Facebook & Me
It has been just over a year since I decided that I no longer wanted to feel like a Luddite. By then I had at least a dozen invitations from family and friends to “friend” them on Facebook and the more I said “No Thanks” the more I felt like an old fogey. So I took the plunge into the brave new world of social media and set up a Facebook page. I have always been of the opinion that human nature continues to manifest itself regardless of circumstances. With that thought in mind I suspected that Facebook would likewise display both the best and worst traits of people. Sadly, I was all too correct.
When I began relating my FB experiences to others, I found that everybody seems to have had similar adventures. But I wanted to take this one step further by attempting to make some generalizations how FB can change human interaction and how humans often remain distressingly the same regardless of the media. So here goes with my three observations.
First, there is a huge difference with how people treat others they know personally and how they treat people that they know only through FB with no first-hand personal interaction. This really becomes apparent when there is a disagreement over something. Personal friendships have a reservoir of good will, or maybe that should be of good manners, and it was rare that I saw any “buddies” flame one of their pals. On the other hand, with FB only friends, a disagreement quickly disintegrated into name-calling and profanity. For whatever reason, FB users appear not to think that there’s a real human being on the other end with feelings and sensibilities unless they’ve met them in person.
Second, I am surprised how many people are all too willing to trivialize their lives through inane FB posts. Does anybody really care what type of Starbucks coffee I had this morning? Is it really necessary to post a photo of the nice dinner you enjoyed at Red Lobster? I recently went through my listing of FB friends that I collected over the past year and deleted almost all of them. I kept everybody that I know personally including relatives. I also kept the two or three people that I met only on FB but who happily know how to behave like grown-ups. The remainder are OK people but too many of their silly daily posts were clogging up my Newsfeed. Most seem to be asking folks to pay attention to them and indeed they seem starved for recognition. I have run into only a handful of people who were obnoxious and whom I happily “unfriended” immediately.
Third and last, many of the FB group sites show distressingly that many people simply need to get a life. In addition to my FB personal page, I started two groups that are devoted to different aspects of old movies. Today, one of my groups has over 500 members and the other has nearly 900 members. I’m flattered that I’ve been able to attract that level of participation. But in identifying different people who post on my groups, I notice that they post on other groups too – quite a number of other groups, every day and almost all the time throughout the day. I have yet to figure out how to tell these people, and there are so many of them, that they seem to be living their lives by proxy. It’s always been easier to be an armchair quarterback rather than go out and play the game. But social media has permitted some people to wallow in the vicarious illusion of doing something with their lives when in fact they are couch potatoes with a vengeance.
Far from feeling superior about all this, I felt that my year-long adventures in social media were a cautionary tale over what happens to intelligent human beings when they rely on their feelings and not on physical actions. So at the one-year mark, I have pared down the list of people that I want to know, and have become almost stingy with the amount of time that I spend (or waste) on social media. Somebody joked that Facebook “brings strangers together so they can argue.” That may sum up the bottom line of Facebook participation.
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