Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Till We Have Facebooks

Phil Cooke is talking today about Facebook, and how some folks confuse being a Facebook Friend with being a real world friend.

Seen a lot of that sort of thing of late; bloggers focusing on the dangers of Facebook replacing real community, of people using faceless cyber associations as a substitute for spending quality time building real world relationships.

It is a real danger for the many folk that misunderstand the meaning of “friend.”

There are a couple of people in my circle who when they say they are with “friends” mean they are hanging with Quakers.

I bet their Facebook traffic is real quiet.

As for me, the trick to Facebook is to keep this simple point in mind:

Facebook isn’t about friends; it is about the broader circle known as friends and acquaintances.

More to the point: Facebook is Christmas cards.

Sure, you send Christmas cards to the friends you are close to.

But you also send them to those people that you used to be close to, but in truth really aren’t anymore – but with whom it is nice to keep a thread of contact.

And you send them to those people that you aren’t close to, but always meant to get close to, if you had the time or proximity.

Oh, and you send them to the people that you were never close to, but were close to your parents, so ended up on your Christmas card list.

Plus the guys that you were never close to, but met you at that one thing, and you hit it off (you think, the punch at that thing was kind of strong), and they got your address, and so you exchange cards, keeping open the hope that someday closeness might happen.

Which brings up the people that you may have been close to, but honestly can’t remember because try as you might you have no idea who they are (“Honey, are these friends of yours?”) but they sent you a card every year for the past ten years, and now that you are looking at their card (“Honey, do you think we met them as a couple? Look at her, can you guess what her maiden name might have been?”) you realize that you haven’t sent them a card this year and better just in case it turns out that you owe them big time (“Honey, do you think this is the guy that pulled me out of that burning building the night I got drunk at that thing on that strong punch where we met whatshisname?”).

Christmas cards aren’t a bad thing.

It’s nice to have that annual touch – the reminder of times past, the feel good of friendships that once were and remain symbolic of those yet to come, the moment spent focused on another (if only for a moment).

And that is what does the heart the most good – that moment when you focus on another human being: just enough to register the significance of your lives having touched somewhere in the ether of time and space.

And the goodwill that comes of that moment.

Woe to he who replaces real relationship with Christmas Cards; who forsakes time spent in the company of his fellow man, instead settling for words scrawled in haste under a preprinted Joyeux Noel.

But for those that want to spend a moment of their day thinking, “Hey, look: Ceil is reading a story to her daughter. Ah, Ceil. What a sweetheart. I hope that is bringing her joy.”

To that guy, Facebook can be a blessing.

Just my thoughts,



Jen said...

Your title cracked me up! I like the comparison to Christmas cards too:)

Linds said...

Good words! I've always felt weird about the whole 'friend' thing on facebook - but then again, you couldn't really have a tier system without cheesing people off. "No, I'm sorry, you're just an acquaintance."

I thought about it a lot this year, because I had my students make facebook pages for Roman emperors and then add themselves as friends to my teacher account so I could grade them. I feel very wrong about having multiple Neros, Domitians, and Caligulas publically proclaimed as my friends.

Gaffney said...

Linds -- can you really afford not to have Caligula as your friend? And how do you think Nero would react to a denial -- "Thanks, Nero, but I don't feel our relationship rises to friend level. No hard feelings. See you at the street lighting ceremony!"

Brilliant classroom assignment, by the way.

David Goulet said...

At least with Christmas cards you only have to update your status once a year.

I'm so lazy.

Janet said...

Ah, but if you're a 14-year-old boy (who has never sent a Christmas card, and really won't until he has a wife to do it for him many years from now), then Facebook friends are acquaintances of acquaintances of acquaintances who said something cool on somebody's wall and maybe they'll say something cool on yours sometime, and besides, adding them ups your number of friends, and isn't that part of the point?...

Or Facebook friends are anonymous posters with really cool faux names and avatars, like "Professor Oak" (from Pokemon), because really, who could say no to a friend request from Professor Oak, regardless of who that person might be in real life (like maybe a cyberstalker, or a high school admissions counselor checking you out)...

Not that I've been lurking on my son's Facebook page or anything like that...