I didn’t want to join Facebook but did so at the suggestion of a 30-something friend of mine. I’m 45 and on very good terms with my computer and cell phone, but Social Networking always seemed to be a waste of time and something that only the younger generation could find much meaning in. I’ve been on it for a short time, and I must say I’m still wary of it, for diverse reasons. But I have hope.
With Facebook, I’ve stayed in touch with family members that are spread out across the world and reconnected with old friends. I’ve exchanged inside jokes with a friend who moved away, found out another has had five kids since I last saw her a decade ago, and learned how my niece is getting along teaching English in Rio de Janeiro (complete with lots of pictures.)
But I’ve also learned that another niece got a speeding ticket for going 60 in a 30-mph zone. A nephew took part in a public pillow fight in downtown New York (caught on video), and studies a lot in the library. Someone else is not feeling well today (with a friend thinking it was because she was pregnant.) Another announced she wanted to do some spring cleaning but took a nap instead. And I myself put the word out that I got a shard in my eye and had to spend the night looking like a pirate with a patch on my eye.
I’ve also seen how some people on my friends list (so far a paltry 12), have hundreds of “friends” of their own. And I wonder…how can this be? And this is the part I don’t get: How is more somehow always better?
It reminds me how I once had a friend, a former colleague in Moscow, whom I stayed in touch with by e-mail for a time. The first exchanges were friendly, intimate and detailed from our shared experience of living in a foreign land. Then, I began to get e-mail replies from him that were also addressed to all of the friends in his address book. These were no longer a personal response to my personal letters, and I would have none of it.
Agreed, Facebook and texting and twittering and other networking tools are a clever way to stay in touch and share your life with others, but doesn’t it get to the point where it’s all just a shallow and narcissistic exercise? When I see students in the university town where I live talking on cell phones while on a bicycle or even a scooter, for chrissakes, or texting while crossing a busy street, it makes me just shake my head.
Once, at an impromptu Q & A I attended at a local community college, a young student decided to text with someone while he was just in front of the director of the program he was trying to be admitted to. It was so distracting that I had to step in front of the student to hear the teacher. And that’s the part I’ll never get: Why did he think it was okay to do this? Could you please just be in the moment? I don’t think he gave a second thought to the people around him. But that’s just it–you’re connected, but you’re not connected. The student didn’t get it, and maybe never will.
Social Networking is like an itch that has to be scratched. It’s like how my 15-year-old niece will text with someone else while at the dinner table with family. Her phone constantly buzzes, and she has to answer the buzz. She presses a few buttons while hardly breaking eye contact with you, and that’s that. Another circuit completed. Another meaningless moment broadcast.
Now I find myself checking my Facebook as soon as I get on the computer. Got to know what my people are up to. Ow, my sister-in-law is going to the hardware store. Her daughter has been trying to reach her on her cell. Why doesn’t mom answer, she wonders? Is it any wonder?