Time Magazine named Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, the 2010 Person of the Year, pointing out that Facebook “has changed the way human beings relate to one another on a species-wide scale.” I don’t disagree; I’m just not sure I like it.
I’ve been toying with the idea of getting out of Facebook entirely. I haven’t done it yet; I still log on several times a day to read other people’s updates, though I haven’t posted my own in quite a while. I’m not ready to go cold turkey, I think, but I am debating how much – if any – quality it adds to my life. No coherent argument either way yet, just some collected thoughts:
1. None of our siblings use Facebook. That means no updates about our niece or my sister’s new life in Boston. When I log on to “connect and share with the people in my life” (as the site claims to help us do) the people I most want to connect to aren’t there. I’m not complaining – and kudos to them for not caving to the pressure – I just wonder if it’s worth it.
2. In the two years since I became a regular user, I’ve amassed a very odd collection of friends. There are the college and seminary friends I still keep in touch with, one high school friend, and an assortment of other people I don’t really have any meaningful relationship with anymore. There are several professional connections, including several people I’ve never actually met in person (and sometimes, I feel like I know more about their lives than I do about my friends who live here in town). In other words, I think there’s still a huge gap between “Facebook friend” and “friend.” I’d rather have actual friends.
3. There are a handful of people whose status updates I appreciate every time, and those are people I’m friends with in real life as well. I love hearing about their kids’ latest antics, and I like knowing when things aren’t going well. Most of my other friends are really just acquaintances, and their updates are little glimpses into a life I know little about.
4. I do like sending out little snippets of my own life into the world. I like crafting the words just right to capture what I’m feeling just then, and I like the response that tells me somebody’s paying attention.
5. There’s the ongoing debate about friending church members: I wouldn’t worry about having to watch what I post; I would worry about having to be publicly “on” all the time – even more than usual. If I’m at home in the evening and see a post from a church member that needs a pastoral response, do I respond right then? Or do I limit my facebook viewing to office hours? Wouldn’t it be simpler not to do it at all? On the other hand, I can see the value of using Facebook to connect church members to each other, or to promote events. And believe it or not, I really do see how it could be a source of great support and comfort to people in dark times.
6. I don’t like communicating over Facebook. Please, just send me an old-fashioned email.
7. This is at least the second time I’ve blogged about Facebook. Don’t I have anything more interesting to write about?
Oh, Mark Zuckerberg. You and your big ideas.