Stunning admission: I’m not on Facebook and never was.

Mostly, I just don’t have a lot of time for it. I also don’t have a lot of interest in broadcasting random bits about myself, even if it is just to friends.

On the up side, by staying away from Facebook (and Twitter) I have a lot more time to do the things I want to do. As captivating as it may be to survey the latest pics, postings, and posits from 4200 of my “closest friends,” I have a lot I want to accomplish in life and limited time to do it in.

I also have the benefit of getting more honest-to-God personal contact with my friends than those who tweet or FB. Granted it takes more planning and time to stay connected, be it through phone calls, emails, or (God forbid!) visits, but the benefits of actual personal communication is shown in the strength of the friendships that have endured.

On the down side, the number of those friendships has been and is dwindling, and I attribute no small part of the blame to Facebook.

Yes, I fully realize the irony of a blog post that demonizes social media. Hear me out.

I thrive on friendship, which to me involves the very tangible interactions of conversations, substantive back-and-forth, and actual face time. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 20 years maintaining relationships with people who were important to me. I took time to call them, write them long emails, and even go visit.

They used to do much of the same. And even as adulthood set in, and parenting, homeownership, and stressful jobs got in the way, I could always count on seeing a quick email with news or photos of their lives at least.

Then along came Facebook. In less than a year, the number of those mutually-maintained relationships had dropped by half. Phone calls weren’t being returned. Emails left unanswered. Attempts at arranging a visit were left unheeded. Where I used to reserve time for long phone calls with old friends, I now would leave a voice message and not expect a response. Where I used to get photos of the rug rats sent to me monthly, even weekly, suddenly there was white space in my inbox.

When I inquired to all of these “friends” what was up, the response, if any, was near-universal, “You need to get on Facebook! You can keep in touch with everybody!”

So, I get it. I really do. They’re busy. I mean, we’re all busy. And Facebook allowed them to do something quickly and easily to instantly stay in touch with all of their friends, or at least, all of those on Facebook. Now a quick post, an uploaded photo and “all of their friends” know what happened to them today. They get to feel like they’re in touch with everyone, and everyone can say the same.

But to the guy who thrives on one-on-one communication, the guy who wants to bounce complex ideas off of specific minds he respects, the guy who needs to confide in a trusted friend about the intricacies of life’s challenges, all of that seems kind of hollow, superficial, even false.

That’s not friendship, that’s headlines. That isn’t interaction, it’s notification, and it frequently devolves into little more than pointless banter and textual one-upmanship, in 140 characters or less even.

All right, so those Facebook relationships aren’t the most interactive or deep-rooted. What’s the big deal in that?

Nothing really, except to the guy like me. Because when one short post, taking less than a minute, can keep the vast majority of your friends “updated” about you, it fulfills that component of your life for the day, and the time that used to be spent on maintaining friendships—phone calls, emails, or visits—now gets filled in with other things. Granted, important things, I’m sure.

And any friend who isn’t on Facebook is just an acceptable sacrifice—collateral damage, if you will—for a huge gain in time and convenience. Besides, they’re sure to come around eventually. Luddites be damned!

To illustrate, consider the following recent example. I’ve got a big reunion coming up. I knew it was this year, but didn’t know when. Not long ago I was talking to a friend from my class (one of the few who has kept up with me) and he mentioned the upcoming reunion. I said I hadn’t heard anything. He said they had a date, had decided on a location, and registration was even closing soon.

Now, I’m in the alumni directory. I make it a point to keep that information up-to-date. Phone, address, even email is listed. Hadn’t received anything. Not so much as a postcard with a date on it. Why? Because all of the notification was being done through Facebook.

Okay, fine. I can understand that. Obviously, if my friends can’t keep in touch outside of Facebook, why should I expect any more from classmates of old long since? The Facebook-only contact decision would be fine, except for this (and here’s the real kicker) my sister-in-law is on the planning committee – and she knows I’m not on Facebook!

Is it too much to ask? Is it too much to expect my own sister-in-law and classmate to drop me a quick email saying, “Hey, the reunion is in full swing and here’s our website!” let alone make an actual phone call, or simply mention it when we saw each other last.

THIS is my biggest gripe with what Facebook has become to so many people. It’s not that it has dismantled thought-to-be strong friendships, or excluded me from reunion info to the point of almost missing it. It’s that it seems that the universe of Facebook has become a social barricade, actually narrowing the social scope and convincing all of those in it that “everyone” is accessible from it, and that they need not think outside of the exclusive social circle that they have endorsed.

In the Facebook universe, it isn’t necessary to actually communicate, or be thoughtful or considerate any more. You don’t have to think of individuals when you can notify the collective all at once. Makes you wonder how anybody managed to communicate at all before Facebook, though it was just a handful of years ago.

And as I watch my lasting, substantive friendships diminish, and the active users of Facebook grow to nearly a billion people, I continue to resist the temptation to succumb to this presumed social requirement. Not because I’m a Luddite, and not because I’m obstinate, but because the type of social “interaction” that Facebook provides isn’t the type that I need or want. It can never come close to supplying the finer intricacies and mutuality of actual friendship. Even though it may allow me to “keep in touch” with old friends, enemies, and un-notables alike, Facebook will never replace the friendships that were promptly cut short by it.

Like those who have chosen Facebook over friendship, I’d just as soon fill my time with something more important to me, something more useful. I’ll always be available to talk. I’ll welcome old friends into my home. I’ll reply to an email or letter with a personal and thoughtful response. But I have no interest in what Facebook offers. And if that leaves me floating like a stranded soul in a sea of social media, well, I guess that’s where you can find me.

Related article:

Want something in your postbox that is not a bill? Join me in a Friendship Challenge! – (dancingforjoy.wordpress.com)

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