This thought was provoked by reading this article in the Guardian today. Here, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett argues that social media such as Facebook and Twitter sucks away at time for many people. She feels she is ‘trapped’ by social media because without it, she’d lose contact with many of her friends who exist mostly, and in some cases exclusively, in these forums. What she objects to is the dross of wedding and birthday photos, dinners, breakfasts and trivia that she has to wade through to get to the meaningful stuff. She seems to be suffering from social media fatigue, she says, and she feels that she is not alone. However, she states, she can’t give it up entirely.
In some ways I relate to much of what she says. I also spend more time than I’d like (when time is extremely precious to me) scrolling and clicking and reading on my phone or my laptop. I wake up every morning and spend 15 minutes catching up and clicking. I click and read. That reading leads to more clicking and reading. I post and repost. This all takes time. However, if it wasn’t for Facebook I wouldn’t have come across this article in the Guardian in the first place. I wouldn’t have spent 7 minutes reading it. And I wouldn’t be spending time now writing about it. So Facebook has sucked time from my day today but it has provoked a thought out of me, so that is a positive.
My friend who gave up Facebook a while ago is still Facebook-free and shines with health and vitality. Although I admire her discipline and strength, I couldn’t do it. Just as I couldn’t give up cheese and red wine, or chocolate. And, in fact, I don’t want to give up these things. After recently reading this book I considered again giving up Facebook. But I just can’t and I don’t want to. I wrote here not so long ago about how Facebook reminds me of the social life of university. But there is more to my love of Facebook than that.
This blog isn’t about the time suckage of Facebook though, it’s about the friendships I have on there and how those friendships differ to those I have with real, solid people I see in the real world. I have frequently come across the argument in the real world that virtual relationships and virtual friendships (albeit with real people) are not as meaningful and profound as real face-to-face ones in the real world. I disagree and I might make myself unpopular by saying this. I would even argue that for me at least, I find it much easier to relate and converse with people online than I do in real life. I find social situations quite a challenge, especially one-to-one situations (I really struggle with those – give me two other people and I’m fine but just one other, that’s hard). I am far more interesting online than I am in real life. In the flesh I can be really quite boring and not a great conversationalist. I feel great pressure to be witty and interesting.
I find being witty through my fingers much easier than through my mouth (please, no comments, let me indulge myself). So my argument is: virtual friendships can be as deep (if not deeper) than real ones for socially-awkward people such as me. I do have lovely real friends and I value their friendship very much. But I value the friendship of my Facebook friends just as much (many of course, exist in both worlds).
Facebook has done many marvelous things for me. It has got me back in touch with many long-lost friends from school and university and I have and continue to enjoy the lively, engaging conversations I have with them online. I have enjoyed seeing how their lives have turned out, seeing photos of their partners, children, cats, dogs, and even their dinners. Before Facebook, as I went through life I gathered friends and those friends, as a result of the natural turn of life, gradually faded from my sphere of activity as we moved on in our individual lives. That is natural. However, Facebook has brought many of these friends back to me like shiny, happy boomerangs. They have come back into focus and this I treasure.
Facebook also allows me to post my weird blogs and share my weird thoughts with anyone who is willing to spend some precious time-suckage time on clicks to my blog from Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for that, dear friends! Facebook lets me share my paintings and videos and get valuable feedback so I can improve my art practice. It has also allowed me to vent, cry for help, and help others who are venting and crying for help.
So tonight I will drink my glass of wine, eat my cheese and converse with you on Facebook. See you there.