Friday, August 10, 2012

Stepping Away From Facebook, Personally

Are Facebook friends your real friends?

I'm contemplating this question for the umpteenth time after reading Alicia Eler's thought-provoking "Now Is The Time To Quit Facebook":

Not long ago, I made a new friend on Facebook. A few weeks later, we ended up at dinner with a group of other people. I was looking forward to chatting with him in real life - he was so interesting on Facebook, so I figured we'd have lots to talk about offline. But that's not really what happened. We talked tech stuff and got our geek on. Then my Facebook friend mentioned something about the self-referential nature of Facebook. The conversation stopped. Then he grabbed his iPhone and stepped outside for a cigarette.
I turned to a woman sitting next to me, who I am not Facebook friends with, and proceeded to chat with her for at least an hour. After dinner she gave me a ride to my bike, which I had left down the street. I didn't think we'd have so much in common. And I did not go home and friend her on Facebook later. In fact, I am happy not reading her status updates.

For a while now, outside of professional use for clients, I've been easing away from Facebook. My account is strictly personal at this point, and I weed it from time to time of pages I'm not interested in, or people I don't really want to be "friends" with. I don't post very much, and mostly use it to browse what's going on with my far-flung family. If I want to talk to someone, I call, text, or email. Or better yet, I see them in person. Since I've downsized my Facebook presence, I've had many more real experiences with my actual friends: dinners, coffee meetings, movies, even a trip to Tanglewood. And I  am much better able to converse with people in person, to really build friendships.

Facebook is a wonderful medium for creating personae and facades--you can be anyone you want to be, and no one has to know the truth. But in building these outer shells, we're losing the sense of human connection, a sense of who we really are as people. Not long ago, someone mentioned to me that I'm always complaining on Facebook, and he was right in a sense, that I had posted a few times over a week and each status regarded a disappointment or annoyance. He pointed this out, because if you meet me in person, I'm an optimistic idealist, looking for the half-full glass. So what you see isn't always what you get.

Do you think it's time to leave Facebook? And do you have a cultivated Facebook persona? Please share your experience in the comments.

3 comments:

  1. Facebook to me is a chance to "see the babies" and "celebrate the babies." I want to know how everyone is doing, especially those I might have lost touch with because of job change, etc. I especially see it bridging a gap that people often feel in face-to-face relationships: age, income, geography, politics, relegion. I love it. But there is good with bad. (You don't complain at all.)

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  2. My most intimate friendships are still face to face, but Facebook has let me rediscover some people from my past that I really care about, and find out more about people from work or synagogue than I would have known from our conversations there. I do think I'm skipping past a lot of the items that people share on Facebook, though, unless they're especially clever. I'd rather hear their own thoughts, even if they're not so profound. We can enjoy one another for whom we really are.

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  3. @Anonymous: Thanks. And yes, I do love the ability to connect with missed connections, but I also find it makes me less likely to take the time to connect with people in real life.

    @Dennis: You're right; the meme has taken over Facebook. As a marketer, I know how vital it is to create something that will be shared and shared and shared (and hopefully lead to revenue), but on the other hand, it is sad that we lose out on hearing the voice of the individual.

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