Since joining facebook, I’ve somehow managed to pick up more than four hundred friends. I checked the number this morning and was surprised. I hadn’t realized it had come to this. Quite amazing it is, for someone who signed on in order to view photos of her grandchildren and who has the typical introvert’s friendship circle of about a dozen. (Though a baker’s dozen on days I’m feeling especially ebullient.)
Then again, not that surprised either, because “fb friends” is a new category, and unique, and it matters not that it counts relatives and people I’ve never met and people I’ve not seen for three or four decades. We’ve connected in some way, we’ve validated that connection, and I’m quite satisfied to call each one a friend, even if the adjective facebook may be required for technicality’s sake.
(Aside: I’m lowercasing facebook as a small gesture of resistance to the company’s arbitrary behavior and to the ads that have to be present whenever these friends and I meet – “Faithful Women Needed,” for example, and that’d be me, but why would I be available then, for “single men,” and Demi Moore, who reveals a $3 wrinkle trick and… what’s this, a new Amish book on Amazon that “deals with bulling in the quilting bee”? Surely they mean bullying, or have the animals on the Amish farm run amok? I tell myself the ads are good for a laugh and don’t have to be opened, and that facebook hasn’t figured out the Composite Me as well as it supposes, at least not yet.)
Otherwise I don’t have much patience, I confess, with the reflexive wailing one often hears and reads about fb’s superficiality, about its “unreality” compared to meeting over a Starbucks latte (which, compared to tea in the parlor, is its own cultural shift), because superficial and “unreal” are true by one definition and vastly untrue by another. I find the relationships of social media quite meaningful, actually, and fascinating too. Facebook is a great place to observe people and listen in on conversations (both are working habits of writers), get a laugh, be sparked by others’ ideas, practice generosity (by liking), and — yes — keep in touch with real friends.
I’m not saying there isn’t plenty to critique, or that some wailing – or withdrawal – isn’t warranted. I, for one, am trying to observe (though not entirely successfully) a weekly facebook-free Sabbath, and increasingly, I expect, facebook will be the Lent give-up of choice instead of chocolate. Yes, it’s that addictive. It gobbles time. It produces the odd illusion of being “up” on things which used to be claimed more accurately by reading the newspaper. And, as noted by a wise young friend who left facebook for a time, it exacerbates envy, and she didn’t mean in reference to the ads. She meant the way it channels coveting another’s life.
I’m feeling exceedingly ebullient today, however, and sitting on the embrace side of the resist-embrace continuum we occupy with technologies. Today I feel like celebrating my amazing bevy of friends.
Speaking of addiction…try playing Lexulous (a form of Scrabble) on the internet. For someone who likes to play with words and is competitive this really hooked me!
By the way, your post says Nov. 5, 3:55 p.m., so your computer hasn’t yet realized the time change!
I know people who play and quite agree with what you’re saying about Lexulous!
I’m right there with you Dora. I would have never ‘met’ you or a myriad of other people that I ‘talk’ to, without the benefit of the blogosphere (what a word eh?) or Facebook, and/or Twitter.
Admittedly my blog and fb are my engagement vehicles of choice. I think of fb as a huge village where I nod and say hello to people whether we’re close friends or acquaintances, whether we’ve share a coffee in ‘real’ life or simply agreed to sip a glass of wine via a cyber connection.
It’s all valid and I never scoff at making a connection, no matter how tenuous. And I agree that it’s as real as anything else.
Thanks for this post. Great topic…
Oh I love the image of fb as village. There are many kinds of relationships in a village, beginning with nods. And you’re right, we met in cyberspace and I feel I know you, somewhat at least. I know you’re a great travel writer and tons more adventuresome than me, for starters!
I too celebrate the FB village. It’s where I found you! I’m also going to meet with two women I grew up with and who found me via a mutual FB friend. It will have been more than 50 years since we last were together. I’m also able to keep in touch with former students in ways we could not have imagined a decade ago. Only downside I see is being disciplined about how much time I spend connecting.
Thanks Shirley, and I’m just delighted to have met you here, and then last year, for another kind of “real”, at EMU! (And the downside real too, in its challenge. We must all keep giving each other ideas and support on disappearing back into our writerly garrets>)