Readers add to a recent thread:
I’ve been enjoying the discussion over Facebook, but I haven’t yet seen anyone point out the value of interaction with near-strangers or people with whom we greatly disagree. Some of the people in my “friends” list hold distinctly opposite political views. As a left-of-center liberal, I’ve got a nutty libertarian friend who knows vastly more than I do about fiscal policy and who is virulently pro-gun and anti-government. I’ve got a much-leftier SEC friend in NJ who alerted me to Cory Booker’s sketchiness well before the media did. These are all people with whom I, an introvert, would have trouble discussing politics in real life, but online, I can read their opinions and think about them and question my own.
In personal life as well, we benefit from our proximity to unlike people. Neither elders nor children are well-represented in my daily life, but through Facebook I get the benefit of their world views and experiences. I’m white, and I don’t have black friends, but I have black “friends,” and their daily experience is invaluable in helping me understand our places in society. I have religious friends and secular friends, straight and gay, married and single and widowed and divorced, local, national, international. I do not agree with them all. I do not look for agreement.
A few more readers:
I really like hearing positive news from my friends, near and far, about their kids’ achievements, their vacations, job promotions, and so on. What I find difficult about Facebook is quite the opposite – the sudden, terrible, shocking news that comes out of the blue, jumping out of your news feed from the usual chatter.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve learned of a death on Facebook of someone I cared about. Then there is news of serious illness, difficult diagnoses, all kinds of overwhelming personal struggles, and even once (really) that a distant acquaintance who suffers from mental illness was in a Tijuana prison. Facebook puts us in slight touch with a lot of people who are not currently active participants in our lives, so we hear about and can respond to their personal tragedies immediately – news that might take years to filter down to us otherwise, or that we might not ever know.
You can make the case that all these reminders of how fragile it all is are a good thing, reminding us to live our lives fully and completely while we can. Most of the time I buy that – but sometimes it makes me want to stay in bed with the covers over my head, or at the very least never log into Facebook again.
I know I’m a bit late to this one, but I’m hoping you have room for one more. Back in 1999 I met this wonderfully smart and talented woman, the one all others would subsequently be compared to. But then she moved to Nashville, and I moved to New York. And then she moved to San Diego, and I married someone else (and divorced them too!). She became engaged and 11 years went by. I started my Facebook page in 2010 (I was 32) and immediately found her profile.
Two months later I was visiting her in San Diego. Three months after that she was pregnant and four months after that we were married. It’s four years later and we have two kids, a house, and a life that’s more than I deserve.
Other readers may want to de-friend, but Mark Zuckerberg is my friend for life.