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Facebook Follies

I have to start out by saying that I think this applies to me individually more than most people, and I’m not pushing for some mass exodus from Facebook. If it serves a purpose for you, if you derive pleasure from the use of it, if you don’t really spend much of your time on it at all, then this isn’t me trying to ruin it for you or get you to change your mind, but one of my friends had to go and tell me that my reasons were worth pondering so I felt compelled to write them down.

It all started at work. By now, I’ve already tried several times to stop or decrease my use of facebook for the sake of productivity, but, sitting at work, writing about whatever came to mind, I finally gave myself a reason compelling enough to stop. After more than four years since began using it, I finally realized that it hadn’t brought me that much pleasure. In fact, more than anything it probably stressed me out, and that’s not counting how it chips away at my productivity. Actually, scratch that. Let me talk about one way that it chipped away at my productivity that I didn’t realize until now.

When I was in high school, I was a studious kid who was acutely aware that he was missing out on things because of his studios nature. After I got done with my homework on Friday nights (yes, on Friday nights) with nothing to watch, sometimes I would just look out my window at the Vegas-lit night sky and wonder what I was missing. See, back then, I was aware I was missing out on some experience, aware that my “business before pleasure” mindset was depriving me of some of the experiences that my peers were enjoying at that time, but, back then, I had no idea until I tried them. I couldn’t even imagine what they were, and although I had a relatively diverse set of acquaintances, I still had no idea or picture of what I was missing. Enter facebook, specifically facebook minifeed.

Now, with facebook, I start to believe that I know exactly what I’m missing, and the more pictures and wall posts that I see the, less I think about the life I’m leading. “They”, the infamous they, say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but they never said those thousand words necessarily came together to give you the truth. Personally, I remember my recent trip to Europe and how much effort it took for me to maintain a good attitude most of the time that I was over there, but, when I looked at the pictures later, except for one or two in particular, I remember thinking about how those pictures made it look like I had a much better time than I did. It never occurred to me until recently that the pictures that people post don’t tell you the whole story or tell even part of the truth. I’m finally realizing that I’ve spent all this time feeling down because of how I’m getting along in comparison to these people based on my interpretation of these pictures and these tidbits of conversation that get fed to me. On top of that, I shouldn’t even be comparing myself to these people I barely rub elbows with anyway, but by design this website compels me to do it with each visit. I’m also wondering “Why I feed what I feed?”, and “Who really cares to see pictures of my family trip to cancun?” Am I egotistical for doing it? Do I have to do something special to them to make it acceptable for me to post them? So I’m aware of my neurosis and telling facebook to feed me less about her, less about him, none about them. I’m telling facebook not to feed this to people or that to people because no one cares to know that.

Then, I see someone that I know who is pretty popular and well liked. He’s got considerably less than 200 friends. I’m on there with 300+ friends looking at the amount of friends that he has and feeling like some kind of poser. Then I see someone else who’s pretty popular, and they’ve got like 700+ friends. I think that’s justified, but then I see another dude with 500 friends and get a false sense of superiority because “pfft, that guy” when really what am I doing comparing myself to and passing judgment on these people in the first place? So I’m deleting and adding buddies, trying to maintain an arbitrary acceptable amount of friends on my page and wondering about how selective I should be when it comes to adding new people or requesting new “f-friends”.

Eventually I also come across these articles posted on facebook ( http://www.mygazines.com/issue/2432/82 and http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/information-rich-and-attention-poor/article1285001/ ) by a friend regarding how websites such as facebook, myspace, and twitter might actually decrease the quality of our relationships, and I’m thinking, “Word”. I feel old when I say things like what I’m about to say, but I remember when you met people, had fun with them, and made a little connection. When physical proximity made it impossible to have a relationship, the relationship just fizzled, AND THAT WAS OKAY. There are plenty of jokes out there about how facebook allows you to reconnect with people you knew years ago and lose interest in them 30 minutes later. Relationships begin and end. It’s a part of life, but facebook isn’t about ending relationships. Facebook allows you to put relationships on this online life support apparatus. SURE, it’s a relationship, but is it a relationship worth having?

Slight detour

A while ago a pastor spoke at church, and one of the things he said was, “I HATE RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS.”
I was like, “HECKYA! Me too. Wait…why do YOU hate it?” He went on to talk about how it doesn’t match up to the Christian concept of love and how love takes time, effort, vulnerability etc. In my words, random acts of kindness is like starting a game of tag with someone where you quit immediately after you tag someone, and they’re just supposed to be happy that you included them in your game. Your purpose isn’t to invest in someone and necessarily build them up. You just randomly think of something nice to do, and, when you do it, your obligation is fulfilled. Hopefully it makes them want to come get saved eventually, or helps people see that, “HEY! Christians can be good people too”, but you’re certainly not thinking that you’re going to be the one there for them when life gets they’re struggling with guilt or grief or loneliness. Yeah, real kind gesture, but is it a gesture worth making if you’re not willing to follow up on it?

If you think of different relationships as people in different stages of development, then a loving relationship would be a full grown, vivacious adult, random acts of kindness might be a sperm that didn’t make it to the egg, and facebook friendships might be children trapped in a state of arrested development. We don’t have infinite capacity or energy. When we pick something up or decide to do something, we do it at a cost, and sometimes we’re not even aware of what the cost is. It just hit me when I was reading those articles that maintaining these facebook relationships and using time to communicate to these people online, however good they are, came at a cost. Everybody has heard stories of people who put all their time and energy into their online lives and has found them hilarious, pitiful, or both, but it just hit me that putting my time and energy towards these online things meant less time and energy left over to spend on the people that I could physically interact with. I wasn’t aware of this until I read those articles, but I had already begun passing up opportunities to hang out with friends because “Eh, we’re not doing anything else too stimulating besides sitting and talking to each other, and I’m already chatting with them online now. What’s the point?” I had also been doing the same thing with my family i.e. spending hours in front of the computer chatting followed by going through the motions when it was time to spend 10 minutes with my family. It’s like settling for boiled hot dogs when I could have t-bone steak with some reasonable effort.

This indefinite leave of absence from facebook is really an attempt to improve my quality of life, work with what’s in front of me, and stop comparing myself to my interpretation of what I allow to be fed to me.

Afterword?

Also, now that I think of it, it was a stroke of marketing genius or quite a gamble to call it a “feed”. Farm animals eat feed. In this age where everybody seems obsessed with standing out and being an individual, we’re perfectly okay with the idea that every time we log-on we’re taking in what’s being fed to us.

So many things to be scared about, I forget to be scared, so many things to care about, I forget how to care

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Categories: Life
  1. David Kim
    October 5, 2009 at 5:39 am

    first off, that hudsonmohawke song was weird at first, but i really came to like it. it works somehow. facebook is dangerous, but at the same time, if you approach and use it the right way, it really is a powerful tool that saves you a lot of time. But I liked your point about random acts of kindness, and how thats not real love. And i agree, facebooking is not as endearing as a handwritten letter, or a painstakingly cooked meal.
    I have found myself on facebook less and less lately, but it is still one of the 4-5 sites i automatically check when i have time. I think i appreciate what it does for me because right now the only ppl i really come into regular contact with are dillon and valerie. This living out of the pepperdine bubble has changed my perspective of things like church, work, etc. I see how the social contacts that they bring into your life are maybe worth the hassle of going to church, or the dreariness of work. In that way, facebook is still useful, but I agree it can definitely get out of hand, or be useless depending on the person. Anyways, I like this blog you’ve set up, the name and everything. I started a blog a while back called Joosunism but i never wrote anything for it cuz i didn’t follow through.

  2. Pasky
    October 6, 2009 at 2:58 am

    Facebook really can be pretty useless for developing new and meaningful relationships. Looking back at my use and activity on the site, I can honestly say I could do without it. I hardly upload new pictures, I don’t use the status feed, I don’t FBchat, and I don’t actively search out new or old acquaintances, so yeah.

    What do I use it for? Looking back I see that all my activity is spent maintaining current relationships in a very silly way. My main use for FB is to share links I find on the net with friends that I no longer can physically see. It’s another medium for me to share inside jokes and interests.

    *sidebar* Twitter might be a better venue for this, but the majority of my relationships aren’t yet on that – it does seem more a tool for self-promotion than social network.

    Anyway, I mainly use FB to share links an comment on photos of usually shared experiences, which maintains current long-distance relationships, but doesn’t foster new ones. I rely on phone calls and emails for that. I think dropping FB will definitely improve your quality of life, dog, esp in terms of dropping comparisons to FB manufactured online lives.

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