Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Facebook is over

I have run my personal Facebook experiment and it is over. In January 2009, I opened an account because I wanted to see what a friend's girlfriend looked like. I stayed for way too long. It was like a crowded party with all these people I hadn't seen in a long time and it looked like so much fun.

At times it was fun. Then it wasn't so much fun. Then I got annoyed with all these high school and elementary school friends who kept tagging me in photos I wasn't really in and then they'd post comments to each other like "Remember that time down in the bowl when we broke all those branches off, but only Johnson got a pink slip from the yard duty?"

If I wanted to live in Walnut Creek, CA in 1977, I'd wear white shoes and a mullet haircut and I wouldn't be in Chicago focusing on 2010. But when I "un-friend" these people, they just send another "friend request." Why? Do they suddenly crave my approval or are they just trying to pull everyone possible into their friendweb?

I have my friends in real life, but was willing to see if Facebook would deepen or expand those friendships. It hasn't. My friends are still my friends and if I can only reach you through Facebook, then I don't know if that's really a friendship. My friends have come to my house and eaten my cooking and talk to me to my face (often loudly). I just don't have a strong connection to people who I have only ever communicated with on Facebook. In a year and a half, Facebook only got me in touch with two people I wouldn't have found any other way, which is very valuable to me, but I think the well is now dry. I'm done.

I'm also tired of a lot of the posts. Even though I'm one of the most self-absorbed people I know, even I'M fed up with the "Libby just made the perfect fried egg" level of revelation Facebook fosters. I'd rather blog. Blogs let you rant at length and encourage actual concentration. I appreciate the blog audience: people who aren't afraid of the commitment it takes to read several paragraphs in one sitting. We're a little more patient and a little more focused (and I realize there's overlap: people who Facebook and read blogs. I'm not disparaging you).

I'm coming back to my blog as the way I communicate with the world. I'm home.


Mick said...

Never got into the facebook craze probably for similar reasons you are getting out.
Virtually everyone I know is on facebook its like a must have fashion item, I hear conversations about it all the time and find it a irritant.
What gets me is why is there a need to have online friends that you see all the time.

Regina said...

Mick, but we don't see our friends all the time. I think Facebook is popular here because of the loneliness of American society. We live in isolation, either in small, nuclear family units or as single people. We don't live with several generations under one roof, we work at jobs that often keep us socially isolated and we have few cultural traditions that keep us in touch with others regularly. We don't know our neighbors and barely see our friends because we're all so overworked and overcommitted. We think we have no time to get together, so we don't.

Enter the Internet and Facebook. It's a low-contact, low-commitment way to keep in touch with the people we wish we really had in our lives. It gives us an online community instead of real, live people, so we don't feel the absence of those people so much. My complaint is that it doesn't foster true friendship, with intimacy and common experience. It's just a bunch of spewing of tiny bits of your life. Shallow. Boring.

Mick said...

I think you are right about Americans living more in isolation than us Brits. When I worked for an American company and came into contact with many colleagues from your side of the pond it was quite surprising how they had much worse contracts than ourselves, more weekly hours and fewer holidays. Also salaries were different, the higher paid (managers, etc) were better off than our equivellant but those at the bottom of the tree seemed to be very poorly paid.

I don't think been American is the full reason for an isolation type lifestyle, I think the not knowing your neighbours is part of livingin a City and in that situation the same happens here. I actually live in a smallish town and everyone sort of knows each other, helps ech other, etc.

cantorman said...

I love facebook. It keeps all the stupid shit out of email, because people now post it on facebook. Can't count how many stupid pictures of farts, cats and farting cats I've had to look at in the past. So email is now a useful channel again. Another advantage of FB is that the algorithms which of your friends' posts you see in your feed are ... impenetrable. So one is excused for not having seen something.

Facebook is great for us introverts, for whom each interaction is exhausting even if we really really like you. It lets us manage our inputs down to an acceptable level.

I also think it's way for us to learn that shallow interactions aren't enough, by experiencing them and the resultant dissatisfaction. Some folks have a high tolerance for shallow and will need to experience a lot of it in order to be dissatisfied.

Regina said...

Cantorman - I think my tolerance for social contact is much higher than yours because it didn't take long for me to feel very unhappy with the substitute for human interaction that happens on Facebook. I want real contact with real people, not multitudinous posts I can ignore. I'm not interested in being a part of other people's gradual lesson that shallow interaction isn't enough.