So How Are We All Feeling about Facebook These Days?

I’m conflicted.  You?

I knew about Facebook really early on because it originated at Harvard and my niece started using the intercollegiate version of it.  My sense was that it was a cooler and more intimate version of the then-much-bigger MySpace, but I didn’t really know much more than that.  I wasn’t that interested–what’s better than basic email?–but when my last novel was coming out, I was encouraged by my publishers to increase my online presence so I set up accounts on both MySpace and Facebook.

No relevancy to this post, but isn't it a great picture?

Pretty quickly I discovered that MySpace was only useful if a) I wanted to hear about other people promoting their books, music, businesses, etc. or c) pay for a dating service.  (It took me a while to realize all the cute guys contacting me because I was “hot” for a woman my age were just trying to con me to into joining one of these services.  Luckily for me, I never believe anyone who claims to find me remotely attractive, so I was skeptical from the start.)  I haven’t visited MySpace in two years.

Facebook was a different story.  At first, I was tentative, businesslike.  Then gradually I discovered the fun of posting silly, fun status updates.  “You haul 15 tons and what DO you get?” netted me a bunch of responses.  I did get a few readers asking to friend me over time, but most of the people on my friends list are, in fact, real-life friends or relatives or relatives of friends or friends of relatives.

The really wonderful part came when a few women I’d loved but lost touch with over the years found me on Facebook and suddenly I was getting to “chat” every day with people I really liked and enjoyed.  The pleasure of that hasn’t faded: I often find myself writing a message to them in my head, describing whatever activity or horror I’m going through that day, knowing I’ll be listened to, heard, understood and sympathized with.

And yet . . .  and yet . . .  I’m feeling a little jaded about Facebook too.  For one thing, the combination of professional connections and personal ones is just weird.  I made some joke about a urinary tract infection in a comment stream and later thought, “Oops–hope no one who doesn’t know me well read that one.”  It’s so easy to forget that strangers can read everything too.

I’ve always felt uneasy about how much of my personal life I should reveal in public: I write non-fiction essays about my family for the autism books and for magazines and newspapers sometimes, but I try hard not to say anything that my kids (or husband) will resent me for later.  I’m very aware when I’m writing something formal like a book that strangers will be reading them, but I forget that that’s true about Facebook too, especially since the people who tend to respond the most are my good friends.  A lot of people read without responding so it’s easy to forget they’re out there.

And then there’s all the political, religious, economic, etc. differences among people.  When you’re with a friend, you try to steer clear of any conversations where you know you won’t agree (or at least those of us who hate confrontation do).  But I’ve had several awkward moments on Facebook where people I like have blithely written things that have upset me deeply–and I’ve probably done the same to them.  And sometimes I wonder whether revealing too many of my beliefs and leanings will only cost me readers–that some will turn away in disgust and not read my novels anymore–in which case this whole “online presence” thing will ultimately bite me in the ass.  So I try to avoid anything even remotely controversial but that seems cowardly.

All in all, I’m getting a bit weary of Facebook.  And wary of it.  But I still love the people I’ve reconnected with through it and I’m not willing to give up our moments of connection–or the hope that maybe I’ll find more of them out there.  So far, I’m still checking it regularly (too regularly).  How’s everyone else feeling about it?



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5 responses to “So How Are We All Feeling about Facebook These Days?

  1. I’m basically addicted. I have a couple of writer friends who live hundreds of miles away and it’s really nice to be able to share and connect with them in another way besides basic email. But I do understand the fine line between professional and personal. I have a job as a wedding consultant and a lot of the vendors I work with are my friends on facebook and sometimes I worry that they are going to see all of my weirdness on my updates.

  2. annie

    Good piece, Claire! You raise some very good points. I forget about those people out there who never post and just read. I probably should think about them more. Or not.

  3. What a timely piece! Today, one of my FB friends wrote as her status, “I am thinking about quitting Facebook so I can have more time for everything important in my life.” And I thought to myself, “Hunh. I am thinking of quitting everything else in my life so I can have more time on Facebook.”

    However, it does not escape me that ever since you have not been on FB quite as much lately, you have managed to finish your manuscript AND write three blog posts. Whereas I have been lolling about on FB, happy as a clam, and have not posted a think on my blog for over a week.

  4. Claudia

    My 15-year-old was telling me that FB has its stages. That at first you kind of read and don’t respond, and then you tentatively comment, and then you do a status, and then, before you know it, you are HOOKED. And he’s no longer hooked. He checks FB once a day. He told me that everyone goes through a stage of being addicted (me), and that people come out of that stage and enter another stage.

    When I am on FB, I think, “People are going to see this.” My much, much greater fear is e-mail. A few days ago, I e-mailed something to four members of a gymnastics board and one of them thought what I’d written was so wise that she forwarded my e mail (without asking me) to the head coach. I know the head coach better than my friend does and I knew he’d read between the lines that I was not in favor of running some big meet he wants to run. My friend didn’t really get this. She meant no harm.

    Forwarded e mails scare the Hell out of me!

  5. Claire

    Whenever I forward an email I read through the entire thing and really think hard about whether or not it’s innocuous. If there’s ANYTHING that bumps me, I start a new note and just quote from it. But I’ve gotten in trouble. Who hasn’t?

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