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.