3.30.2009

"Get Outta My Face"-book


This post has been brewing in my head for a few weeks. I have mulled it over, then pushed it aside. I have thought about it while walking Sofie and doing housework and going grocery shopping and then chosen to ignore it yet again. I have shared some of my concerns/thoughts with dear friends and then gone on with my busy life. But today I decided I was tired of thinking about it, and I just needed to do something already.

First, a little background: Somehow, (and to this day I'm not sure how), I avoided Facebook for a very long time. I was busy with my blog and other fun internet things and I didn't realize what I was supposedly missing. Then one day last summer, I decided to take the plunge. I have no idea exactly what possessed me or what was the impetus for the "plunge", but I signed up for my very own Facebook account and the rest, as they say, is history.

I was hooked! Within days, hours even, I had connected with friends from college and high school. I spent hours corresponding with them, looking at their pictures, sending and receiving Flair buttons, and playing Word Twist. Evidently, I had nothing else important to do because, you know, we find time for those things that are important to us, and I sure found LOTS of time for Facebook!

As the months went by, I became less enamored and started feeling a slight, icky nagging about this whole Facebook phenomenon. True to form, I ignored it and plunged ahead. Naturally, I assumed, all of my "friends" were waiting with bated breath to read my status updates and see my beautiful children and know what books I was reading. And surely I wanted to know every last inane detail about their lives too------or did I?

And then I started really thinking about this Facebook thing and asking myself some questions. Seriously, do I need to know that T just made a gourmet meal for 1500 people? Do I care that P just did 8,000 sit ups after running 40 miles? Does it really matter to her 4,789,235 friends that H has to take the dog to the vet, stop by the dry cleaners, and get her oil changed today? Does anyone, anywhere EVER need to know that R just got back from the urologist or that B has a painful ingrown toenail? Is nothing sacred any more?

And, come on, how many "random things" do I truly need to know about that guy who sat behind me in one class for one semester in college? And those quizzes------how did I ever survive for 40 years without knowing what type of flower I am, what Easter dress I should buy, or what Sesame Street character I am most like? And while I'm venting, I might as well admit right now that if you've ever sent me a green patch request, a mixed drink, a twirl invitation, a dessert, or some other "thingamabob"----I've ignored you. There, I've said it. Now you know the whole ugly truth.

The saying used to go The eyes are the windows to the soul, but I'm pretty sure that, in this day and age, that would more appropriately read Facebook is the window to the soul, and the bathroom, and the gym, and the laundry room, etc. I'm thinking that they shouldn't be called "status updates" but "brag updates" or "fish for compliments updates". Many days I think the site should be called "In Your Face-book" as it seems people just enjoy the opportunity to show off and self-promote. Or maybe "Two Faced Book" would be more appropriate--as it seems so many people misrepresent themselves to others. And don't even get me started on all the "mushiness"--some days it's like one big happy mutual admiration society.

And what about the term "friends"? There used to be a time when that word meant something, but not anymore. In the world of Facebook, a "friend" can be barely an acquaintance, someone I've passed once or twice in the hallway at church, someone who saw me buying toilet bowl cleaner at the grocery store, a middle schooler who thinks he knows my son. And what about the people who I thought were my friends but haven't "friend requested" me or people who want to be my "friends" who I choose to ignore? Or, worse, people who are friends on Facebook but actually meet and do things in real life but don't include me? Oh, the horror!!! It's like high speed junior high--and I don't know about you, but I'd rather not revisit junior high. Once was enough.

Last month, just before Lent began, I read a thought-provoking blog post that drove all of this home for me and helped me to think about, pray about, and seriously reevaluate my "need" for Facebook. Honestly, I don't think Facebook, in and of itself, is a bad thing, but I do think, like anything else, it gets used and misused in many ways. As I've been evaluating/re-evaluating/ and thinking about this for myself (and I freely admit that I am as guilty at the next guy), I've narrowed it down to a few core issues:

1. Time--I spend enough time on the internet. Is Facebook a wise use of that time or just another thing that prevents me from caring for my home properly, spending time deepening my relationships with REAL LIFE friends, spending time with God?

2. Intent--Why is Facebook so fun for me? Do I genuinely want/need to know all these things about people or am I just being nosy/voyeuristic and are all my "friends" doing the same with me? Does Facebook make me greedy/envious/jealous as I read about all the things my "friends" have, do, see, etc? Am I trying to make my "friends" greedy/envious/jealous when I post things?

3. Godliness--One of my biggest beefs is the opportunity that Facebook provides for us to circumvent those pesky (albeit scriptural!) conflict resolution principles. If someone offends us--on Facebook or anywhere--we no longer have to deal with it in the way God commanded, we can just stew about it, get angry, and then "unfriend" them!!! That'll show 'em!! And, best of all, they don't even KNOW we've unfriended them. How handy is that snazzy FB feature when you are irked with someone? And how easy is it to say things--good and bad--that we would NEVER say to someone's face? I've often wondered: would Jesus have a Facebook account??

I guess for me it has all come down to this: Is Facebook strengthening my walk with God or hampering it? Is my Facebook subscription "sharpening" my friendships, relationships, etc. or erecting barriers in those relationships instead? Maybe this is simply a lack of discipline on my part. After all, too much of ANYthing can be a bad thing. Am I just taking it too seriously?

I haven't completely landed on the answer yet. The only conclusion I HAVE reached is that I will be "paring" down my Facebook account in every way: less "friends", less time, less mental energy. If you're the lady who saw me buying toilet bowl cleaner or the guy I passed in the hallway at church, I apologize in advance, but you probably won't make the cut, and I will definitely be more choosy about confirming friend requests in the future (If I ever get any after this rant!). I'm determining to rule my Facebook account rather than letting it rule me. Care to join me?

12 comments:

Michelle said...

Oh yes! I admit I am knee-deep in Facebook, but I agree with you wholeheartedly. In fact I recently received a friend request from someone who attended high school with me, but with whom I don't recall ever having an actual conversation. We were never "friends" in real life, it's been 20+ years since we were in the same zip code, and now she gets huffy because I don't "friend" her? Come on! I do use FB to share pics with family and real friends, so I won't add just anyone to my list because I agree, some things should be kept more personal. So don't be offended if I don't "friend" you on FB :-)

carla said...

LOVE this post, Jen (of course I would being the unabomber that I am!)!! Your doodle was HILARIOUS!! This post triggered so many thoughts all at once, I probably won't remember them all, but I'll try... First and foremost, I sooooo appreciate your transparency. That's one of the reasons why we are real life, not FB, friends - because you are frank and direct and real. I wish more people were like that. :)

A few other thoughts... You have just totally affirmed my hesitation to get on FB in the first place. Everything you describe is everything I feared about it (well, maybe not feared, but was concerned about). In fact, I have already established criteria for myself on who I will and won't friend if I ever do get on there. I'll share those with you over Mexican dinner (soon I hope!). I just want the term "friend" to mean something. I've never been one for small talk and FB just seems to me from an outsider's perspective like a whole lot of small talk (...and boasting, as you so aptly put). If it's a tool to maintain relationships, then great. But if it's a hindrance to your real life relationships, then you are so right to examine it carefully.

As far as that guy I sat behind for one semester in college is concerned, I will definitely friend him - I married him! LOL. :)

Kathi said...

I love your honesty and your thoughts Jen. I have many of the same issues with it, but have to admit, I do like it.

I don't understand why somebody that I wasn't even friends with 20 years ago in college or high school would want to be my fb friend now. I also agree that it's weird about people I barely know wanting to friend me. My rule is that if it's not someone that I would want to talk with in real life, then I don't accept their request. Also, if I'm not willing to at least write them a quick hello, I don't accept their request.

I was totally addicted to blogging this Summer and then stopped that. I then jumped into fb and again was totally addicted. I stopped getting the email notifications which helped tremendously. I wish I could be as addicted to reading my Bible! Hmmm....makes you think.

I do think there are some benefits to fb, I love all of the friends that I've been able to reconnect with. I also love being able to send a quick message to my nieces & nephews in college...saying grandma's been trying to call you...she's worried...call her. :)

I can't stand the apps and quizzes. I don't mind other people taking them, but I don't need to know about it. I love reading the status updates...I have a few friends who are so funny. I worry about people who put too much info on their fb status updates. I guess that's my two cents on it...not that you asked. :)

PS. I agree...your drawing is great!

Anonymous said...

Jen, I don't know how I did it, but somehow my facebook is really private, so I have never gotten one friend request. For someone to be my friend, I have to ask them... so I just have kept it really close. I don't do apps or anything else; I keep things to a minimum and make sure I do it only when I enjoy it. So that's a thought ... maybe you can do that if you want to keep your account! Just something to think about.
Karen in FL

Denise Kay said...

I've been so busy this month that I have not had time to visit your blog. Thanks for the thought provoking post and the smiles you brought to my face. (I needed those today) I agree with some of what you said and I am not the type of person to be offended if you "unfriended" (is that a word?) me. I have found facebook very helpful to me during this month to keep friends and family updated on what has been happening with my mother. If I had a blog set up, that would probably have been more helpful but I don't have time for that right now. LOL So, whether I keep up with your life and thoughts on facebook or via your blog...I look forward to what you have to say. :-)

jodie said...

I've never seen such long comments on a post before. You have definitely hit a chord. I could have written this myself but I'm glad YOU did.

fyi: your word verification is "rumph" :)

Cathy said...

Jen, thank you so much for giving us all good stuff to ponder. I have to say though, for purely selfish reasons, I am glad you had a Facebook account because it is the sole reason that you and I were able to reconnect. I do totally understand where you are coming from, however. I think the bottom line is that it is all about balance and boundaries. Even good things, left to run amuck without limits, can end up being destructive. Thanks for the reality check! And thank you for always being 'straight up'! :o)

Yarnin_Mama said...

While I do tend to have more restrictive in my security, and who I will friend (I actually have to be friends with them.), I do appreciate facebook these past few months. I have moved and been able to connect with friends in my new city as well as keep in touch with friends in my old city. As I've gone through a tough time with this bike accident, I've felt blessed and supported. Also, I've done a Bible Study long distance with my in-laws. So while I do agree with most of what you've said, I do feel that with boundaries in place it is a good tool. All tools are good or bad based on how you use them!

Marzola Happenings said...

what??!! how can we be sure we are true friends if you dont take the 'are you strawberry shortcake or rainbow bright' quiz? and how will i know the depth of your friendship if i dont know what 'color' you really are?!!! how can a girl cope with this?? LOL!

Sharon said...

Jen, I'm glad you found me on facebook and I enjoy seeing your status updates.

I, too, try to be selective in my friends list. If I saw someone on the street and they wouldn't stop to say hello, why do I want them cluttering up my life anywhere?

I ignore all group and page requests but I have to confess a weakness for Challenge Sudoku. :o)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting into words what I've been feeling. Amen Sister!!!-Barbara Grodahl

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