facebook: friend or foe?

August 17, 2008 § 2 Comments

Last night, I went to a party where I saw some old friends from high school that had long since disappeared from my life. It was a lot of fun. And it was all due to facebook.

For someone my age (32), facebook has been a boon. I’ve reconnected with many people I’ve wondered about and can keep in touch with their lives going forward. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but after so many years without any contact, it’s been a great tool to reconnect.

But what about those who grow up with facebook? Those who live their whole lives always reconnecting? What is the value of disconnecting?

Having graduated from high school in 1994, it was very easy to get lost after high school. Those first few years, people largely went their separate ways, even if they didn’t move far away. After all, hardly anyone I knew had a cell phone and the Internet was a far, far cry from what it is today. So, for the vast majority of us, we completely lost touch with each other. And while part of that was unfortunate, it was also great. Having the ability to get lost was a way to break free, escape the judgment of the past, find your own path, and yes, find new friends that had no idea who your old friends were—or if you even had any.

This was something many people actually looked forward to—and some of us really needed. For instance, one of the people I saw last night I hadn’t seen since graduation. While I wondered where she was and how she was doing, she did exactly what she needed to do by disconnecting, by getting lost. And in that lostness, she seems to have found herself. Trite. Cliché. But true. And completely common.

So as I look out on a generation full of facebook users, I see the social world that enables disconnection dying a rapid death. In its place comes a world where online social utilities serve a constant reminder of who you were, of constant reconnection.

I don’t know if this is a bad thing or a good thing or just another “thing” humans will adapt to. But I do wonder, what happens when we can’t get lost because we are always being found?


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§ 2 Responses to facebook: friend or foe?

  • skhisma says:

    And Facebook is also how i found out that you had a blog so that i can add it to Google Reader. The internet is indeed an amazing place.

  • Sarah says:

    OK, I’m going to apologize in advance for the long comment, but I read your post yesterday and it’s been percolating in my brain ever since!
    One of the things that I most liked about my college experience was the opportunity for anonymity. Of course, I went to a school over 1,000 miles away where at least some of the student body wasn’t quite sure exactly where Indiana was, let alone know the high school (or its reputation). I loved the fact that no one knew what kind of glasses I wore in the 7th grade, or what music I’d listened to, or what grades I’d gotten, or who I’d hung out with.
    I wonder too about the honesty of virtual selves, and making that public information. I know there’s a lot of talk about people inventing fake identities online or posing as someone, but for the most part the bloggers I know (both online and IRL) are far more open and honest when they’re typing to a computer screen. They’ll say things – and admit to things – that would never come up in casual conversation, and might not even be discussed between good friends. Even superficially, I think that online you’re more likely to own up to your true likes and dislikes (movies, music, hobbies, etc.) even when they’re potentially “uncool.” I just imagine that by the time most freshmen enter school, their new classmates have a lot of information about them and have likely made a lot of judgements (good and bad) already. It’s completely different from my (our) experience, and I’m still trying to decide if it’s a good or bad thing… probably both.

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