I have some friends and family who don’t use Facebook, including a few who tend to look down their noses at those who do. This has led me into conversations in which I end up defending it.
Now, I’m not talking about Facebook as a source for news: therein lies danger. If you learn about something on Facebook, be sure to look for corroboration elsewhere. No, what I’m talking about is my interactions with the odd universe of my Facebook Friends.
I can’t tell you or anybody why you should or shouldn’t use it, but I can tell you why I use Facebook and why I have no plans to stop: because when it comes to knowing people, it jumps past the big picture into the mundane details where the most meaning lies.
Knowing where someone went to school, what their job is, or what their overall beliefs are only give you a rough-hewn idea of who the person is. It gives you a broad framework to put the person into. But you don’t really know the person if that is all you know.
What brings the essence of that person into your mind, that lets you begin to grok who the person is, is knowing about the little things:
- How he felt when he saw a dead bird on the road
- How she laughed when she saw the ridiculous shoes on a waiter in a fancy restaurant
- The quirky way he told her about his day
- How mad she was about an insensitive customer
- How he looked when he saw his child for the first time
- How she fussed at making the perfect dinner for her boyfriend
- How hopeless and frustrated he felt when confronted by a clueless, racist co-worker
- How she confessed to her mother more than 20 years after the fact how young she was when she had her first kiss
- How he was excited to be learning to play the guitar in his sixties
- How ridiculous she looked and felt while taking a selfie at a concert
I think you see what I mean.
Some could say that these little things are meaningless, and perhaps if they came from total strangers they would be. But each tiny snippet of detail that I learn about my friends on Facebook adds just a little more detail to my picture of this person, and then the more meaningful each of these things become and the more I feel that I know who this person is.
Even a picture of a meal has value: if it was special to her, it has meaning for me.
Some would say that I should be getting these experiences from people “in real life,” not on Facebook or other online encounters. But here’s the thing with that: My friends are far-flung — some I have not seen in many years, and there’s a good chance we will never see each other in person. Another thing about me is that I am somewhat reclusive: I just don’t see people out in the real world very often. And as I am one of those people who detests talking on the phone, this friendship-in-writing is my favorite way to friend.
(Yes, not only have I used “Facebook” as a verb in this post, I have used “friend” as a verb too. So shoot me.)
So there it is. That’s why, even though it can get exasperating, I get fed up with the politics, I am dismayed sometimes by what I see, and sometimes I can get mired into a vortex of cute cat videos — I find tremendous value in using Facebook, and unless something changes, I’m here to stay.