1.16.2008

Thoughts on Facebook

On the last post, Jes said, in part:
you'll have to explain to me why you are against facebook. I skimmed the article, but I'd like to know why you are against it. ...
Seemed like the point was people are making way too much money of relationships- or am I way off? and if I'm not off- Facebook isn't the only thing making money off of relationships or simple ideas. Look at Blogger :)

She's referring to the article I linked to in the last post. I'm pulling out her comment & my response because my comment started getting long, and, frankly, it's my blog, so I can post it on the front page if I want to! :-P

This isn't a complete explanation of why I've avoided Facebook, but it's my initial thoughts:
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The advertising I, too, can put up with- and that's what much of the article is about. Some of the article was about the philosophies behind the founders, which are a little scary but could be put up with as well. My initial hesitation with the social network was disclosing personal information to an unknown computer system. I've noticed us software-developer types seem to be more wary of privacy than others, probably because we know how truly insecure most systems are.

Since my initial hesitations, I really resonate with the first couple paragraphs of the article:
"And does Facebook really connect people? Doesn't it rather disconnect us, since instead of doing something enjoyable such as talking and eating and dancing and drinking with my friends, I am merely sending them little ungrammatical notes and amusing photos in cyberspace, while chained to my desk? A friend of mine recently told me that he had spent a Saturday night at home alone on Facebook, drinking at his desk. What a gloomy image. Far from connecting us, Facebook actually isolates us at our workstations.

Facebook appeals to a kind of vanity and self-importance in us, too. If I put up a flattering picture of myself with a list of my favorite things, I can construct an artificial representation of who I am in order to get approval. It also encourages a disturbing competitiveness around friendship: it seems that with friends today, quality counts for nothing and quantity is king. The more friends you have, the better you are. You are "popular", in the sense much loved in American high schools. Witness the cover line on Dennis Publishing's new Facebook magazine: "How To Double Your Friends List."
I've decided to opt out of the popularity contest and instead put my limited time and energy toward face-to-face relationships. I can't afford to take on another online obligation, another time-sink. Every now & then I hear old news about a mutual acquaintance from a friend on Facebook, and I feel a twinge of being "left out", but I get over it, because I know that my friends that really care if I stay in touch make the effort to do so with me through other means and I appreciate that immensely.

Disclaimer: This is not a knock on those who do choose to keep a circle of friends on social networking sites. This is just my explanation of why I choose to spend my time & energy differently.

A side note: How is Blogger different than Facebook? I see it as the amount of control I have over my information. I choose what I put out for the Internet to read. I choose how searchable my information is. I choose the design of my site (I know, it's not that great, but I have creative control over it.) When you search for my name (or my maiden name), this blog is not the first result. What does appear is acceptable to me. Perhaps all these same choices can be made within the social networking sites as well, but I'm choosing a blog as my online social outlet, until I'm given a compelling reason not to.
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I know I'm vastly in the minority here. What's your argument for opting in or out of social networking? What benefits have you found, one way or the other?

8 comments:

Jes said...

I didn't really mean to compare facebook to blogger in terms of what they are for, more of that they are both making money on common ideas.
I really don't have much to do with facebook, myspace or dittytalk. I do have accounts, but unlike people I know (like my husband) I don't check them every time I get on the computer, and I don't spend time on them. They are more a way for me to contact old friends. Lots of times I'll get a message from someone on one of those networks, and look at their profile only to find someone from high school that I've been looking for. It's fun for that. I can't imagine ever spending as much time on one of those sites as I do blogging though.
Thanks for your post!! :)

Caroline elise said...

I completly respect your choice not to be on facebook but...I have really enjoyed keeping up with friends that you might not typically get to celebrate with. Most importantly, I have reconnected with friends from kindergarten that I would have never probably gotten in touch with if it was not for facebook. Yes there is a creepy side of facebook, but overall i think its not as bad as you think!!

Love You!

Matt said...

Your words "social outlet" helped me put a finger on why facebook is helpful to me. It's also a social inlet.

I also feel sorry for people who treat social networking sites as substitutes for actual face time with their friends. But, the older I get, the more people I know that have moved beyond my small circle of people I can actually afford to see face to face. It is a small joy to be able to see pictures of them getting married, or with their new baby, or just hear news about their life.

I know nothing about the philosophy of the creators or whatnot. I just like knowing that I won't lose complete touch with some people who have played important roles in my life, even if they move or change email addresses.

Melissa said...

Facebook is the only "social networking" site I've got an account for. I didn't have one until just a few months ago when my siblings invited me.

"My initial hesitation with the social network was disclosing personal information to an unknown computer system."

I don't know about social networking sites in general, but Facebook allows you to only put the information you want. I've basically put in information you can find out already elsewhere online, nothing more. You're not required to disclose much of anything.

Also, you control in a very fine grained way who is allowed to see what. Every category you can say whether only you, only your friends, only people in your networks, or everyone can see that specific bit of information. You can't look at someone's profile/information unless you're their friend.

I have most things set to only friends can see my info. And even then, you can set certain friends to only see a "limited profile".

So, in summary, you have much control over who can see what and you don't even have to put in information if you don't want to. If you're responsible, I don't see privacy as being a problem. Some people aren't and put way too much info in and accept/add friends they don't even know.

"I've decided to opt out of the popularity contest and instead put my limited time and energy toward face-to-face relationships."

I'm sure lots of people use it as a popularity contest. You don't have to, though.

For me, I've reconnected/messaged friends I had back in California I hadn't talked to in many years. I've been able to see where tons of people from my old church have gone off to and done with their lives.

They're not people I'll be able to have a face-to-face relationship with. I don't use Facebook for the face-to-face relationships. It's just a way to keep in touch with people who are far away.

One of my favorite parts is the picture sharing. You can upload albums and tag the people who are in the pictures. It's awesome looking through my old Church's albums. There are kids I knew when they were 5 and they're so much older looking now!

My siblings upload pictures of events they've gone to and I get to see what they've been up to despite the fact I can't be there to do things with them.

I definitely think face-to-face relationships should have a lot more focus and energy, but I really like being able to stay more in touch with my family via facebook. That's one reason I keep a blog too. It's one way my family can keep up with what I'm doing with my life.

"I can't afford to take on another online obligation, another time-sink."

Now that's something I can totally agree with. Despite the fact that I use Facebook, I don't mind it or find too much reprehensible about it, I'd say it's about 10% useful, 90% waste of time. You can add all these games, quizes, applications, and things to do with friends or cute things to put on your profile page. But it's such a waste of time! Sure, reconnecting and staying in touch with people is great, all the silly applications are a waste of time.

Some of the applications I don't mind. I have a bookshelf application where I put in the books I've read, books I want to read, and what I'm currently reading. I can see what friends have read or say about books and it recommends books I might like. That's kind of useful.

Or there's a Scrabble game you can play through Facebook with your friends. Now, I think getting together with friends to play games is better, but with those you can't, it's a fun way to do something together.

But things like the Zombie, Slayer, Vampire, Werewolf applications... or SuperPoke, FunWall, Hotness, and oh my goodness, the list goes on. I would find it completely reasonable to avoid Facebook because you don't want to get sucked in to all the silly games and applications you can spend time on.

All in all, I think Facebook is less "evil" than you think (if used properly) and it can be a useful tool for staying in touch with certain people. Is it a necessary tool? No. And it's easy for it to be a waste of time (with all those silly applications) or be abused by less responsible people.

So, I find it reasonable to wish to avoid it. Personally, I enjoy using Facebook as a tool for staying more in touch with my family and occasionally seeing what's up with someone I haven't talked to in years. But it isn't replacing any or my face-to-face relationships and I don't use it that way.

If you ever do decide to use Facebook, though. I'd love to play a game of Scrabble with you. :)

Now ends my very long comment. :P

Melissa said...

Oh my goodness, that was longer than your post! :o

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

I think Melissa pretty much sums up everything I would say. I agree with her wholeheartedly, and I would add that it's easy to ignore all the useless applications that she mentions.

I will also say another pro for Facebook: It is great for planning events. It allows me to invite a lot of people that I might not necessarily still be in contact with. (And that's okay - I think it's important right now for everyone to be included, even if I'm not that close to them. They'll come if they want to.) Also, you can easily see who is planning to come or not (let's face it, we often decide whether to go to something or not depending on if our friends are going). As the event administrator, I can send mass messages to everyone invited or just everyone coming. The messages go to the email address connected to their Facebook accounts, so I don't have to worry about whether I have an old address or not. I can keep the main event page updated with the latest info, and people can leave comments and have discussions. I think it's a great feature on Facebook, and helps me a LOT when planning a Gerig reunion.

affert said...

I do not use facebook anymore. I have come to believe that the people running it are more concerned with making money than providing me a way to protect and control my information. Using an application like facebook must be based on trust: you trust that the company won't do bad things with the information that you put on their servers. I just didn't trust them anymore.

Raghuram said...

The quality of your friends defines you, not the quantity.

Anything you do for a long time on the internet is addictive and that includes facebook, blogger and everything else.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

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