Friday, November 05, 2010

In Praise of Facebook

What's with all the Facebook bashing?  'Facebook users are narcissistic.'  'Yes, and also immature.'  Facebook 'friends' aren't real friends!  Get over it!  Move on!  The rest of us have. 

Well, I love Facebook, and I'm not ashamed to say it.  I love it because it satisfies two of my primary neuroses--wanting to know how people are, in perpetuity, and not wanting to pester them. 

I was beyond delighted, the first time I was 'friended' by someone from elementary school.  I had been looking for that girl for twenty-five years.  Just because we're not seven years old and living down the street from one another anymore doesn't mean that I stopped liking her; it's a real thrill to know that A. is doing just fine, is happily married with two kids, and living in Dallas.

Is this so strange?  Reading the comments in this letter, I get the feeling that there are a lot of people out there who can't understand it.  They regard Facebook as an onerous burden, or a popularity contest, or a haven for the self-involved.  But it seems to me that there's nothing less self-involved than being interested in other people, whether you see them every day or not.

The reason I love it is that it takes so little effort.  What's narcissistic, as well as time-consuming, is emailing a thousand people five times a week; Facebook is great because you can ignore it. You can share as much or as little as you like, and everybody out there is free to take it or leave it.

Also, it helps me to avoid one of my existential terrors--that of Calling At A Bad Time.  Thanks to Facebook, I will never run the risk of inviting someone to see the latest Harry Potter film when they're on the way to their mother's funeral.  I can limit my guest list to people who are not in labor.  I can send congratulations, condolences and silly jokes at the right moments, not the wrong ones.  How is this not a fabulous thing?

Of course my Facebook 'friends' aren't all my friends.  I'm not an idiot.  It's a good way of helping me decide who I want to get to know better, however.  If I 'friend' a new acquaintance and discover that she's a member of 'One Million Strong For Sarah Palin,' that saves me the price of a cup of coffee.  
I'm not going to 'defriend' her, though.  Since Facebook is such a minimal-impact medium, it perplexes me when people feel a need to purge their 'friend' lists for trivial reasons, such as 'I don't know who all these people even are,'  or 'We haven't spoken face to face in three months.'  The only things that will cause me to defriend you is: 1) I don't know you, and you keep sending me press releases for events in cities that I never visit; and 2) I know you very, very well, and you know what you did.