Lately, as I’ve become an even more avid social media user, I’ve become more aware of the criticism that can be lobbed at people who admit that they use a lot of Facebook or Twitter. In one recent example, I was drawn into a conversation in the work lunchroom about Facebook. Someone I barely know was talking to a colleague whom I do know well, about Facebook. The conversation went something like this:
Barely known colleague: I just don’t get Facebook, I don’t understand why people become friends with people they barely know, and I can’t help wondering what that says about their real friendships.
Well known colleague: Um… well, I like Facebook. I find it really convenient. It’s a great way to organise things. It also means it’s easy to find out what old high school friends are up to now. It’s especially good for friends who are overseas.
Barely known colleague: See that’s the thing. I’ve lived overseas and I have a lot of friends in different countries, and I never have any trouble keeping up with them!
Me, interrupting: I love Facebook for all the reasons that well-known-colleague mentioned. It’s just easier to stay up to date. And I tend not to be friends on Facebook with people who aren’t friends In Real Life. It all depends on how you choose to use it.
Facebook is a tool, like any other. I suppose it could become too habitual or addictive. I’ve heard of cases of people being ‘different’ to their real selves because the online medium provides them with a bit of coverage. It’s the ‘online’ version of opaque glass or airbrushing, and they can fake a life, or at least choose to package it up a certain way to suit an audience. I vehemently believe that I don’t do this. I am the SAME PERSON, 100% me regardless of the medium. I hope that those who know me In Real Life would agree with this. Frequently, I take the piss out of myself, online, because I’m all too aware that my life might appear to be a bit of a 30-something yuppie cliche to the uninitiated observer.
I have heard that people can find themselves suffering Facebook Envy – where it seems everyone around them is having more exciting lives than they are. The harsh truth is – they probably are. Facebook perhaps isn’t for people who are already feeling lonely, depressed, unfulfilled or in some other way inadequate. But the point here is that there is a disposition to feeling this way – Facebook might serve as the catalyst for unhappiness, create unmanageable demands on our time, or induce self-loathing, but it’s not the cause.
What inspired me to write this post, aside from being home sick (again! – pesky cold discussed in previous post hasn’t buggered off yet) is that when I got home last night from 3 blissful hours with two very good friends, eating dumplings and sharing each others lives, I flicked on the telly and there was a show on the ABC about the empire that is Facebook. All manner of intelligent and learned commentators were discussing the phenomena that is Facebook. What pissed me off is the number of them who were convinced that the dilution of friendship, via an online medium, can have no other consequence other than lowering every human interaction to its lowest common denominator. Personally, I resent the implication that because I’ve allegedly ‘diluted’ my friendship capacity down by having *gasp* 100 facebook friends (!!) my real friendships suffer. They don’t. They haven’t. I’m as good a friend (or bad, depending) now as I would be without Facebook in my life. Maybe better in fact because Facebook makes it easier to arrange face-to-face catch ups. I’m not denying there’s a risk it makes us lazy friends. But it’s not me, it’s not my life, and it doesn’t define, or damage my friendships.
In my ‘research’ for this post (I use that term loosely), I stumbled across the The Anti-Facebook League of Intelligentsia. Oh. My. God. What a load of drivel. The name alone should alert you to the arrogant assumptions that are being made about those who use Facebook – apparently we’re not intelligent. They don’t just hate on Facebook either. One particularly golden quote says that “One recent piece of research shows that “periodically checking your e-mail lowers your cognitive performance level to that of a drunk.”” Um, ok. I wondered what my boss would say if I told her that I apparently spend my day performing at the cognitive level of a drunk. She’d probably be stoked to know that I’m apparently capable of far more than I currently deliver. My vocabularly fails me at this point. I’m an intelligent woman and not afraid to say it but all I can come up with when I read this crap is “bullshit”.
I’m sure the conversation I had with the two colleagues, and even some of the general social-media hating that goes on, mirrors experiences that you’ve had every day, most likely face-to-face, (although I do love the irony of an online discussion debating the whys and wherefores of online communication) with people in your lives. I would love to hear your views. Are you frequently called upon or in some way challenged to defend your love of a particular social media? Stay tuned for all the reasons why I love Twitter. Bet you can hardly wait 😉