Oh Facebook. What would we do without you?
Some pundits have decreed that social networks are the new “time suck”, and with good reason. Stats show that we spend more time online social networking and gameplaying than we do on mundane activities such as email. I spend a lot of time watching my kids compete in track and cross country meets, and at tennis matches. I’ve never considered “Facebooking” to be an organized sport, even though it is notorious for being the largest time suck since the networks began broadcasting professional football on TV.
I still believe it has some merit, and here’s why.
1. If You Let It, Social Networking Can Provide Comic Relief
My daughter Isabelle, tired of dealing with the emotional roller coaster of high school romances, has created an alternate persona on Facebook, with whom she is now “in a relationship.” The combined overload of high school academics, getting into college, extracurricular sports and dating has caused my 16 year-old kid to consider the merits of asexual reproduction. This doesn’t worry me overmuch; this sort of story-telling is not all that different from the days when my friends and I would elect to ride up on ski lifts “single” so that we could make up off-the-wall stories to tell strangers, and then report back on their reactions once reunited with our buddies. The only difference is that with Facebook, the audience is larger than the people I rode down on the bus with at the end of the day.
Caution: Life in the virtual world can be exhausting. Maintaining a relationship with yourself is probably just as difficult. Or viral.
2. It’s a Wonderful Way to Stay in Touch with Your Teenagers
Ask your kids if they’ll call you on their cellphones, and you’ll get a funny look, or worse, a caustic teenaged remark about how you expect too much. Ask them to call you from a land line when they get home, and you’ll be on the receiving end of a puzzled look. If you “friend” them on Facebook, suddenly, a window opens to their world. The minute they walk in the door, they’re “on”, so it’s as good as an instant status report. Snarkiness has its limits, and if they know their parents are reading their posts, they can’t put up anything too horrible. You hope. Please remember: “being in touch” is no longer tactile.
Warning: my kids are more tech savvy than I. They can access “Facebook” from their mobile phones. . .
3. Counterpart to #2: Because Your Kids Know You’re “Listening”, There’s A Chance They’ll Do Their Homework Instead
You never know about this one. There are a lot of teens who feel obligated to respond to every post that strays across their path. Net technology, with its layers of stimuli, its repetitious, interactive and addictive nooses, affects all our senses, sight, sound, and touch, engaging them simultaneously in a form of Pavlovian reinforcement training. When you get an email, text message or a “friend” request on Facebook, this is no different than the conditioning Pavlov taught his dogs, except that instead of a treat, you become “Linked In” to the net universe. Zero messages equals invisibility and being out of the loop. Is the attraction of faux popularity too great? That’s the choice individuals must make.
4. You Discover Who Your Enemies Really Are
These days, everyone is so concerned with being politically correct and polite. Ever been “unfriended”? That’s a clear sign that you’re not liked. Subtle? Not. Sophomoric? Without a doubt. The great part is that rather than being on the receiving end of a snide comment or a cutting look, it’s such an obvious dismissal. You’re done with them, with a quick click. Nice and simple.
5. You Don’t Need To Purchase All Of Those Cumbersome Bookshelves
With the advent of social networks, all that you need to know can be found right there, on the screen, without getting up out of your chair. There’s no reason for it; there is plenty of entertainment, considered thought and creativity happening right in front of your eyes. There is no need to follow the lines of a book, calmly considering the concepts within its pages, creating worlds in your head. After all, what is more important than knowing what your friend ate for lunch? Or that he reports that it’s raining outside. Although, if you got up out of your chair, there’s a chance you could figure that one out for yourself.
6. You Can Play The Anti-Social Game
Communication theorist Marshall McLuhan explained that whatever media we have access to will control us, and shape our interaction with the world. Does Facebook deliver a “juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of” our minds? Social networking has created new behavioral opportunities, providing a medium which threatens to change how we interact with each other. Is this an exercise in supervenience? Do we depend on Facebook so much that it’s mind-altering and societal-molding? Or, are our minds stronger than we give them credit? Can we overcome the medium?
7. No need to bother with pesky neighbors
There’s no need to bring fruitcake to your neighbors for Christmas. Unless of course, they see you venturing outside to take out the trash, decide you might be interesting and “friend” you on Facebook. Which makes me wonder: how can they call it a “social network” when it only promotes anti-social behavior?
Caveat: If you want to play down the “interesting” factor, only venture outside clad in your Sunday best.
8. Corollary to #8: Valentine’s Day Won’t Cost You A Penny
Divorce lawyers will point a finger at just about anything on behalf of their client if it provides them with an easy win. An emergent system such as Facebook, connecting 500 million users, is a nice fit. After all, with a dating pool that wide at your fingertips, why not go swimming in it? The truth is, if people are going to act irresponsibly in one venue (such as posting damning photos or airing their exploits to potentially millions of viewers), then it’s a fair bet that various sorts of exhibitionism will seep into other aspects of their lives. At the very least, Facebook eliminates the need for private investigators.
Social networking may be a great way to broadcast your derring-do, but most likely isn’t the missing link in why marriages fall apart. In fact, data shows that since 2009, the divorce rate has actually dropped; if anything, this is a fallout of the stressed economy, which has been pinpointed as the primary marriage manacle these days. When there’s not enough to go around, dividing the goods in half only gives you less.
The sheer public nature of social networks can be cast in a positive light: with a broken marriage going as public as the cover page of “The Enquirer”, both sides should take advantage of the boon of free advertising of their availability in the dating market.
9. Enjoy the Chance to Meet Members of INTERPOL
Engaging in deviancy goes to new heights with Facebook. You can exceed all expectations for sociopathic behavior just by playing games on your computer. Be careful what you say, though, because Big Brother is listening. Words describing any sort of weaponry, and methods of destruction of people or property are not viewed kindly by software filtering companies. You might just have to leave your house in the back seat of a police cruiser so they can figure out what it was you really meant when all you thought you were doing was playing “Risk”. Leaving your children to drown in the bathtub while you check friends’ status reports or to see if Rich Uncle left you a million dollars is another “no-no.”
10. You’ll Be On Your Way to Becoming A Millionaire
According to Dr. K., my hanging out on Facebook is the best thing that’s ever happened to him. I’m much too preoccupied keeping watch on my “friends'” status updates to leave the house to go shopping, or even switch pages to shop online. I might miss something of terrible significance, such as which Little Bo Peep found my lost black sheep on Farmville.
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