To Book or Not to Book?

I’m on vacation this week, so thought it would be fun to get input on my search from the people witnessing it first hand. Here, my BFF Sara contemplates the merits of the most modern form of friending: Facebook.

The best way to begin this post is by saying that Rachel is one of the only people in the world I would ever agree to “guest blog” for. I’m not on Facebook, I stopped using AIM circa 1996 when the away message took hold. I’ve abstained from most forms of social media, partially because their public nature scares me. So blogging is just about the last thing I’d do on my own. But for Rachel, I would do anything—she is, after all, my oldest BFF.

[For regular readers – I’m Sara – I let Rachel smush my chubby 9-year- old-cheeks, brought her clean clothes when her father was in the hospital, sent her flowers for her book deal, and, yes, I don’t always return calls promptly (although I think we’re on a good streak!).]

As for Facebook, it’s not that I think Facebook is evil, it’s just not for me… or, so far it hasn’t been for me. The truth is I’m conflicted. So I figured I’d take this “chance” (read, semi-obligatory BFF favor) to publicly deliberate my non-Facebook status.

Why I’m not on “The Good Book” (as a dear friend and late FB adopter referred to it today, while we were having a lovely, face-to-face, lunch)…

1. I wouldn’t use it… a lot. Confession, right off the bat – I don’t have an account, but I do have access, thanks to a couple BFFs who have granted me permission to log on via their accounts whenever I need to do some “social research” or just when the mood strikes. But the mood doesn’t strike that often.

2. I might use it… a lot. Current users’ #1 complaint – time suckage. In the little-to-zero time I have free these days, I’d rather spend it on actual face time with friends. But I know how easy it is look up from a friend-of-a-friend’s hot brother’s crazy co-worker’s wedding photos and realize it’s 3 hrs later.

3. I’m self-conscious. I dread the performative aspect of it. I resent the demand to represent yourself, your social life, your hipness through lists of your favorite movies (or clever stand-ins for these lists), witty status updates, collection of friends, and, of course, photographic evidence of your awesome life. I don’t want to obsess over these details until I’m certain they capture me accurately, and favorably. And I’d rather not be tempted to compare my life to the awesomeness captured in other people’s photos. My life is great, but I don’t know if it photographs well, and I never take pictures.

4. I don’t want to be found.  I don’t want to field friend requests and messages from people with whom I’m perfectly happy to have lost touch.  Given that I’m bad enough at returning calls and emails from people I love dearly, chances are I won’t respond, but I’ll feel really really guilty about it!

5. Now, it’s kind of a self-image thing. I had a boyfriend once tell me that when his mom found out I wasn’t on Facebook she liked me more. I kind of like myself more for it too. Especially when everyone else and their mom is on it (said mom included), it feels somewhat rare. If I did have a FB page, it might be something I’d include in the “about me.”

Why I might cave…

1. I do feel left out. Everyone and their mom is on it, especially everyone my age (my Sr. year of college was it’s very first year).  So much of my friends’ collective references occur on FB. I miss the punchlines in person. Party invitations happen on Facebook. I just assume I wasn’t invited.

2. When face time is not an option. Obviously I wouldn’t mind knowing more about what’s going on in the lives of my friends who are far away (or a borough away). Especially since we’ve established my direct upkeep with them is not the best.

3. We’re all voyeurs, even if we’re not all exhibitionists. I could look at photos of interesting strangers for hours, even if I wouldn’t post my own.

4. Anthropological/sociological research. You can learn a lot by looking at photos of interesting strangers, not to mention actual acquaintances. Plus, since Facebook’s userbase would apparently make it the 5th most populist country in the world, I sort of have to do it to understand my own culture, right? The American Studies major in me thinks so.

5. I know, I know, it’s what you make of it. I get it, your profile can be as slim as you want it to be, your status can remain blank, privacy settings can even make you invisible, filters can kill information overload.

So can anyone sway me one way or the other?  What made you first join?  Total satisfaction?  Frustrations?  Any other remaining holdouts like me?

15 Comments

Filed under 21st Century Friendships

15 responses to “To Book or Not to Book?

  1. Megan

    I admit, Facebook can be a time-suck…but I do believe its benefits far outweigh its disadvantages. Given that I am usually a quiet person and I don’t often pick up the phone and call people I am not close with, Facebook is a great option to keep in touch with all those wonderful people I have met along the way. My best friends and family and I share phone and Skype conversations and the unbeatable face-to-face visits…but when it comes to acquaintances, Facebook is the primary channel for keeping in touch. Plus, I enjoy getting to SEE their new baby, that cool trip they took, and the cool links they post that expand my knowledge on many other areas besides friendship.

    I’ve mentioned before in these comments that my husband is in the military, thus, we move a lot. Facebook is amazing at letting me keep in touch with our friends from home and all the new friends we have made through these moves. Next year, we are moving to England for 3 years. I am actually planning on upping my Facebook time since it will be “free” communication rather than expensive international phone calls. I also recently created an account for my husband who was a staunch Facebook protestor. And you know what? Now he loves it! He doesn’t have to keep up with his friends through me anymore. We’re both more connected. In a world in which who you know matters more than what you know, Facebook can be a lifesaver.

    [Or maybe I'm just justifying the time-suck?]

  2. Karen A.

    Hi Sara! I am with you, conflicted. I do have an account, but have set every privacy filter and have the slimmest of profiles. Only on it due to peer pressure. And I practically set a timer to limit my time there, because it can suck up a lot of time if one is not careful. I much prefer face to face, phone calls or even (dare I say it?) a snail mail letter! Yikes – stationary, pen, envelop, address and stamp.

    Very interesting post, Rachel is very lucky to have you in her corner.

  3. Natalie

    I joined to keep contact with friends who move away and also my relatives (also far away). I live near a military town and many of the friends I make are quite often attached to military. When their service member is sent to another U. S. or overseas location, I can still keep in touch.

    I have also enjoyed finding some high school friends and college friends to catch up with.

    I agree with you Sara, the time slips away while chatting with several people. I prefer not to log in, but I see a message and log in to respond. Then it is an hour or more later………where did the time go?

  4. Emily

    I totally get where you’re coming from, Sara! I was a hold-out for ages, until about 5 months ago when I was told that the bride and maid of honor for a wedding I’m a bridesmaid in would be communicating bridal party information via Facebook. Since I felt it would be inappropriate to tell the bride that she had to communicate everything to me separately and because I’d been waffling, for the same reasons you mentioned, for a while, I decided to cave. I signed up and, while it’s not a huge life error that I regret, I do still wish I hadn’t done it. I tried to be diligent for the first few weeks and log in at least a few times a week, but now I haven’t logged in for ages – I don’t even know the last time. I set it up so that any updates to the bridal party group are sent automatically to my email, so I don’t even have to log in for that. I hate the idea that Facebook owns any photos you put on it or that people I don’t know or like can see details of my life. All of my info is a private as possible and I have never done a status update. In my opinion, you should hold out for as long as you can and remain Facebook-free so long as that’s what you want. It’s what I wish I did!

    • Emily, you know you can always just cancel your account, right? For the most part things will be just the way they were before you left, and any references to you on people’s walls will suddenly be “unavailable”!

  5. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

    I too was an opponent of FB… until I realized that the fad was not going away. “Go on Facebook” was the answer to too many questions: “How was your bday party?”, “When did you get the invitation?”, “What does your new girlfriend/boyfriend look like?”, “Did you take any pictures at my wedding that you can share?”. Its so ingrained in society that you can’t not be a part of this social medium.

    At the end, the tipping point for me to join was pictures. Even though I wan’t signed up, I was still prominently displayed in pictures on my friends’ pages. They may think that picture of me at 3 am is classic, but I’d rather not have co-workers, family, etc. stumble upon them while surfing the site. These are my friends, so they obviously wouldn’t post anything too incriminating… I just prefer the ability to monitor the content and exercise my veto power.

  6. Alisa

    I was a long-time holdout for all of the reasons you mentioned. I finally joined because I live far away from all of my BFF’s, we all just had babies, and I was missing out on all of the pictures. I am a sporadic poster, but I do lurk to see what ridiculous stuff other people write. It’s entertaining. :)
    But for me the biggest plus has been to serve as an easy way to weed out the crazies. This might seem like a strange thing to post on a blog dedicated to making friends, but sometimes the knowledge of who NOT to befriend is very very helpful.
    That girl that seems laid-back and cool and like someone I might want to be friends with? Well she posts crazy, militant political and religious rhetoric that just doesn’t sit well with me. So thank you, Facebook, for allowing me to see the crazy BEFORE I spent all my time and energy on someone I should be avoiding.

  7. I did not create my facebook account. My girlfriend in college did because she needed people to see that she was “in a relationship” when they visited her page. During college I rarely checked in on it. But after graduation and a cross-country move to a city I love (LA) but only knew 1 person in, it became a great tool to stay in the loop with friends back on the East coast. In fact, it helped me save time because I could spend hours on the phone yapping with each individual back home, or I could send one mass message and everyone could chime back in with replies. Now that I’m in grad school it is again useful for keeping tabs on people I meet, and anyone you don’t want to be friends with you don’t have to be and don’t have to share anything with them either. I’m not saying I would miss it for a second if it shut down tomorrow, I’m just saying I do use it and its not everything horrific it is sometimes made out to be.

  8. I’m the complete opposite of pretty much every commenter.

    I joined Facebook as soon as my college gained access. Maybe 2004 or so, my sophomore/junior year. I know it was still called “The Facebook” at the time and was limited to certain colleges and universities.

    During that time period, my friends and I practically lived on the internet, and we were always trying out the newest, hippest thing (Xanga, LiveJournal, Blogger, Kazaa, Limewire, Wirehog, Audioscrobbler/Last.fm, flickr, Twitter, etc., all before they went “mainstream”). We posted every party picture and every single thing we did on Facebook.

    Now, as a full-fledged adult, I’ve limited the access to my profile, removed personal contact information, and deleted the most incriminating photos, but I absolutely still use Facebook to keep in touch with friends from high school, college, and beyond, as well as my out-of-state family. I link my blog posts, share photos from Flickr, and post snippets from my life, as do many of my friends.

    I don’t do Farmville or the like, though, and block every annoying update I see!

    My husband was a total hold-out too, but he uses it as much as I do now.

  9. Ana

    I think the difference in the attitude of the commenters may be related to age? I was well out of college and grad school when I heard about facebook, basically kept getting requests from high school friends who eventually made me join so we could plan a get-together (that was actually really really fun!). I am not a big status poster, but I do put up pictures of vacations, and my baby, so that friends and family far and wide can keep up with major events. And I love looking at others’ pictures. The unexpected benefit for me was using facebook as a venue for advice…particularly on tricky parenting subjects, but also recommendations for “what bug is causing these bites in my rose plants” and “where to stay on the jersey shore?”—I get input from surprising people, and can take advantage of the experience of so many more friends and acquaintances than I could ever contact one-on-one! Even people you know pretty well in real life may have interests you never suspected—which can be a good & bad thing to find out, as Alisa mentioned above.

  10. AmyK

    I really enjoy FB. I don’t play the games or do the quizzes, so I don’t spend a lot of time on it. Maybe 5-10 minutes in the morning and 15-20 minutes in the evening. It’s a great way to keep up with long-distance friends and family, network with former coworkers, and find fun events that your friends might know about but not be attending. “Correspondence” used to be a dirty word, but FB has made it fun and easy.

    If someone “friends” me that I’m not interested in being in touch with, I ignore the request. I have very little personal info on FB, and have limited who can see it. I don’t feel pressured to keep up with others as far as posting a lot of photos or making my life sound more fabulous than it it :)

    I just like what’s going on with my loved ones that I don’t get to see all the time!

  11. Bette

    I love FB! But I joined for a reason not yet mentioned…to keep up with my three college-aged children! Interestingly, the two male young adults accepted my invitation and chat with me daily….but my daughter ignored my friend request and told me she didn’t want to see her mother on FB. LOL. ;-) I can live with that b/c I know I would have felt the same way!

    I have a very limited number of FB friends and don’t accept any “friend requests” from co-workers or “friends of friends.” My FB circle consists of people I would want to spend time with socially, thus I enjoy hearing about their lives, seeing photos, keeping current on their news, etc. I was in the Navy long ago, and many of my friends are overseas—FB is a great way to keep in touch with them.

  12. I joined three years ago when I was going through chemo, couldn’t sleep, and was looking for ways to kill time in the middle of the night.

    Reasons I’m glad to be on FB now:
    •I have reconnected with people I wouldn’t have even thought to look up
    •I have a network of like-minded people with regards to health and things like that
    •I see many news and other articles that I wouldn’t otherwise see because I pretty much live in a cave
    •I have a whole bunch of people who work in my field who I can ask for ideas from in a jiffy

    Yeah, there are some people who have requested to be friends who I’m just not interested in socializing with. (And, based on requests I’ve made that haven’t been answered, I suspect I’ve contacted some people who aren’t interested in connecting with me … which is OK.) But I just ignore them and eventually, they go away. I don’t play the games (FarmVille, Mafia Wars, etc.) — it’s completely social. I like it :)

  13. Pingback: A Little Help From My Friends… | MWF Seeking BFF

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