Friday, December 12, 2008

Nettwerk.

So about Facebook. I joined a few years ago because all of my first year college students were talking about it and I wanted to see what was up. And I was immediately creeped out by it because I could see everyone's full profiles and it was all 18 year olds partying etc, things that a (so-called) professor knows about but does not need to be privy to in any detail. So I more or less refused to get on board with it, though I did spend some time wondering how college social life develops differently in the age of online networking. These kids had all met their roommates on the internet before they showed up at school--so there were no weird pre-matriculation phone calls about who brings what to the dorm.

Anyway, fast-forward: it's the end of 2008 and I'm officially late to the party, but Facebook has changed, la la la, it's not just for the kids anymore, and now my parents and your parents are using it. So I joined up and there's been an explosion of online friendship. It's also been the week that my whole family, with the notable exceptions of the Brit and my sister Molly, got on Facebook, and it has been pretty hilarious. It's not like we need a vehicle for keeping in touch, either, but in real life we don't have comment threads about old family photos and our bad outfits.

What I like about the culture that's grown up around Facebook is the way it demystifies contact between old friends and acquaintances. I had the same feeling when long-distance calling became a regular part of cell phone service. I don't know about you, but back when I had to deal with long-distance charges to call someone across the country, catching up via phone was like a huge hairy deal and you didn't do it unless you had some time set aside. Both parties knew it was costing someone money, too.

Subtracting the long-distance charge, for me, had the effect of shortening the distance between me and the people I'd like to chat with. I'm really not a phone person, so this didn't make a massive difference in my life, but I do remember, very clearly, the first time I realized that the lack of virtual distance had made casual contact with long-distance friends much more normal: a friend from a summer program called me just to say hi and we chatted for 5 minutes. It was just like checking in with anyone else who lives in my area code.

And that's really how Facebook seems to me. I'm having quick exchanges with people I haven't talked to since I was a teenager, whereas if I'd previously made the effort to track these folks down and reintroduce myself, even via email, it might have been strange or intrusive or at the very least a momentous reunion. But on Facebook you can just move immediately to banter without "how ARE you? what are you UP to?" Or you can have a totally superficial interaction with the previous queries re: well-being and activities, and not feel compelled to continue the conversation. Contact made; goodwill established. I like that.

But if all the foregoing sounds like a thinly-veiled justification for my addiction to Scramble, the Boggle ripoff on Facebook, well, you're not far off the mark. I know it will pass, but for the moment all letters are rearranging themselves into anagrams and component words and I might be sporting some sort of incipient repetitive stress injury from the frenzied typing and clicking. I have hot plans of attacking a huge pile of mending this weekend (whee, how LHOTP of me, except I should be doing mending on Wednesdays), but I bet you I end up playing Scramble instead.

5 comments:

  1. This is very similar to how I came to be using Facebook (signed up in '05 at beginning of grad school but was turned off by the undergrad bitch & moans)- except for my family isn't on it and I don't play any of the games/gifts/whathaveyous.

    Did you know you can use Twitter to update your Facebook status? Here I am should you want to see my status and who some of my high school & college friends are...

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  2. I am still an anti-Facebook luddite. But I see the charms. And love the reference to LHOTP. It took me a sec, but then I got it and loved it.

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  3. My problem is that I end up exchanging pleasantries with people that I hardly know/like while going for days and days without speaking to the ones I truly love. But you're right, it takes the awkward edge off reuniting with old acquaintances, and that's good.

    Also, reading status updates is amusing and addictive. But there's that problem again. I know more about the lives of people I hardly know than my own true people.

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  4. Hi Pretty Lady,
    I was the one who always left comments on witchyobrokeass, and I have been a rude lurker lately. Just wanted to say, hey! You are still awesome! and I am still here!
    xoxox

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  5. I was bullied into joining Facebook, then abandoned it with extreme prejudice, then rejoined the cult because I decided I could use its powers for good if I could avoid the overtly social aspects of it.

    I failed to do that just this week when I tried to block an annoying application only to have it send out completely false notifications about things only a 14-year-old would do, but otherwise, it has proved useful and interesting this second time around.

    And now I know what to do about those apps.

    Interestingly, I have managed quite successfully to duck people I don't want to interact with (thus far).

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