Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Facebook - the Virtual Lunchroom

Yes, a blog post on Facebook.  How.... unoriginal!!  But I have some thoughts about social media, and figured I may as well get them out of my head and onto paper, as it were.

Now, I have never used FB for games, or applications, or quizzes, or any of that really distracting stuff.  But I do log on several times a day just to see what folks are saying and posting about.  It's like dropping in on friends in a busy lunchroom, and sitting at their table a little while before moving on with my day.  I've reconnected with several dear friends, both from high school and college, and we've even managed to arrange face-to-face meetings when we've found ourselves in the same general location for whatever reason.

When I first signed up for Facebook, I did what most people do - I accepted friend requests from just about everyone as long as I knew who they were.  As I thought about what I use FB for, I've actually unfriended a bunch of acquaintances.  Not because I don't *like* them, but because I would never just sit down at the lunch table with them and have a chat.  Is that rude, or draconian?  Or am I merely being choosy with my online friends, just as I am in real life?  And if it's the latter, then it's not a bad thing. 

Over time, I've also locked down the security on my account more and more, and because they twiddle with their settings I check MY settings on a regular basis.  Right now, you can't google my FB account, and only friends (not even friends of friends) can see what I post or share.  This seems to be the antithesis of what FB - and most of its users - want from social media.  They want people to be instantly accessible to everyone, everywhere, 24/7.  But I'm an introvert, and I can't handle being with people all the time.  I like lots of down time, and quiet time.  (Which is why on the weekends I spend very little time on the computer - I get too much computer time at work, and I want to get away from that at home!)

My two faithful readers may know that I gave up Facebook for Lent (and so did a number of other folks I know). So I've been spending time in the lunchroom at a table for one - and that too has been a good thing.  I've realized several things about myself and my habits, which hopefully will allow me to make some different choices when we move to Georgia next month.  I've discovered that I deeply value some of the friendships I've rediscovered on facebook, and that I hope to keep in contact with those people, even if I give up facebook permanently.  (I probably won't go that far, though!) 

But I've also discovered that I don't have many Good Friends here where I live.  And that is a sad thing.  We've always said that where we are now wasn't a "permanent settling", so neither I nor the philosopher have made any serious attempts to become friends with folks.  We have acquaintances, and folks we spend time with at work.  But there's no one we call to say "Hey, want to come over for burgers this weekend?", and no one who calls us to see if we want to go to the park for a walk.  So that was a good Lenten realization for me, and I know I need to be more intentional in seeking out friends when we get settled in Georgia.  (Not easy for an introvert, but something the needs to be done even if it takes a while!)

At the same time, I will continue to cherish my online friendships.  I am happy that many people who were once part of my face-to-face life can still be part of my life virtually.  I can talk about Scarecrow and Mrs. King, CS Lewis and 80s music, girl scout cookies and Disney, bad golf outings and gardening and outdoor adventures, with the same people I once shared those things with at the *real* lunch table.  And in that sense, Facebook is a great tool for that.  I've missed my friends during my Lenten fast, and I look forward to lunchtime again next week!

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