Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In defense of Facebook

Speaking of habits, I've developed one new one that I count as good, but I know not everyone would agree with that assessment.  It's Facebook.   It has given me contact with wonderful friends I thought I had lost forever; it provides portals to fascinating news stories and new music; it has a couple of Scrabble-type games that I'm addicted to and which don't require you to give up any information about yourself in order to play.  (Yes, all this wonderfulness does have the potential to get out of hand, but it can be controlled.  More on that later.)

In the "BF era" (Before Facebook), my morning routine was to take a walk, shower, have breakfast, finish the two hours of Morning Edition on NPR (the first having been heard on my walk) and then head to the computer to write something here.  Now when I head to the computer I first go to Facebook.  I catch up on personal news of friends and interesting tidbits from all manner of media that those friends may share. Of course, I must also check the word games.  All that can take long enough.  On this particular morning, though, NPR music featured a new album by Bryan Ferry--a rare event by a unique performer whom I like very much. I ended up listening to the whole album.  By the time I even started here, then, I'd already been at the computer for well over an hour. That's excessive, I agree, but, it's also rare.   Facebook as a part of my morning routine is here to stay.

Facebook naysayers don't like the site because they think it's intrusive.  Agreed, it can be, but it doesn't have to be.  Just as plain old common sense comes in handy in all other of life's endeavors, its use need not stop at the Facebook door.  Example:  the site is full of fun questionnaires whose purported intent is to analyze certain of your personality traits and how those traits of yours compare with those of others.  Don't fall for them.  They're likely surveillance tools that transmit what you say about yourself to marketers who will then add targeted spam to your inbox.  As to privacy settings:  they're what you make them.  You don't have to post a profile picture; indeed you don't have to divulge anything at all about yourself except an email address.  Once you join, the "friend" database is easily searchable, making it possible for you to reach out only to people with whom you'd like to be in contact--others don't even have to know you're there.   It's actually possible to join Facebook and then hide from unwanted attention.

As I mentioned above, Facebook is more than a mere social network; it's a matchless source for information that is either fascinating or important, often both. The Internet already allows us to sample literally any media source in the world.  If you come upon a compelling article, you can instantly share it with your friends on Facebook via the link in the article, which these days is provided by all major media outlets.  I get important information from publications to which I'd don't subscribe myself--indeed sometimes have never even heard of--and likewise I share articles that I know others would have no chance of seeing in any other way.  I find this one of the most valuable aspects of the entire Facebook phenomenon.

Well.  I had no idea I'd be going in this direction when I sat down at the keyboard.  As some kind friend once told me, "it's your blog, you can write what you damn well please."  All this verbiage demonstrates to me just how big a thing Facebook has become in my life.  If you haven't tried it, do!  We can play a game of Wordscraper!

16 comments:

Zoey and Me said...

I found Facebook boring. None of my friends who communicate by email which is largely my social network will join Facebook. People I have known for years ask to add me and when I do they disappear, it's a burden to get around the site and most games are not of interest to me. I have a logon loaded with people anywhere from business associates to bloggers to friends kids who are now grown. But not a word daily from anyone. I do track a Hospice friend who was very kind to us when caring for Helen. She's taken a year off to travel the States. But when back in Florida we always meet up so Facebook can't beat human contact. I just don't have much time for it and could easily quit the membership and no one would notice.

Ralph said...

Different strokes, Z&M.

splendid/ angi said...

i too am a facebook junkie. i use it mostly to check on my daughters in college and i am very addicted to the interesting articles that friends link to, especially in anticipation of the election. i have found and lost again countless people from my past, the few that remain are very dear to me. i have found it true that if you haven't contacted someone in 20 years there surely was a reason. i enjoy sharing photos and bits of news with others as well. i refuse to allow any applications to access my information and only let friends see my photos and posts. like anything else, read the rules, be smart and hope for the best.
i am fortunate to have found you, ralph through kat, and i enjoy learning about your and steve's ongoing adventures.

Ralph said...

Angie, your last paragraph, same here.

As for really old friends: I have just a couple who go way, way back, to high school, whom I'd lost touch with just because of time passed and lack of opportunity to reconnect. They are really special and once we found each other we fell right back in to old sharing modes. And since I spent so many years at the Peace Corps, which allows people to work there for 8 years at most (except for me and a few lucky others) literally dozens of wonderful people cam into and out of my life via work. It's been great finding them again.

Beth Barkley said...

Well done, my friend, I am SO GLAD you found me and got me on fb. Your success in finding me inspired me to find others - a joyful cascade. We've known each other since we were young teenagers! It's that 40+ year gap that is hard to believe....

Linda - SE PA said...

Good-bad-indifferent - Facebook always seems to stir a comment. I like it and while I've spent more time than I care to admit, I have met some really nice folks that I play the apps with. I have some of my other interests streaming on the feed as well as sites/groups found while reading the ads.

The downside for me has been that I've stopped visiting blogs on a daily basis. I was stunned to read a fav blog who had considered to stop blogging and decided to continue because of the response and yes, it did bother me that I missed this and would have felt a very big loss had this taken place. And yes, I miss reading the comments and community of regular bloggers but where do you divide time and when you log on to Facebook, sometimes it can be a long time before you even realize how much time you passed away.

I do think it has effected blogging as well as emailing. I enjoy the occassional friend who streams across the feed with a photo or tidbit or article. It truly can be turned into a self-contained area of personal interest and I think that may be one of the major appeals for those of us who spend hours and hours on it.

Brenda said...

I have to agree with you Ralph, if used properly, Facebook is a great way to communicate. As a person who has travelled all across Canada and have left behind friends and family, it's a perfect way to keep in touch. I love seeing all the photos of old friends left behind and new babies that have become a part of my family.
Facebook and it's games have given me the opportunity to meet and get to know wonderful people like yourself with similar interest. And if I hadn't found you, there would be music never listened to and recipes never tried.
Looking forward to many more games of Lexulous...after all, we need to keep our brains active! :)

Ralph said...

Beth, you are by all means one of my Facebook treasures. I'm glad my finding you inspired you to turn the favor to others.

Ralph said...

Linda, you nail the conflict I had trying to figure out "blog or Facebook"? FB is like an instant blog--I've shared things there, such as photos, or quick observations in just a few words that I've have spent much longer on in the blog. I've seen some people able to do both, so they're a sign that it can be done. And I really do love the articles my friends show me from all over that teach me things, or deepen my understanding of issues. What really brought me back to this was the writing itself and the special blogging community. I missed it.

Ralph said...

Brenda, how we came to know each other is a perfect example of the fun Facebook offers. Total strangers who found each other randomly in a word game. I've always thought the best things come when you're not really looking for them. How we struck up our acquaintance is a perfect example of how that works on Facebook, too!

Christer said...

I have nothing against FaceBook except that it takes way to much time. So I pop in there once ever working day but on weekends I´ll be there every time I´m on the computer.

Have a great day now!
Christer.

Ralph said...

Haven't seen you there, Christer. I'll have to do a search.

Perovskia said...

Yeah, Facebook can be the devil. Even for me on some days (last night I'd written a status which apparently angered a few of my friends, so I removed it). Added stress I don't need. Having said that, it's let me reconnect and keep in touch with friends. I also totally agree and love the fact about sharing articles. It's something I'll hang on to, but I control my time on it.

nan said...

Ralph, first I am so glad you are back here writing. You have so many great thoughts to share. I agree with you that Facebook is fun, and a different medium than blogging. I "do" both -- and find it pretty easy to limit my time on FB. I am a bit addicted to Lexulous - one of my only "apps." I check it about once a day for about 5-10 minutes. I figured out the other apps were data harvesters early on, so never did any of the 'villes, and hid those who do them. I have a lot of work folks on my FB - so I keep the blog much more "private" and unadvertised than FB - never mention my blog on FB - don't want to. FB is fun to share funny or important articles or videos and quick bursts of random communication. I love being in touch with friends from 30 years ago on a still superficial, but comforting level. Blogging, however, is truly where I feel I express myself - only to those who "find" me in the blogosphere. I'm glad to know you on both.

Ralph said...

Perovskia, must be careful about stepping in it. I know what you mean. I've decided if I can't say something amusing or truly interesting, as opposed to provocative, I just won't say anything at all.

Ralph said...

Nan, you and I are alike in a lot of ways, and I wonder how circumspect I'd have been if a Facebook had been around when I was working. I was too stressed out, I believe, to do any leisurely long-form writing, so a blog would have been out. But I think Facebook would have been something of a hoot around the Peace Corps.