Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Facebook and how I use it and with what people. Obviously the recent privacy changes and their new connections have me giving the site a closer look (and have some people taking legal action). Honestly that alone should make making everyone give it a closer look but those changes aren’t what are keeping me obsessed with it, it’s my reactions to my reactions. Let me explain.
In the past when a “social” website that I had an account on took a nose dive into the weaksauce I’d simply delete my account and move on. I’d do that without much thought and without looking back, I was happy to be there while it was fun but if it wasn’t fun anymore there was no reason to stay around and there would be a new site just on the horizon. Come to think of it that is what happened when I deleted my accounts on both Friendster and MySpace many years ago. Anyway, the new (and not so new) direction Facebook is heading has me reaching daily for the delete option. Many folks I know have already gone through with it, and while I’ve talked very publicly about my urges to kill it I still haven’t taken that final plunge. I haven’t done it for the same reason I suspect lots of others haven’t done it – there are people I only keep up with thanks to Facebook.
Look, the site has over 100 million users according to their FAQ page so it’s really not surprising that everyone from long lost friends to family that I’m not very good at keeping in touch with are on there. I’ve reconnected with people I went to grade school with and made amends with people I never thought I’d talk to again on the pages of Facebook. It’s made those relationships, those reconnections and those constant connections so thoughtless and easy that anyone and everyone can do it. Everyone is there. How can I leave when everyone is there. I keep thinking that over and over. All these people that I like and want to stay in touch with are on Facebook and if I delete my account and walk away I risk losing those connections. (of course I can’t export my contacts because Facebook likes to keep me locked in to their system but that is another rant for another time)
And really, those connections are the only reason I’m on Facebook. I don’t play Farmville. I don’t really join groups. I don’t send gifts or take quizes. I go there to connect with those people who I think are important to me for one reason or another. And I’ve been picky, there are very, very few people I’m connected to on Facebook that I haven’t actually met in person. Some people approve anyone who asks but I wanted to keep in personal to some extent. And not Facebook wants to make it anything but personal and I’m worried about not playing ball with that because I don’t want to lose contact with those people I’ve linked up with there.
But that got me thinking, all those people who are on Facebook are also on another network I use every day. It’s called the internet.
So why do I think I can connect and interact with them on Facebook but not anywhere else? Because Facebook made it easy. So now I have to wonder am I only staying in touch with those people because it requires absolutely zero effort on my part? What kind of a person does that make me? What does that say about how much I value their friendship? I feel like I’m saying “Oh hey there, I’m so glad I can see what is going on in your life so long as it’s wheeled out in front of me and doesn’t require me to actually lift a finger because if I had to do something like, type out your e-mail or go to your own website or *gasp* pick up a phone to talk to you that would just be too much.”
And really, maybe I am. I don’t want to say that. I don’t want to think that I’m saying that. I don’t like how that makes me feel about myself if that is in fact what I’m saying. But if I am appalled by the direction Facebook is heading and I’ve walked away from other sites for much smaller infractions but am hanging onto this one because I don’t think I can maintain these relationships without it, what else am I saying?
If someone told me they liked me and cared about what was up in my life but couldn’t be bothered to reach out to me, ever, and only would stay in touch if my life was handed to them effort free I’d think they were a shitty friend and insincere about their feelings towards me. So turning that mirror around on myself and what else can I think?
There was a time when people kept in touch with their friends without Facebook. It’s shocking to think, but it’s true. I saw a documentary about it one time.
I feel like Jules in Pulp Fiction who has just realized what role he’s been playing and desperately wants to take the other path. I don’t want to be a bad friend, but I don’t want to continue playing this game either. I want to walk away but I don’t want to leave people behind. It’s a totally stressful situation which makes it even worse – I’m stressing out about some stupid website? What the hell is wrong with me?
But I’m stuck in that limbo at the moment trying to decide which direction my next step will be. And really, it’s not Facebook that is making me feel bad, it’s what Facebook it making me think about myself that is.