Blah Blah Blah · Family Ties · Geekery

The Merits and Perils of Facebook

Goldman Sachs protest, November 2009. Source: Flickr user SEIU International

A few days ago, my father-in-law quit Facebook.  The reasoning was sound – he is vehemently opposed to Goldman Sachs (with good reason), and they bought an interest in Facebook.  He wants nothing to do with anything even related to the company, and so he deactivated his Facebook profile pretty much immediately.  Besides, he thinks Facebook is kind of dumb anyway, and expressed that he doesn’t understand why people use it.  That’s the comment that prompted this post, actually – I started thinking about why I use Facebook and why I didn’t want to quit, too.

He’s a better person than me because, in principle, I agree with him.  Goldman Sachs is evil and I should do everything in my power to boycott them.  But Facebook has, ridiculously, improved my happiness level and I can’t let go of it.  It’s not perfect, of course, but here are the reasons I have no desire to leave the site:

  • I love being in touch with my friends and family so frequently with a minimum of effort on my part.  I simply do not have the energy to make individual connections by phone and email with all 250+ of my Facebook friends, but I do genuinely care about the vast majority of them and want to know what’s happening in their lives.
  • As I get older, I’ve realized that happiness really comes from the little moments – like knowing your sister successfully completed her cleaning and organization project.  Did I strictly need to know that?  No, of course not.  Does it have any direct bearing on my life?  Nope.  Does it still make me happy?  Yes, because I have this little moment of feeling connected to her, knowing what her day-to-day is like even though we don’t call or email each other often.
  • It’s so damn convenient!  I can see everything I want to know about almost any of my friends and family in one place.  I don’t have to login to 500 different websites to get blog updates, see pictures, read funny (or serious) links they post, get messages from them, play games with them, etc. etc. etc.  Everything I need or want to know about almost everyone I care about ALL IN ONE PLACE.
  • It’s so damn convenient, part 2!  I can tell everyone everything I want THEM to know, all in one place!  If I have pictures to share, they automatically see them without me having to email them out somehow.  If I have some sort of announcement, like a new job or new house or whatever, I can tell everyone all at once (now, of course my inner circle hears about that stuff personally first, but it’s so much easier to keep everyone else up-to-date at one time, and still feels somehow more intimate than a mass email even though it’s really not).
  • You can be “friends” with someone without really being friends with them.  There are a few people who have friended me who I don’t really know well enough to want to share life details with them.  But I do know them well enough that I don’t want to offend them by turning down their friend request.  Solution?  I made a “restricted” list of people and those folks can’t see most of my info, pictures, posts, etc.  I occasionally make a post of little consequence viewable by all my friends, so they (hopefully) just think I don’t post very often.  Happy solution for those of us with no heart to tell someone no. 🙂

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t friend every single person who asks.  I’m adept enough to recognize the spammers and the people I truly do not know.  But occasionally, someone I barely remember from high school but who is friends with 20 other people I know, or someone I just met and don’t expect to see again but still don’t want to upset because they’re a nice person, will send me a friend request.  And I am a weenie who can’t say no, but I don’t want them to see my life intimately, either.  So, on the restricted list they go.  Voila.

Now, FB is far from perfect, so just to be fair, here are the things that annoy the crap out of me about it:

  • NINE THOUSAND BRILLION messages from well-meaning friends to join Mafia Wars or Farmville or receive a gift from them on @Hearts or whatever random stupid application is haute with the FB crowd that week.  I play a small handful of games on FB, mostly with friends (i.e., Scrabble and Family Feud) and I do my best to not bombard other people with posts about that crap.  I don’t invite people to come join in if they don’t already play.  I have blocked as many apps like that as possible from my feed (so that I never have a clue how many pigs you bought on Farmville, nor do I care, sorry), but NEW ONES CONSTANTLY COME UP.  I don’t mind the occasional quiz thingy – sometimes those are fun to do yourself (and make fun of the bad grammar in them), but I really, really, really will not ever give you a gun in Mafia Wars.  Please stop asking.
  • The annoying-as-crap “chain letter” type posts.  You know what I’m talking about: “‎5 yrs old: ‘Mommy, I love you’. 12 yrs old: ‘Mom whatever!’ 16 yrs old: ‘My Mom is so annoying’! 18 yrs old: ‘I wanna leave this house’. 25 yrs old: ‘Mom, you were right’. 30 yrs old: ‘I wanna go back to my Mom’s house’. 50 yrs old: ‘I dont wanna lose my Mom’. 70 yrs old: ‘I would …give up EVERYTHING for my Mom to be here with me’ Post this on your wall if you appreciate & love your Mom.”  Sweet?  A little funny?  Maybe, but after the 500th time, it loses its charm.  Trust me.  I never repost this stuff because it clogs up my news feed when 30 of my friends post the same thing, and I do not want to contribute to that aggravation.
  • People who post constantly about their platforms: their political beliefs or causes, their religious convictions, their healthcare beliefs, their support of the troops, whatever.  I get it.  You over here think Sarah Palin is an idiot; you over there think she’s amazing.  I have my opinion too, but you don’t care what I think.  Believe me, I don’t care what you think either.  And I can deal with it if it’s occasional, but constant bombardment is likely to get you blocked from my news feed.

Overall, the annoyances are by FAR outweighed – for me – by the joy I get.  So maybe Facebook is trivial and stupid.  But it does bring me closer to people, and that in return brings me joy.


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