Well, Spring has sprung…. Or has it? It’s snowing outside my window now, but last night I wore a sundress to a party! The Lilacs are ripe for the picking but my windshield wipers couldn’t move quickly enough to clear the white stuff from my view of the road to the YWCA this morning… So, dear readers, I am happily inside on this bitter cold day. I’m working on computer, an engagement I enjoy and which pertains to my topic: Social Networking. Here’s the question. Here’s my response. Let me know what you think…
I have a rich, full, exciting life with a choice of activities, friends, leisure pursuits, professional, community, family, volunteer commitments and hum drum day to day doldrums, sorrows and joys. I am just like you I expect. I am just like all of my Facebook friends. Here’s my dilemma. I’m in a generation that is somewhat resistant to social networking. I have many acquaintances and friends and even family members (and am meeting more interesting people all the time it seems….). I would love to be able to spend time with each and every one of these people and/or engage in events and activities with them but, like you, and everyone else I suspect, I can only stretch myself so far and have to pick and choose how to spend my time and energy. In the interest of recognizing the various activities and interests of my acquaintances and respecting their time commitments I keep track of their Facebook posts. This way I know who is on vacation, who has a family member in need, who is looking for work, laid up, thoroughly engrossed in a project that requires all or most of their attention… That sort of thing. I am able to rejoice in my friends’ endeavors, commiserate in their frustration and sorrows and generally keep in mind a sense of their well being. I know what music and literature is sending chills up and down their spines, what restaurants they frequent, how funny/demanding their children are and if they are giving of themselves to those in need. When I run into a fellow Facebooker they don’t have to stop what they are doing and fill me in on what’s taking place in their lives and they don’t need a rundown on my life. I like this. I feel in touch. I feel known, seen, heard and connected. I can ask informed and pertinent questions. I can avoid awkward and painful topics. I also know, because of all this ready information, when it may or may not be a good time for me to insist on a phone call or a visit with them. When I run into someone I love and they are not Facebookers I feel a push/pull between “tell me all about your self…. we must catch up” and their wanting to ask the same of me. It seems to me that people who aren’t on Facebook and know me from only one dimension of my life, say we hang at the same coffee shop or live on the same street… don’t really know me in the broader sense and I don’t feel I really know them either. It’s not that I need to have everyone know me in depth or that I need to know them in depth. The dilemma is being able to juggle people’s expectations of me. I easily lose touch with people who resist the computer. I sometimes get a response as if a friend or family member feels insulted at my inattention and lack of availability to engage spontaneously in an activity that’s important to them. “Why haven’t you called?” “Why haven’t we had lunch lately?” “How come you weren’t in church last Sunday?” Is it wrong of me to ask people who say they have an interest in me to take a minute to check out my posts and for me to offer the same in return?
Signed, Complete Facebook-o-phile
I think your question gives a new perspective through which we can view the changing nature of friendship and connection to others in our world. To some extent it could be seen as an attitude thing. I know many people who find the computer so impersonal a vehicle they would rather not know what’s happening for a broader range of people than to spend their time with the keyboard. Some sensitivity to dear ones and loved ones in this regard is very important. My mother, for example, mostly enjoys the computer for playing games of Lexulous and Scrabble. I expect her to have seen the grandkids photos, my calendar, what I’ve been reading and what projects are absorbing my friends and I when she checks Facebook. Turns out, she doesn’t find it convenient to check Facebook. She doesn’t like to log into the computer and she gets confused about emails sent and received. She gets frustrated with Skyping and would rather simply receive an occasional handwritten letter and remain in the dark about my day-to-day goings on. I, on the other hand, shudder to think of the dark I would inhabit if I had not adopted the habits of Skyping, Facebooking, LInking In, emailing and, photo and video-text messaging. If I make a new acquaintance and want to know more about them than there’s time to tell I ask them to become a Facebook friend or to share their email address with me. That way I am able to let them know right away their easiest access to me and I am able to learn enough about them to show respect for the boundaries in their lives.
Hi Deb, I just read your column with interest as always. Did you write the question yourself? I am interested to know because 'her' views of the importance of Face book in her life seem extreme. Someone wants to go out for coffee with her and she gives them her face book information? I thought your answer was good i.e. realize not everyone is that into this new form of being friends. I think about these changes a lot, in fact I had a talk with my pastor today about the changing ways of doing church and how hard it is to admit (for some of us old geezers) that the "way we always did things" are not necessarily the best or even possible in today's world. Among my crowd I am looked on as a progressive for having a computer.
I read about kids and dependence on technology as a worrisome thing. I think about my grandkids and greats and I know they are book readers, baseball, football and rugby players, conversationalists. I'm sure nostalgia plays a big part in some of folks resistance to new ways of doing things. And fear is always present. Who knows what all of this new stuff will lead to?
I leave you with a few of my new "Principles to Live By" from Anne Lamont
FOUR IMMUTABLE LAWS OF THE SPIRIT
1. Whoever is present are the right people
2. Whenever it begins is the right time
3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened
4. And when its over, its over
Breathe deeply in 1,2,3,4, and out 1,2,3,4 and sleep like a baby (or maybe not).
Good work, Deb.
RESPONSE # 2:
I do like this month’s column, Deb, and I have some responses to it. I access Facebook a couple times a day, and I scroll down through everyone’s posts until I reach the stuff I’ve already read. I enjoy seeing what others have posted, but I hardly ever post things myself. I tend to feel that nothing new is happening, or nothing exciting, or nothing that would be interesting to others, so I don’t post.
An issue that I have with Facebook that I would like your response to is this: I have these cousins who are “Facebook friends” and I like it that we are in touch this way. The sad thing is that they often post wonderful pictures of people in their families, but I don’t have any idea who these people are. I almost wish that every picture posted would have a detailed caption, something along the lines of, “This is our daughter, ________, and these are her children, ________ and ________. She lives in ________, but was here at our home in ________ for a visit. I would like to respond when people post nice pictures, but I feel a bit strange asking for details on these people who are obviously family, albeit “once or twice removed.” Also, I have “Facebook friends” who are cousins-in-law and sometimes I am not even sure which cousin they are married to!