I have been kind of amazed at some of the interactions I’ve had on Facebook lately, which is what inspired this post.
I was never into MySpace. I had a page with a couple of bits of info, but not much. And I think my network (I don’t remember what the MySpace network was called) had 5 people in it — Tom, and four other people who never checked their MySpace accounts either.
When Facebook came into play, I didn’t really care about that, either.
When chemo left me with insomnia and a fuzzy brain (to the point where I couldn’t really read a book because it required too much focus), my old friend The Internet helped me pass time.
And I joined Facebook.
At the time, I joined it mainly to see how many of my former students were on and what they were up to. As time wore on, more people in my social circle joined or found me. And then people who I had known in other parts of my life were popping up. And so it grew.
At this point, I use Facebook (FB) on a daily basis — admittedly sometimes too much. But there have been many benefits to it for me.
For people who I am local friends with but who I don’t see or talk to on a daily basis, I get glimpses into what’s going on. I don’t use this instead of getting together, but there have been many times when “I saw on your Facebook page” started a conversation.
For people who I was local friends with but aren’t local any more (regardless of who moved), it’s a way to stay more in touch. With some of these people, we communicate via phone and/or email on an occasional basis outside of FB (and I don’t think we would chat more if we weren’t connected via FB). With some, we don’t otherwise communicate any more — or didn’t at all until FB, in some cases — but it’s nice to be in loose touch.
For both of these groups of people, I like seeing pictures that are posted — kids, vacations, events, home improvements. I look at almost all of the photos that come my way … though if someone I don’t know all that well posts 150 wedding pictures, I’ll probably just skim the thumbnails.
Neither of those are especially surprising to me. But there were other surprises.
There are people I’m FB friends with who I went to school with (elementary, middle, high, college, grad school) who I didn’t necessarily talk to all that often when we were in the same place at the same time. Some of these people, of course, just show up on my friends list and that’s all. But many of them have turned out to be people who I have things in common with, or who I have had many interesting e-conversations with (usually through private messages). For this reason, when random people I used to know send me a friend request, even when my first thought is “Why would you want to be my FB friend?!” most of the time, I’ll accept the request.
If it turns out that the jerks are still jerks or the drama queens are still drama queens, there is the quick and easy unfriending, which I have also used on occasion. As it turns out, not everyone outgrows the “I’m going to be annoying and I’m the only one who will think it’s funny” phase.
I have friended people who I’ve met at social gatherings and triathlons who I probably wouldn’t otherwise ever have stayed in touch with.
I have friended people who I’ve met — either in person or online — in the young adult cancer survivor community.
I have gotten a lot of useful feedback on questions and ideas about a wide variety of things — camera recommendations, general baby stuff, places to eat when I’m out of town, how-to answers. I ask more of these kinds of questions than I see most people asking, but most of the time, I get useful answers. The answers don’t always come from people I know well, or from people I would think to ask.
I have also seen articles, videos and pictures that I never otherwise would have looked up or found. Sure, some things that people post are junk. But there are at least one or two things every day as I’m scrolling through my news feed that I click through and look at. Some have inspired blog posts or have ended up in my weekly link roundup.
I know much more about what’s going on in professional sports than I otherwise would. I mean, who knew they still have hockey? Or that so many people watch soccer?
So FB for me is a significant news source. It’s a means of little connections with local people. It’s a means of staying connected with non-local people. It is a meaningful way that I connect with people, and so in that sense, it fills a spot in my interpersonal world.
(And since so many of my former students were in college and posting about things that I really didn’t need to know, I created a second account that they all got shuffled over to. There are other folks who I’m friends with over there, too, but the majority are current and former students.)
And yes, sometimes it’s a pain. People post stupid things, say things that are annoying or infuriating, etc., etc. I have gotten better about only pursuing arguments/debates until they make me angry, because really, I don’t need more stress in my life. Arguing on FB is something I have 100% control over. Even though sometimes it means not even opening the e-mail saying that the opposition has replied again, or ignoring the little notification thinger.
I resisted Twitter. I don’t have internet on my phone. And then I became a small business owner and it seemed like having a Twitter account was a prudent thing to do. So I have one (@2CFC). But I still really don’t like it. It seems that if you want to have conversations and connect with people, you need to be on all the time, which I don’t have the capacity or the desire to do. So I’m on sometimes. I interact when I have something to say. I retweet things I think are interesting, useful, or funny. But I’m not a big fan.
And because I have multiple email accounts (personal and business), a blog, two FB accounts (plus a page for Second Chance FitCenter), Twitter, and other sites that are business-related, I haven’t even looked at Google+ There is too much online to do as it is. Anyone have an account and want to report back?
How do you use social media? Why? Has it surprised you? Is it a joy or a chore?