -- IF you want to! It can be a great way to be connected, even with family and real friends. But if it doesn't feel right for you or you don't have the time, feel no qualms at all about staying off.

Kate said...

I was very hesitant about Facebook before I joined...but now I'm a total proponent. It really is what you make of it. I think of it as a virtual neighborhood. If I wouldn't want to live down the street from someone (see them in the grocery store, run into them at the playground, chat with them over the fence) then I don't 'friend' them.

I've found that FB actually makes me MORE social (and I'm prone to social anxiety) because I can 'prep' for any face to face meeting. Recently I hosted an old college acquaintance who was in town for a conference - before we met up I checked to see where she was in school and some of the things she'd been busy with - so that when I saw her I could ask specific questions about her course of studies, her thesis topic, etc. I have a poor memory for that sort of thing and in the past I would have made only very general comments for fear of revealing that I'd forgotten things I was told before. (Not to mention that were it not for FB I probably would not have known she was coming to town until after she'd left!) We had a lovely visit that wouldn't have happened were it not for FB.

My advice: try it. Friend people you miss, or wish you saw more often, or who you are comfortable with. Don't feel like you need to add any applications or accept any invites/friend requests that you do not want to. I think sometimes people have bad FB experiences because they treat it more like high school then like a get together in your backyard. Your FB page is your backyard - don't invite people into it that you wouldn't want there. Don't do or say anything there that you wouldn't want the neighborhood to see or hear, but do feel confident that YOU get to choose who is in that neighborhood.

katie said...

50 year old mom of five here - and yes I facebook. Not that I say much but every once in a while I comment on someone's "status" or photo. I don't friend everyone I know or have ever met - somehow that feels intrusive unless I actually have a relationship with them. And yes, I have ignored invitations to join groups, events, games. It's just like life - only virtual! I think of facebook as a village square - used to be that women exchanged news at the well - now (maybe) on facebook. Just like anything else in your life - it can be inordinate - and may not be the right thing if that's the case - but it is part of reality for most/many these days. And I can waste just as much time reading blogs. It's also a great tool for connecting with my college kids - videos of events, friends, photos....

Mary Alice said...

wow, Kate, you make some great points, that gives me a lot to think about -- maybe I would enjoy college reunions more if I could remind myself before hand where people are living or whether they have finally graduated from med school.

Karen said...

Facebook has actually saved me lots of time and has really improved it. With family and friends all other the world, it is so much easier to upload photos of the kids, that way their Uncles from Japan to Kazakhstan can see what we are up to. It makes me feel close to those who are so far away.

Also, it is much easier to keep in touch with my childhood Welsh penpal. I am too busy to send e-mails or letters.

It also helps my husband stay close with his cousins. We will actually have something to say to them at the Christmas party this year.

You also know when a friend is going though a hard time, like when my college friend lost her baby or when my friend's house had a fire. I probably would have not heard about those things right away because they were not people who I talk with on a daily or weekly basis.

I love that there is no spam or forward urban legends in my inbox on facebook.

It is fine to ignore requests people you don't want to friend, they probably just think you are not on it often. Some people just friend everybody. I also hide posts of games, and most people that post more than once a day (I really don't need to know what you had for lunch). I also used my married name, which I would suggest. You can always put down your high school or just skip that. If you friend too many people, it may be hard to see the posts of the people you really want to. Facebook is actually a good way to witness to others about your faith. And of course, as with all other things, make good use of your time. I don't find it a time eater, but I time saver!

Kerry said...

Yes! Another facebook holder-outer! We are few and far between!!

I share many of the same sentiments as you, and I know I am missing out on current pictures, and perhaps events, but truthfully, my time online is precious and limited, and I would rather read interesting blogs, and keep up with friends by phone or email.

Plus, I am worried I'll make snap judgments about people's lives, or think that my life is not as great as someone else's, simply b/c of how it appears on facebook. And my life really rocks.

20 seconds is better spent hugging my kid than reading what someone had for breaskfast.


Kat said...

MA, I also haven't joined Facebook yet, but am feeling like I will sometime soon. We'll see how it goes :)

Elizabeth M said...

Something I forgot to say earlier...some people (especially high school and college students) are more used to FaceBook and take it for granted. They tend to be the ones who "friend" everyone they've ever met it seems. My college-age niece has HUNDREDS of friends. I've run into a few people over 30 who do this, but most don't. Some people do seem to invite everyone who comes up from their classmate searches or their email address search. But that's how they choose to do it. If you do decide to try it, be really selective until you decide how you want to use it.

It's like being at a party at which some people are having a serious conversation, someone else is cracking jokes and goofing off, others are just sharing small talk, someone else might be talking politics, and others are catching up on family. You can join the conversation with the group that's most comfortable to you -- and ignore the others.

Juris Mater said...

Also not on Facebook with no intention of ever joining again. I got on for about 2 weeks a couple years ago and I really really really disliked it. As an extrovert, I admit that I couldn't resist the temptation to spend an excessive amount of time on facebook to escape the day to day loneliness of being a mom at home, rather striving to be satisfied by God and my family and to live in the moment. Reading a few blogs is a finite amount of time and information; facebook is endless, and can become harmful (eg: lack of inhibition that the internet creates, checking in with ex-boyfriends, meddling where I don't belong, etc.)

I also discovered that I simply don't have enough minutes in the day to allow my family relationship and proximate friendships to flourish if I'm contacting remote people who, back before Facebook connected us all, I would've fallen out of touch with and that would've been that. I don't like this idea of digitizing our relationships, I think it promotes quantity over quality of friendships, and it makes me feel like a robot, sharing my life through a blinking cursor and a lighted screen. I like the old fashioned way of spending most of the limited time that I have loving those I'm with, talking face to face, praying side by side, sharing tissues when we cry, sharing smiles when we laugh, embracing when we depart. In that way, Facebook dehumanizes relationships.

I can kind of understand how some of you say it allows you to witness, but I also think "blooming where we're planted" geographically is a more important witness. It would be too easy for me to stay in my comfort zone Facebooking with every Christian I've ever met, or non-Christians who already know what I think, but not having enough time leftover for the people without any faith who live downstairs and next door.

Kathy said...

I am not a fan of Facebook either. I have learned over the past couple of years how distortion is so easy over the internet. Misunderstanding, misinterpretation and the resulting personal attacks on people we know so very little about is all too common when we can hide behind the computer screen. I have found any form of "social networking" to be a hindrance rather than an aid to my personal life.

Time spent on the computer talking to people who don't know me takes time away from those who know and need me. So I find I have very little time I can afford to give away to computer communication.