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The False Promises of Facebook

23 October, 2008

Recently, I relented and signed up to <a href="http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1555069907&ref=name"Facebook.

I’d decided previously that I already spent too much time on the computer, and didn’t need anything else to distract me from my duties as a wife, mother and home-maker. Well, I was right about the distraction, and quickly had to change my email settings so that I didn’t get an email notification every time “something” happened on facebook, which enticed me into checking my facebook page…

However, it’s not the distraction potential that has bothered me most, I expected that. It’s what Facebook promises and doesn’t deliver.

The enticement of Facebook, as I see it, is connection. You can reconnect with long-lost friends or keep in better contact with your family and friends – or at least, that is what is promised.

In practice, Facebook is used as a noticeboard for random comments. Visit the Facebook page of a friend and you’ll see status changes and what their friends have said about them. You see half-conversations and glimpses of “in-jokes” you have no understanding of. You see that your “friend” has 278 other friends connected with them.

None of the information I’m interested in seems to be on people’s Facebook pages. I’m interested in catching up with old friends from school, wondering what they’ve done in the past ten-to-twenty years since I last saw them. I’m interested in their careers, their travel, their marital status, if they have children and if they are walking with the Lord. I want to see who these people have become. I want to see their values and personality.

“Jo is now at work”, “Simon is nursing a broken finger”, “Jane drank too much last night” and “Sarah wishes she was asleep” tell me a little about the people mentioned but not much. I want to know what they believe, what their passions are and what their dreams are for the future. I want to catch up on who my classmates have become and what they have done with their lives. In short, I want to feel like I have a relationship with these people, without the hard work. I want connectedness without commitment.

I’m not alone in my lack of commitment. I am not alone in my need for connectedness. People all around the globe are longing to have real connections with the people in their lives, but feel they don’t have the time – or their friends don’t have the time. Women are particularly susceptible to this, and moreso if they are stay-at-home-mothers.

Facebook is a useful tool. But that is all it is, a tool. Facebook can’t give you real relationships. It can help you to communicate with the people you do know, and perhaps say hi to an old friend, but if you want to really catch up with people, then you need to meet face-to-face. Nothing can replace hospitality in your home, or theirs, as a great way to connect. Even meeting together at a cafe or a reunion is much more fulfilling than reading disconnected words on a computer screen.

Connectedness is a real need for people everywhere. Facebook is not going to change that, nor will it fill the need, although it can be a tool we use to make connection a little easier.

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