I am not on Facebook. It became a thing for me when I overheard my two sisters discussing a trip one of them had taken. “I didn’t know you went to San Diego for a week,” I said, to which one sister replied, “you’d know if you were on Facebook. That’s how I knew.” “Or I’d know if you would pick up the phone and actually call your sister!” I replied. I’d heard “you’d know if you were on Facebook” one too many times, so that day, not being on Facebook became a thing. And anyone who knows me knows that I don’t give up on things easily.
There are a million reasons why I should be on Facebook. For all intents and purposes, I am a prime candidate to be part of the Facebook generation. I have friends and family around the world, I’ve mentored high school students for eight years now, and we know how they grow up and graduate and move. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. I know myself really well, and if I let myself go I have no doubt that social media would replace actual communication as my main form of connecting with people. I’m an incredibly social person, and I like to be caught up and involved in the lives of those I love. Currently I do this by seeing them at church, at work, at Bible study, and reaching out when I haven’t seen them for a while. Not being on Facebook forces me to send a text, to make a phone call, to physically do something to reach out and be present in their lives. Sure, I miss things by not having access to their regular status updates, but when we get to talk in person it’s real. Just being on Twitter makes me feel like I’m getting caught up on my friend’s lives by reading their 140-character soundbites. But that’s not real connection.
Rachel of the hilarious MWF Seeking BFF wrote about the perils of falling for Facebook today, and it reminded me that I’d been meaning to write about this for a while, as I keep getting asked why I’m not on FB. “But you can catch up with people you knew in high school!” “But you can see all the things your friends like and get recommendations!” “But you can post updates and get instant feedback, which is really validating!” All good arguments, but you know what I say?
- Anyone that I want to be in my life is in my life. I have a hard enough time keeping up with the people I see on a regular basis to spend an hour looking at the walls of old high school friends that I haven’t seen in years. That’s an hour that I could spend having coffee with a real friend, and building a foundation of personal face-to-face friendship that no virtual interaction will ever be able to replicate. Sure, I wonder from time to time what bygone friends are up to, but that’s what email is for. The benefit of keeping up with everyone I ever knew does not outweigh the cost it would have on my current friendships.
- If I need a recommendation, I call a friend who has good taste and ask them about it. Often this results in a plan to get together to pursue whatever it was that I was calling about, a plan to get together for drinks soon to catch up, or at the very least a ten minute chat during which we personally update each other on our lives. Actual social interaction, people. Get into it.
- I’ll admit it, I like to feel like people care about what I say and what’s going on in my life. I get excited every time a comment pops up on this baby blog of mine, or I get an @ response on Twitter. It’s validating. It says to me “I have thoughts, I have a voice, what I think and feel matters to people.” I have no doubt that it feels great to have people post messages on your wall on your birthday, or put up sympathetic emoticons if I post that I’m having a bad day. But I’ve noticed that that type of validation is a double-edged sword. My real life bff @MelissaMcAlpin tweeted recently “You know when you post something revealing on FB or twitter and nobody replies.. That’s like the webs version of an awkward silence.” And she’s exactly right. When we post we start looking to those things for validation and when we don’t get a response back it sucks. I’ve tweeted about a bad day and felt like I disappeared into the white-noise of the internet when all I got back was crickets. So maybe not being on Facebook means I’m missing out on regular feelings of validation, which I’ll be the first to admit I crave. But I’ll take getting less validation online, because I have friends who call me. Who text me at the last minute to see if I want to meet up. I get voice mails on my birthday from far away loved ones singing to me over the phone. I get invitations to things in person, usually prefaced with “hey, I know you’re not on Facebook, so I wanted to make sure you knew about this get-together I’m planning…” Would that all happen if I were on Facebook? Maybe, but I doubt it.
So Facebook and I are not friends. Maybe we will be one day, because I do see the value in that type of easy communication. (In fact, I’ll be posting a counter-argument tomorrow about why I might consider joining Facebook, because I’m masochistic enough to like being my own devil’s advocate.) But for now, I’m happy with my life and the friendships I’ve made and maintained the old-fashioned way: face-to-face.
So what’s your take on Facebook? Worth it or not? I know I’m in the minority, so I’d love to hear why you love it or choose to live without it.