Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Facebook: Why You're Not Just Talking to a Wall

   Facebook, the largest social networking site in the world. Nearly one in every two Americans have a Facebook profile; some more active than others. It has changed our culture and the way that we interact with one another. However, the way that we view it and how we tend to use it varies greatly.
   There are many ways in which this social networking site can be used. Some use it to post about their every day lives. Others use it to post pictures of their vacations, children and pets. While others use it as a tool to vent about their trivial every day lives. Some people use it as a way of getting in touch with long lost "friends", family members, or ex co-workers. As you can see, there are many ways in which this platform can be used.
   As great as this platform is for socializing, and for the many uses this tool has in it's arsenal, just like anything else it has it's faults. As they say, too much of a good thing isn't necessarily a good thing. So before you go ahead and create that username and profile, you need to ask yourself some questions. First of all, why am I using this for? What purpose will this serve me? Am I willing to put my life out there for all of the world to see? As I use it am I getting as much from it as I'm putting into it?
   If you have been using Facebook for a while than more likely than not, just like your toothbrush, it is something that you use at least once or twice per day. In fact, for some people, it is the first and last thing they do during their day. We are using it so often now, for some if not most of us it has become out of control. Ask yourself this question: out of all of my Facebook friends, how many people do I actually interact with on a daily or at least a weekly basis? If you are completely honest with yourself I am sure that the answer will be very few. The average Facebook user has 130 "friends". Now I ask you to think about your life and tell me if you've ever had that cumulative amount of friends from birth?! Do you think it's cool to have that amount of 'friends"? For you, is it quantity over quality or the other way around?! What is your definition of a 'friend' anyway?!
   Whn you logon to Facebook and check your wall do you ever stop to think that a real live human being is behind that pic and behind those words? If you did than you would realize that you're not just talking to a wall!! There is a real person who you are communicating with. It may start innocent and casual. Then one day you realize how often you are interacting with them. You begin to learn more about them from their words, their pictures, and even the way that others interact with your "friends". Suddenly you may begin to see that it is not just a digital representation of someone but rather a real person that has feelings. We get so wrapped up in communicating with one another in this fashion we rarely step back and take a look at the big picture.
   Now I know that this may have started out all innocent and such. You may have thought it was cool to have 130 "friends" on your Facebook list. But go over that list again and ask yourself do I really care about these people? Do these people really care about me? If I had them over to my home, would I open up my photo albums and show them my pictures? This is what you are doing but you are doing so online in a digital format. You are letting "friends" whom are mostly strangers into your world. You become an open book. Do you really want these so-called friends to read that book?! More likely than not the answer is no.
   If you are using Facebook to reach out to long lost friends of the past than you need to ask yourself why are you doing so?! Know that just because you can, doesn't mean you should. As they say, you can't go back. The person that you knew five, ten, or even twenty years ago is not the same person. We all change; yes even you do and this is just a fact of life. If it has been more than just a few years than it is like getting to know someone all over again. The person that is in your mind is not the person whom you are speaking to now. That said, do you really want this stranger back into your life? How much can you really know about someone via solely this platform?
   Facebook should be used not as a sole tool for communicating with someone but rather as an additional tool. Think about this: if Facebook was to suddenly disappear and you were only given a few days warning, how many in your list of "friends" would you still communicate with? How many of them would you ask for their phone number and home address? How many of these people, come their birthday do you actually call on the phone or send a real birthday card to? As I've said before, you're not just talking to a wall here but real life human beings. If you are being honest with yourself than most of your "friends" on this platform you would not communicate with by either phone, letters, or home visits if it did not exist in the first place. The people that you would communicate with in these fashions are your true friends, period. Anyone else is just not a real friend according to the truest definition of the word.
   Let us also remember that as we post things to our wall not to use it in a selfish manner. Sure we are all proud of our children and we want to show them off for all the world to see but when someone comments on these pics we all need to treat it as a conversation. This tool is not just a one-way road. Again, this is a social networking site; the keyword here being social. It is not meant to be all about YOU. If someone posts pics and links for you to check out on your wall then be interactive with them. Let them know that you appreciate the things that they're sending you. Don't just take these things for granted. Yes, it may be easy to post a link on someone's wall but we all need to take a step back and realize that someone went out of their way to do this for us; they were thinking of YOU. Even if it's just a silly joke, the fact is that they purposely went out of their way to make sure that you heard about it. As much more of a giver than a receiver I am, it is nice to hear from someone, even if it's just every once in a while that you're appreciated. If you do see your 'friends" comment on others comments, pics, etc. but not often on your own, you may need to question if this person is really a friend?!
   Now I'm not saying that it's not cool to catch up with people after many years have gone by. It is nice to see what they now look like and to see pictures of their spouse and children and to know what they've been up to after all of this time. However, once we obtain this information do we really want them back into our every day lives? Will you add them as a friend and just leave them sitting there on your "friends" list? If you do than you're letting them read that book of yours again. Maybe it would be best to delete them once you heard from them. You may think that this would be rude but if both parties are being totally honest with each other than you know that you will more likely than not, not bother to continue to communicate with them. Again, they are in turn a stranger to you after those many years that have gone by. You cannot just suddenly pick up where you left off. In fact, if you delete them they probably wouldn't even realize that you disappeared from their friends list and even if they did, it would be some time before they did realize it and even if they did they probably would not care.
   To conclude, Facebook is one of the most great, popular, and fascinating social networking sites known to man. There are many benefits to using the platform. We have to remember though not to take it for granted. We need to remember that it's not just a screen we are looking at but that there are real people behind these images. Know that this is a social networking site and that we must be engaged with the people that we choose to call our "friends". Finally, always keep in mind that you're not just talking to a wall because a wall, just like any other inanimate object, does not talk back.

No comments: