This is reposted from my old blog. I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here. I’ve listed it here under its original date.
Not Entirely Behind the Times
Saturday, September 26, 2009
I don’t quite know how long I’ve been receiving invitations to join Facebook, and assiduously ignoring them. Things happened recently that made me finally break down and sign up, and so now I am a member of that community, having been brought in almost against my will.
I don’t know how active I will ultimately be over at Facebook. I have seen some things there that seem to indicate that it is a place full of real opportunity — a place for reconnecting with old friends, a place for keeping up with family, and a place for making new contacts who might prove to be important to me in one way or another at some time in the future. I see all of that, after having dipped a foot in the Facebook ocean. It’s a lot like I felt when I first started blogging at a community blog site (now defunct). There are some excellent discussions going on (like, say, this), and the nature of the site allows for so many different viewpoints that anyone who reads much there is sure to find a new perspective on whatever issue is being discussed.
But I also see here a spot for incredible levels of wastage. There are so many games, so much nonsense to be discussed, so many loose threads to be pursued… how can you not waste time on the site, once you begin? How do you keep from answering every tag, responding to every request for participation in this or that event? How do you balance it all up? I mean, I know you can block certain functions or users, but then, isn’t that somewhat defeating the community aspect of it all? I’ve already used the “hide” option once, just because one connection was making updates and comments pop up on my wall every few minutes. And that when I’ve only been on Facebook for a few days. I wonder how many other things I will have to choose to cut out, to ignore, to hide, as time wears on.
When Facebook began, it was only open to students, and was by invitation only. Since it has opened up to the general public, everyone — even me, now — has been joining. I have lots of friends on the site, even after just a few days, and they range in age from about 10 to over 70 years. What I like about it that is different from some of the other social sites I’ve experimented with in the past is the way I am connected on Facebook more with people I have “real life” connections with, instead of those I simply “know” online. I think that is, from what I’ve read, the general appeal of the site. I have, in these few short days, chatted with friends I’ve not seen in years. And I’ve enjoyed that. But I can also see how easy it would be to spend waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time doing this. I can’t imagine, as a college student, how much time I might have spent on the site, had it been available two decades ago. Honestly, I am glad it was not.
It is amazing to me how savvy some of the kids on the site are. This is their world. They know what they are doing on Facebook. It is, it seems, their natural environment. I, on the other hand, am somewhat overwhelmed. There’s so much there, so many people to catch up with — so much that could be a distraction, if I let it. But there’s also a huge potential for making positive connections. It is, for me, all rather exhausting.
I’m not entirely behind the times, I guess. I have, after all, finally signed up for Facebook, and begun exploring the possibilities it opens up for me. I am also, however, not entirely up with the times. I don’t do this naturally. I do it because I think I should, because I don’t want to be left behind, and because I can see a glimpse of the world it opens up.
And of course, the biggest sign that I am not yet quite up with the times is the fact that I still think it worth talking about at all. Perhaps one day, though, it will all become just a part of the mundane world for me. And maybe by then I’ll have a clear idea for how to balance it all.
© 2009 Shelly Bryant