Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Social Experiment

There really is no other title for this one. 

Facebook is more than just a social networking website.  So.much.more.

It's a huge social experiment.

For me, it's been a way to share my writing with more people.  It's been a way to reconnect with long lost friends from my youth.  It's been a way for family members to stay in contact easily across the country.  It's been a way for me to share pictures of my kids with the friends and family who live far away.

It's a soapbox for my rants.  It's a sounding board for my frustrations.  It's a way for us to commiserate with each other about this strange adventure of life we are all on. 

People announce their new relationships, their engagements, their marriages, their breakups, their divorces.

People share the news of babies on the way, people console one another over the loss of a child.

People celebrate their graduations and their career successes, ponder what it all means when that job disappears. 

People you wish could stay in your past reappear.  People you don't need to stay in touch with want to be friends.  Suddenly one new added friend changes everything about your online life. 

It's made finding that missing friend easier, but it's also made finding that past flame easier too.  It's made it easier to cheat, and I've seen what it can help do to a marriage.  There are those who blame Facebook for the downfall of those relationships, but that's a fallacy.  The relationship was broken already if someone sought out something from someone in their past.  Facebook just made it simpler.

People can easily misinterpret status updates, things can be taken out of context.  There is no subtlety or nuance in the online world.  Some may know your sarcasm and wit, others may take everything you say at face value. 

People can stalk your profile, find out who you are friends with.

Some people can be holdouts, refusing to join the network.  They do it for different reasons, but I'm always a bit amused at them.  For a long time, I was one of them.  I didn't want to get on Facebook.  These days, though, it's more a statement of noncompliance than anything else.  Which is fine, but exclude yourself with the understanding that most people aren't going to go out of their way to contact you with all the same information, pictures, updates and questions if it's harder to get to you since you aren't there.  Facebook makes all that easier.  Maybe almost too easy.

For me, I found myself using Facebook in deliberate ways when my father was ill.  We had to withhold the news of his passing for many hours until my husband could get all the kids from school and deliver the news in person.  We couldn't chance someone saying something.  Too many people may have.

I found the existence of Facebook to be both a comfort and a great source of uneasiness in those days and weeks.  It felt strange to be sharing something so deeply personal with the world.  It was certainly an inner struggle.  I wrote this only a few days before he died.

A new trend I've seen is the combination profile, the couple that merges their profile.  It's ironic that just yesterday, only minutes after I decided to write about this today, a friend there did just that.   Some people think it's cute and sweet, that it shows unity to the world.   They are a team.  What you say to one, you must be willing to say to the other.  Or about them.  Or whatever.

I think it is weird, like so many other things about Facebook in general.  No one is ever equally friends with both members of a couple.  No individual in a couple is ever friends with everyone the other is.  No matter how much they both have in common, they are not and never will be the same person.  I don't understand. To me, all it says is that one of them doesn't trust the other one to be an individual floating around cyberspace.   

Someday, this social experiment that most of us are a part of will be studied in history classes.  I would venture to say that it is a turning point in technology's impact on humanity.   There is no going back to the world we lived in before it existed. 

I've witnessed it reunite more relationships than it's destroyed.  In my life, it's done far more good than bad.  I can only hope that balance doesn't shift. 

Only time will tell where this experiment leads us all.

1 comment:

  1. I was just wondering how to get my old creepy neighbor from friending me all the time.  He may just show up at my door and my husband just might shoot him.


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