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My Theory of Facebook

I'll preface this by saying that I like Facebook. I really like being able to find and reconnect with people from the past, find out how they're doing, and so forth. I find I use it a lot more than I thought I would. It doesn't replace other places I go online, but for what it is, I really enjoy it. I'm not writing this to convince anyone to join up, just giving my opinion.

Facebook, to my mind, is inherently superficial. I don't mean that in a bad way--what I mean is that what Facebook does best is not depth. And that's fine. Facebook is for less-than-intense interactions, mostly with people I've known in real life but I have online friends there as well. My cousins are on it. The people I went to high school (and college) with are on it. People I know by way of parenting groups, quilting groups, pagan and heathen groups--they're on it. There are people I know well there. There are also people who really just want to know that I'm still alive and doing well but don't care much about more intimate aspects. And that's fine. There are other places for that. As it happens, Livejournal is where I go to talk about deeper and more personal, not-to-be-shared-with-one-and-all things. Not that I'm never superficial here, but I'm more my essential self here.

Most of the complaints I hear about Facebook as a concept fall into two categories. First, that the connections made there are shallow ones--that it is superficial, and that it's a waste of online time making what amounts to small talk. And second (and I think this is related), that they can't "be themselves" on Facebook because everyone and their grandmother is on. And I'm not going to discount either of those concerns--there are plenty of people who don't like small talk in real life, and if you don't like it there, you probably won't like it online either.

I think of Facebook as sort of a big open house or cocktail party, where a wide variety of people you've known come and go. You do a lot of catching up, tell some in-jokes from twenty years ago, laugh a lot and have a generally good time, but you probably don't spend a lot of time talking philosophy or baring your soul. It's superficial because that's the dynamic. For me it's not an issue. Not every word that falls from my lips has to be deep and significant. And there are plenty of people, both from the past and who I know now, who I like, and I like to know how they're doing, but they're really not tell-me-your-dreams-and-secrets friends, for whatever reason. (I do have a number of tell-me-your-dreams-and-secrets friends on Facebook as well, but we do that sort of talking elsewhere.) Family you like but have little in common with beyond blood. People who shared a particular time of life or experience with you. People you may have been close to in the past but you've grown apart over the years--but you still care about them. And close friends of today. All in one room. That's Facebook. And maybe I'm okay with this because I'm old enough now that I've had a number of chapters in my life, and I have many different sorts of friends and acquaintances.

Livejournal, on the other hand, is more of a deep thoughts, midnight ramblings, self-explorations sort of place where you can tell something closer to the whole truth. It's more like sitting in the coffee shop with a group of friends talking about whatever.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
khlara
Mar. 28th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
I really like this last line. It's seems rather poetic to me, about Livejournal and how you have the option of baring your soul.
You've provoked some thought in me, now I need to go figure it out. ^_^ But I would definitely prefer to have a coffee shop with my flist than with my Facebook people, I can agree to that.
chironcentaur
Mar. 28th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
I've always been one of the anti Facebook people, but I'm not interested in shallow and don't do small talk. If you know what it is and find value in that anyway, then hey, that's just fine. Not everything needs to be my cup of tea. Its the people that think there is so much more to the connections there that bug me.

And I can think of another category of people not interested in Facebook, though we seem to be in a minority these days: people with no interest in reconnecting with past acquaintances. Which is what it seems to amount to, and I've heard this from so many different people, everyone you ever knew suddenly wants to be your "friend" even if you were never friends, if they barely knew you, ignored you, treated you like crap, if you departed on horrible terms it doesn't matter, there they are thinking they can get back into your life. As someone with a lot of past baggage and a long list of people I don't want finding me on the internet (or even knowing that I'm still alive), its not something I want to deal with.
hearthstone
Mar. 28th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
I hadn't thought of that, but you're right. It hadn't even occurred to me that people would try to friend others they'd had negative relationships with in the past--what would be the point? (Guess that's what the ignore button's for. :))

I've been really lucky over the years in the people who have crossed my path--even those folks I wasn't friends with were, at least, friendly acquaintances, and I wish them well, and I'm glad to know when they're doing well and I'm sorry to hear when they're not. Doesn't mean they need to know the details of my life, but for the level of connect that Facebook works well for, I'm fine with that.

As for the shallow, my tolerance for it is limited (although working retail for a number of years helped to make it easier) but I don't mind it most of the time.


> And I can think of another category of people not interested in Facebook,
> though we seem to be in a minority these days: people with no interest in
> reconnecting with past acquaintances. Which is what it seems to amount
> to, and I've heard this from so many different people, everyone you ever
> knew suddenly wants to be your "friend" even if you were never friends,
> if they barely knew you, ignored you, treated you like crap, if you
> departed on horrible terms it doesn't matter, there they are thinking
> they can get back into your life. As someone with a lot of past baggage
> and a long list of people I don't want finding me on the internet (or
> even knowing that I'm still alive), its not something I want to deal
> with.
chironcentaur
Mar. 29th, 2010 12:19 am (UTC)
It hadn't even occurred to me that people would try to friend others they'd had negative relationships with in the past--what would be the point?

You would think, wouldn't you? I don't know why people would think someone you bullied in high school, an ex you had a horrible relationship with, someone that once had a restraining order out on you, would want to friend you on Facebook. I don't know where you get off contacting someone like that with a hey what's up with you, like nothing bad ever happened. But that's what goes on there.

Oh yeah, all real examples there. Its insane.
weya
Mar. 28th, 2010 11:22 pm (UTC)
I've come to the conclusion that facebook is about the games, twitter is about soundbites, and livejournal is about journaling. I don't have a ton of friends here and none of them really know me irl, so I feel okay about baring quite a bit here.

In FB, I'm very judicious in what I say. It's hard to read what people are saying from all the app updates so I miss most of them. Here, I read thoughtful stuff from people.
qorinda
Mar. 29th, 2010 05:01 am (UTC)
I am surprised at how much I really LIKE Facebook! I play on it all of the time. I find it to be a place where I can put snippets up that challenge people and make them think. I use it as a place to advertise my various and sundry businesses and offerings. I definitely have found it to be useful to re-connect with folks from my past.

I tend to ignore the games, the apps, and the smalltalk, and consider it a tool.

Livejournal, though, is very different, and I do use this to JOURNAL and I am very choosy about what I let flow onto Facebook from here.
whitecrow0
Mar. 29th, 2010 06:39 pm (UTC)
I think that's probably valid. I'm on Facebook but I don't care for it very much because I am always having to hide new games / applications and - as you've said - it's kind of hard to be myself there. It is shallow. However, it's a decent tool for communicating with my family, etc. I use it basically just to keep up.

And that's why I don't want my LJ to go anywhere. It suits me much better (even though I haven't had the time or energy to update it properly very much.)
weofodthignen
Apr. 11th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
Hmm, you have a point, but as someone else said, you have a much happier relationship with your past and the different parts of your present than many of us :-) And it's also important to note that Facebook itself is set up to vacuum away one's privacy. That matters a lot to some people.

I never wanted a journal, and still don't. Again, unlike you - I know you used to write paper journals. It's the community on LJ, including the accidental meetings in comments threads, that attracted me. And that's why I'm sad that the owners started mucking it up. It's a ghost of what it was, and there's now always the fear that someone's interesting sharing, or one's own, will suddenly lead to a journal being deleted by the Powers that Be. I don't like Powers that Be censoring my thoughts, no matter what they believe their business plan gives them the right to do. So I have only one foot here, now, but it does make me sad.

What I valued from the friendships in my past was precisely the deep heart-to-heart talks. LJ gave me some new relationships of that kind, and a way to continue others. I hope DW gets strong enough to take over that task for me. Ideally, LJ will also be sold to someone who values content, so that we can have both. But in some ways I'm not far off what you say here. Just far enough never to sign up for Facebook.

M
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