The world does not revolve around you. Let me repeat that: the world does not revolve around you. Nor around me. (maybe around our pets...but not us)
Over at Real Simple, this article on Facebook: Can Facebook Be Your Friend? : goes into a lot of detail about social networking via facebook...and in the end, although writer Susan Dominus seems to "get it"...I think she still misses the big point. The big point being: the world does not revolve around me or you or Susan. It revolves around the people we know, or wish we knew. And, a whole lot of them are on Facebook. Eventually, all of them will be. Yes, I do believe that to be true. Eventually, everyone you know will be on Facebook.
That's a truth you might as well accept because it isn't ME saying so -
- it isn't pundits saying so - it isn't even your kids saying so - it's a fact of life in the 21st century and if you want to take part in the 21st century, get over the fact that Facebook has you cornered.
To Susan's credit, she is not approaching Facebook the way I approach Facebook. In her story, and it's a good story, she expresses a bit of alarm that intimate details of her life are now available for the world to review, because...on Facebook, you are the company you keep.
[i.e. to quote one of my favorite poems:
One night in late October,
When I was far from sober,
Returning with my load with manly pride,
My feet began to stutter,
So I lay down in the gutter,
And a pig came near and lay down by my side;
A lady passing by was heard to say,
"You can tell a man who boozes, By the company he chooses,"
And the pig got up and slowly walked away. Unknown]
The reality of using any social networking tool, but especially Facebook, lies in your purpose. I am not online for fun. My presence on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn, is a result of my professional status as a social media consultant. MOST, though not all, of my connections are business connections.
Susan goes on and on in her story about the sudden resurfacing of old boyfriends and childhood friends who "found" her on Facebook. I cannot actually speak to that issue since I remain woefully unfound by friends from my childhood. Though I've read about this before - in other publications and even on Facebook in notes from people I am connected to - it has not really happened to me.
I wonder if I'm to be insulted or depressed? The Yvonne DiVita Wall is like many other Walls - open to my friends and family. And, if a childhood connection were to pop up, I'd be delighted to be remembered, depsite some not so pleasant memories of those long ago (skinny) days of the mid-20th century. Am I invisible - or not worthy of connecting to? Is it because Yvonne DiVita is NOT the person people knew - back when? (that was a whole other person with a whole other name - and no, I won't share).
Facebook is my business arena, and not somewhere I spend social time with family, although I am connected to family there. It is a bit unsettling, at times, when you are connected to your children and they...as they are wont to do...forget that you are among their 'friends' list, and they share information that makes you swallow hard, as a parent. Luckily, my children have taken the advice of not sharing their most intimate details on the net seriously - but still, some of the pictures and comments and videos (that means you, Chloe) give a Mother pause.
I so agree with this statment Susan makes, "It’s not just the time demands of the site that can be taxing; it’s also the complexities of online social mixing―which, in contrast to regular daily life, involves mysterious sets of protocol and frequent overtures from unlikely sources."
Those complexities and mysterious sets of protocol and freguent overtures can be the pitfalls of business networking, via Facebook. They are one reason people like me have businesses. And yet, they exist both in the business functioning of Facebook and the personal channels. Facebook does not give you the option to create two accounts, one for business and one for pleasure. Your life is forever intertwined on your Facebook Wall, just as if...golly, as if you lived your business life and your personal life together.
And therein lies the confusion: you cannot be one person in one setting, and a different person in another setting, on Facebook. Oh, I know, you ARE different -- your business/professional life and your Mom or a Dad life are different. Yes, I know - you would not say certain things to business clients that you would say to your children or your sister or husband, as they lurk about on Facebook - ever watching to see who is doing what, and why. But, in the end, your words and your actions exist in whatever space and time you happen to exist in; in speaking to whomever it is you're speaking to - you relinquish the right to privacy. Words will out. Gossip will spread. Reputations will be made and tarnished, at home or at the office. Online or offline.
Perhaps this means we all need to be a bit more - civilized. My alternate universe, as touted in the title of this post, is really not so far removed from yours. The edges intertwine, and we connect, and we choose whether or not to be civilized with each other. Facebook merely smoothes the edges of those universes - allowing us to pass back and forth with relative ease. The better to meet like-minded people, to share life with friends and family, and to support the causes of humanity - including but not limited to: life, literature, business, charity, leadership, and hope.
Susan writes, "For all my ambivalence about the site, I’ve noticed that for me―a perpetually pressed-for-time working mother―the website has considerable advantages that offset its less ideal aspects. The site provides a hyperspeed overview of the boldfaced concerns and activities of my extended friends and family: In less than 20 minutes of surfing, I can learn what’s weighing on their minds, where they will be vacationing, and what movie they’re raving about―probably more than I would glean from a month’s worth of cocktail parties, mommy-group meetings, and dinners out. I know these insights may not be as deep as the ones I would be getting in person, but they’re better than the general information whiteout I felt I was living in before I started using Facebook."
I submit that she IS getting the deeper version on Facebook. In person, the people of the world reveal less...your eyes peering into the windows of their soul, intimidate them. On Facebook, they have but a computer monitor to answer to. If you are at all familiar with them, it's not hard to read between the lines.
In my universe, the conversations revolve around business and the next big thing in technology. In Susan's universe, the conversations seem to revolve around friendships and family. I submit that the two are forever intertwined - and that the nuances offered in reading between the lines, reveal more than the written words no matter who is saying them and no matter the setting. So, is there an answer to Susan's initial question: Can Facebook be your friend?
I say no. Facebook can only connect you to other people, who are or are not, friends. Facebook has no real interest in you.
Facebook is a place I go, not a friend I make. Any other thoughts?