In Facebook Thoughts, What's New

facebook: how much do you need it?When I first got on to Facebook, I had it bad. It was so beautiful. So pretty and white and blue. In fact, like a teenager discovering the opposite sex, I wanted to be with Facebook all the time.

My friend list quickly ballooned up to 900 as I indiscriminately accepted every friend request that came my way, regardless of how tenuous our real life connection. (In some instances, not at all).

Still, in the midst of my full-on love affair with Facebook, I kept my wits about me. I was never a power-poster, regaling people with the fascinating goings-on in my world, like “at the gym” or “feeling sick today.” Early on, I decided on a “no kids’ pictures” policy, with the thought that if I don’t know you well enough to hand you a physical photo of my kids (and you don’t know my kids well enough to care), I shouldn’t give you access to an electronic version. (I made a handful of exceptions through the years for exceptional ones, like an awesome action shot of my daughter about to head a soccer ball). I posted only when something moved or delighted or amused me to the point that I felt, “Man, it would be fun to have a girlfriend here to tell about this.” Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I did. 900 of them.

Then my love affair with Facebook matured a little. I winnowed out “friends” with whom I hadn’t shared some real-world connection, narrowing it down to a combination of high school friends, in-town buddies, co-workers-cum-social-connections and assorted people I know and love in their own, unique ways. I began to use the medium to post essays and to try to make useful contributions to the progress of human conversation (at times by no more than making people chuckle about my latest mishap in the dating meat market – I wasn’t writing environmental justice policy pieces or anything like that).

So, today, when I read a funny piece on my company’s The Stir about what your Facebook status REALLY means; (#1- “I’m so lucky to have the greatest husband in the world” translates into, “I can’t stand this jerk but I want all of you to think we’re blissfully happy”), it made me think about the current state of my Facebook romance.

The fact is, we’ve grown apart. Checking in once or twice a week these days, I find myself vaguely annoyed by about 50% of the statuses (stati?) that I see. The deep quote. The complaint. The business pitch. The public profound assertions of spousely love that would be much more appropriate across marital pillows than broadband connections.

I guess I realize now that on Facebook, mostly, people are talking. Not listening. Trying to be witty or eye-catching or pitiful or salesy to win a “Like” or a comment or a sale. Facebook is a vortex of need, a showcase of it, and not the intimate marketplace of togetherness I once wanted it to be.

Oh, I still see a lot of good in it. And I’m not of the old fuddy-duddy school that hand-wrings about how Facebook is killing in-person interaction. I’m vast enough to encompass both. I guess it’s not that I wish Facebook was better, but that I wish we were. Less self-centered. More original. Less transparently in need of attention.

I sound like a bit of a hater, but I am not judging. (Okay, maybe I’m judging a little. Just the really bad offenders, though, I promise). There is nothing inherently wrong with need and the desire for attention. (Heck, if there was, I’d need to implode into a cloud of purposeless loneliness dust, as I am a black hole of the need for attention). But, in the cacophony, I’d like to see us all pausing for a moment and asking ourselves: is this really newsworthy? What’s my true motivation for saying this? What do I need at this moment? And if the answer isn’t, “I’d like to share this without any attachment to the reaction,” then maybe find a more direct way to get our needs met. I’d like to see us supporting more and shouting from the rooftops less. I’d like to see us elevating the conversation, at least sometimes, by sharing more deep things and less inane things. (Although… keep bring the “animals taking over the world” pictures. Those rock).

So, Facebook friends, I am not advocating, like it is currently cool to do, that we all leave en masse and show Facebook we don’t need it any more. Clearly, a lot of us on here need it pretty desperately, in ways we may not even be admitting to ourselves. I am saying, instead, that we reassess our relationship, now that the initial heat has died down, and bring some maturity and depth to it. This is an awesome thing we’ve got going. Let’s not let it fizzle.

Re-post on Facebook if you agree. No, seriously, please, re-post. How else will I know anyone is listening? 😉

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maria andreu