Thursday, December 29, 2011

Social Networking: Is it really so bad?

You hear from them all the time: the Facebook haters. The people who lament that the internet destroys friendships and forces relationships to become shallow. "Nobody knows how to write a letter anymore!" "People only know how to communicate via Facebook and don't have a clue how to act face-to-face!" Etc., etc. There's some element of truth to this, of course, and if you're like me this element of truth will occasionally send you on a trip down Guilt Lane. But what most of us fail to realize is that THINGS don't make us who we are. Who we are is our own responsibility. If you are a crappy friend, it's not the internet's fault; it's yours. You'd be a crappy friend without the internet too. If someone is immature on Facebook, they're going to be immature in person too. Narcissistic people are going to be narcissists with or without the internet.

But there's still the question, "Is America's Facebook obsession a bad thing?" In some ways it is because it provides a convenient outlet for stupid people to have an audience they don't deserve. But there's a simple solution to that: don't be that person's audience. Blaming the internet that you have idiots on your friends list is like blaming your couch that you're overweight. =P But is Facebook bad for relationships? Most people think it is. I happen to disagree, but today I had a breakthrough as to why. 

As anyone who is on Facebook knows, the owners of Facebook like to change the layout a lot. And every time it makes a drastic change, you have a section of your friends list acting like it's the end of the world, and occasionally someone threatens to leave Facebook over it. One of my acquaintances threatened this today, using the usual self-absorbed excuse, "If people really want me, they know where to find me." Okay then. I hit the "unfriend" button. 

The incident caused me to think about why I'm on Facebook and why I love Facebook. I love Facebook because it's the easiest way to keep up with all my friends and family, many of which are long-distance now thanks to military life. I have a big family and a lot of friends. I don't have enough hours in my day to call, text, email, or hand-write letters to everyone I know, want to keep up with, or am trying to get to know (because I just moved to a new city and don't know a soul). It's wonderful to have Facebook as a place where I can see what everyone's doing on a daily basis and see pictures of their lives. When it comes to family and close friends, I still want to talk to them on the phone, video chat, or chat online privately when there are more personal things to discuss. So in that regard Facebook hasn't destroyed my relationships, and also, without it there are a lot of people who would've dropped out of my life completely because there is only so much time. This is why I am always going to have Facebook no matter what the layout looks like. None of their changes have made it impossible for me to talk to people, so no matter how annoying a new layout might be, it doesn't affect my big picture.

One thing people tend to forget when they dream about the days gone by when people wrote hand-written letters and spent so much quality time together is that people didn't move around so much back then. As it got easier and easier for the average person to travel and move their lives to different parts of the country, means of communication had to get easier and faster to keep up. In the "old days," most people grew up, got married, and settled down in the same town as their family and friends. Those who left either had to keep in touch through a slow postal system or drop off the planet. If I lived in the same town as all my family and friends, would I need Facebook? Probably not.

Growing up, I never had local friends. I did, however, have a lot of long-distance friends, aka pen pals. I loved to write letters. I could crank out a 10-pager with no trouble. It was fun. But let me tell you, it was no small feat keeping up with this much letter-writing. I would spend many hours a day trying to keep on top of my correspondence with my friends. This worked pretty well when I was between school and actually doing something with my life. Once I got a full-time job, letter-writing stopped. How was I to keep up with an 8-hour job, family, church, exercise, and personal time if having friends meant I had to write at least one letter a day? So that's when I started using the internet to keep up with people. And now, when we move every few years and get plopped down in a brand new state where I know nobody, Facebook has been a huge blessing. Many people who I now consider dear friends I never would have met if it wasn't for Facebook. As a result, it's very hard for me to understand the mindset that Facebook is just a website. To me, Facebook is people. Suddenly announcing you're deleting your Facebook (especially over such silly things as not liking its layout) is telling me, "You are not important and I can drop you out of my life with a click of my mouse." 

So, I think it's time people stopped lamenting society's changes and learned to make it work for them. The internet is nothing but a tool. It is your responsibility to use it wisely. 


  1. I can see your points. That's why I've kept it--it's how I keep in touch with so many people, and I've pared down my friends list to the ones I really want to keep in touch with. :)

  2. I completely agree, and you said this very well. This is why I won't be dropping FB or LJ ever - at least not that I can foresee. If I want to share this, may I?

  3. Of course you may! I wanted to write something positive about Facebook for once. I always read negative articles everywhere. =\

    And although I stopped posting at LJ, I still check there every day. I only had to change where I blogged so that more people could read it.

  4. I know you still read because often you comment. I'm glad. And I do like reading your public blog too, even though it often makes me hungry. ;o)

  5. YES. Yes yes yes. It's what you do with something that makes it good or bad.