So, apparently controversy generates hits. Who knew? I knew I was taking my chances on Saturday, saying something so radically crazy as announcing that people are mammals. But I had no idea that meant I’d be getting so many visitors this weekend. I would have cleaned up. Or made tea. Or something.
I shared my post on Facebook and then friends shared my post on Facebook and then, next thing I knew, people were banging down my door, eager to hear the big announcement: People are Mammals! Fun!
And right after I said Facebook killed the blogging star and everything. Facebook made a liar out of me. And that post had very, very little to do with Facebook’s murder of bloggers. Mostly I talked about Ruth of the never-really-liked-pants-anyway camp. So, when all my new visitors showed up, I thought, Hey! they’re all going to look at my post immediately preceding my big controversial statement and they’re going to find a long-winded, disjointed, has-little-to-do-with-the-title post and not take the time to read another single thing. Where they’d likely discover yet another long-winded, disjointed, ineptly titled post.
Ah well. I’ve had my 2 days of fame. I’ll go back to disjointed and rambly . . .
Facebook: How I love thee. How I detest thee. Because of you, I’m in touch with friends I haven’t talked to in years and years. Because of you, I’m in touch with friends I haven’t talked to in years and years. That’s not a typo; those are two separate thoughts. They must be read with two different tones of voice. I think you know what I’m talking about.
I get to play a Scrabble-like game with a girl I knew in elementary school, my memory of whom is dominated by the knowledge that not only did she not say “Hunh? Where is that?!” when I told her my ethnic background, but she too is of Lithuanian descent. So, my one other Lithuanian childhood friend–I now play Scrabble with her. That’s fun.
I get to see pictures of friends’ babies, see how some of my high school friends have gone the route of cloning over natural reproduction. At least that’s how it appears from the pictures of their children. And I get to have some fun conversations with people about all sorts of topics. And I’ve made a handful of brand new friends via Facebook. We share mutual friends and have connected over some similar theological convictions, and gone on to develop some enriching relationships.
There’s a problem.
Facebook can totally just suck my day away. While I’m visiting with my fun friends who mostly take the shape of voices in my head, my life in front of my eyes is passing me by. On some level I know it. But on another level? I’m desperate for more human interaction in my day. What’s that you say? I could go out and visit with real people? Why, that’s just crazy talk. But then I would miss all my friends who live inside my head!
Love-Hate. That’s what I have with Facebook. And I suspect I’m not alone in it. On some level, I suspect, all of us Facebookers know we need to really see people, to be in their presence, to really connect with them. And we all crave that connection. But it’s so hard to find it. Or so scary to find it. In Facebook-land, you just put yourself out there and hope that someone will happen by and connect to you in some way.
You can put your worst face forward, feeling safe that if someone can like that part of you, they’ll like the rest. Or, and probably more often, you can put your best face out there, the part you feel is most worthy of attention, admiration, love. Either way, you’re in control–complete control–of what is shared and not shared about yourself. You can have an intimacy where you control the intensity dial. It lacks the messiness of face-to-face interaction where a person is reading your body language, where your visitor can see that your house really is as disgusting as you say it is, that you weren’t be facetious, exaggerating for comedic effect.
I have a friend who has shared articles about how Facebook feeds narcissism, or how narcissists are the ones who feed Facebook. I’m not sure which, and I never really read them. I don’t doubt that narcissism is involved. But I suspect what’s more influential in Facebook is just plain loneliness. People were not built to live in isolation. We weren’t. If I continue on yesterday’s animalistic theme, I’d say we’re pack animals. Or herd animals. Or something. I’m too lazy today to look up the way those things are differentiated. All I know is “It is not good that man should be alone.” And I’m not just talking about Adam. Nor am I talking only about marriage and romantic connection and love. And I’m not just talking about men. I’m talking about all people:
It is not good that people should be alone.
And our culture has lost the extended family. And, in some cases, it has made quite the idol of the nuclear family which then disintegrates upon the maturity of children because those children are generally few in number and scatter to the winds to form ad hoc families along the way. Ad hoc families with others who are juggling multiple jobs and mortgages and sports schedules and internet life and TV life and book life and bill paying and shopping . . . and . . . and . . . we’re lonely. And Facebook gives us opportunity to find touchstones with our roots–our old high school friends, distant relatives–and opportunity for us to forge new relationships–those friends of friends who have the same passion for sarcasm you have–and all in the comfort of our pajamas and our messy home. Or our business suits and offices. Or wherever it is people are hooking into Facebook.
The thing is, Facebook feeds our intrinsic need for community. When we have to take our sick child for surgery, we post pictures on Facebook. Not because we think we’re so important, not because we’re losing sight of what’s right in front of us, but because when we’re faced with a scary, scary situation, the last thing we want to be is the last person on earth; we do not want to face it all alone. And a couple–a mom and dad–huddled together in a big, cold hospital is very much alone. And it’s not good that man should be alone. So we reach out to our community. Those people who are right there when we need them. And as we’ve compiled a community into the hundreds, spanning many time zones, there is always someone right there to call on.
Facebook musings have gone on and on and on here . . . but these are the thoughts I think as I scroll through my feed, as I Like stuff, as I ooo and ahhh at pics of newborns I’ll never see face to face. We need people. People do, that is. We long for community, for relationships with many. And people will find it any way they can.
I’ve suspended judgment here. I’m not saying any of this is a good thing or a bad thing. I just think it’s the thing. Quite a while back, I wrote a post about the differences between Imaginary Friends and IRL Friends. I have my preference, and I have some theologizing to back it up. But the need? The need we try to fulfill with our online universe? It’s a very real one. And a God-planted one. It’s a good, good thing that we seek community. As for me, I need to be more mindful of how I seek that community. And I need to make sure I’m not missing out on the people standing right in front of me in favor of the safety found in two dimensions, brain-dwelling, and controlled intimacy.
It’s not good that the man should be alone.