A reader pushes back against the Facebook defenders:
There’s something distinctly unfriendly in requiring people to participate in your chosen broadcast forum in order to participate in your life, rather than reaching out to them individually. It’s like that older aunt who sends out a form letter once a year to tell you all about that family vacation and their kids’ successful lives and the new car they bought, with the only personal touch being the signature at the end: she isn’t interested in you or your path through life, she’s just proudly announcing her own satisfaction at you. Which is great – I’m glad that people are happy and want to share that – but that’s not a friendship.
My problem with Facebook isn’t my all-too-happy friends. I love my happy friends and find happiness in their happiness. I love seeing pictures of their vacations, of their children, and hearing about their life events. But finding that in my newsfeed is getting harder and harder. Instead, I’m barraged with videos that someone thinks funny, shared articles about how Obama or the Republicans are destroying America (while I love to hear about my friends’ lives, I have no interest in hearing about their politics), or the endless stream of link bait that some friends seem incapable of not sharing. News flash to my friends: I never click on the links you share.
I’m 28 – about the same age as your reader who “can’t imagine leaving the site” – and I deleted my Facebook account last fall, after being a user since 2004. This happened to be a few months after I departed the city I’d lived in for five years, leaving behind most of my closest friends, and moved across the country.
Guess what? My friends are, miraculously, still my friends.
They still know what’s going on in my life, and I theirs. I’m still in daily contact with most of them, via old-fashioned means like texting, G-chatting, e-mails, and phone calls. (Not getting sucked into the Facebook/Buzzfeed/Upworthy meme-industrial complex five times a day means I have a lot more time for actual conversations.)
A telling anecdote: An old friend I hadn’t heard from in two years texted me out of the blue one night. She wondered how I was doing, and when she couldn’t find me on Facebook, she figured she’d ask me herself. We ended up meeting a few weeks later and rekindling our friendship. Not only did this happen despite my not being on Facebook; it seems like it happened because I was not on Facebook.
Another reader, on the other hand, emphasizes that social networking is what you make it:
I find Facebook to be interesting, broadening, connecting, and other very positive things. So many of my Facebook friends post links to great articles or TED talks or whatnot that I would not otherwise see. Virtually none of my friends “brag,” unless it’s about a big deal (“My daughter had her baby!”).
On the other hand, I am FB friends with exactly one high school friend and one college friend. I am FB friends only with family members I feel like keeping intimately up to date with, which includes my husband’s second cousin’s wife (because I adore her) but only two of my nine nephews. I have 178 friends, not 590 or 823 or 1,672. I am friends with people whose opinions I value and whom I care about.
Here are 10 topics my friends have posted about today:
- Rejoicing over getting concert tickets.
- Asking for recommendations for a hair stylist.
- Dad died this morning after a long illness.
- Link to NYT article on food co-ops (and how they fail).
- Lament that former elementary school is being torn down.
- Ill dog is continuing to recover.
- Lament about lousy winter weather. (Lots of those!)
- Family photo from 1968.
- Discouraged over (temporary) work issue.
- (This is my favorite!) “Looking at Charles Ingalls’ and Almanzo Wilder’s land claims.” (by my friend who is an archivist)
You want Facebook to be a positive experience? Select the people you choose to be friends with.
For someone with a business, being active on Facebook is almost a necessity. Facebook is our primary (and free) method of advertising/getting our name out there. I suppose we’d get by without it, but it sure makes things easier.