Not so long ago, the only way to know what a friend had for lunch was to either eat lunch with her or make a rather strange phone call. Now, all you have to do is log into Facebook and look at the status update she posted at noon.
Despite receiving regular bursts of information about everyone we consider worth hitting the “accept” button for, true friendship cannot be maintained through Facebook alone.
While I could do entirely without people I thought I liked posting political statements that make me cringe and photos of sonograms (I’d love to look at a photo of your baby, but do you mind if I wait until it’s outside your body?), there are many advantages to having a Facebook account.
The most obvious is that Facebook makes it extremely easy to keep up with old and new friends, wherever they are, to see what they’re doing with their lives, find out what they dressed up as on Halloween and learn odd things about them that might have never come up in years of normal conversation.
All of this access to people we may have lost touch with through the many turns of an average life means that we’re socializing more often with more people. But quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality, and our communications with those we truly care about seems to be suffering.
For instance, a friend posts that she passed the bar exam and you simply “like” the news as she shares it and maybe, if she’s a really good friend, you leave a comment saying congratulations with several exclamation points.
The little things people used to bond over are now replaced with meaningless solo activities.
What could have been a genuine moment with a human is shared with a machine instead. When she becomes a partner in a prestigious law firm years from now, you won’t remember proudly embracing her at the beginning of her journey, you’ll remember staring at a computer screen.
And forget about taking the time to mail a card to your best friend, just take a few seconds and add to the endless stream of greetings from all the other people who just happened to notice it was his birthday. In fact, forget his birthday all together – Facebook will remind you.
Facebook will surely be studied in detail for years to come, and it’s too early to really tell what impact it will have on the way its users communicate with each other on and offline.
Though I don’t pretend to know the future, I suspect we’ll learn Facebook doesn’t just streamline friendships and make them more efficient, it cheapens them.
After effortlessly scrolling through the lives of friends, the real-life interaction we’ve known for most of human history seems like really hard work. But remember life before Facebook, when you used to enjoy actually talking to your friends?
You can still “like” all the posts about a friend’s recent trip to Spain, that’s fine, but why not also give her a call to hear the details of the trip she didn’t post? A few minutes of true connection with a real, live person is worth more to both of you than a lifetime of status updates.
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