People often ask me what I think of Facebook.
“Not much” is my answer.
Well, actually, I should say, “I like it and I dislike it.”
I like Facebook because it’s fun to keep up with old friends or acquaintances whom I’ve lost to those twin tyrants – time and distance. In just the past couple of years, it was so good to learn so many people I’d wondered about (not to mention their kids and grandkids) are doing fine in various places throughout the world. One woman I used to know 33 years ago has been living for great stretches of time in Ecuador, learning Spanish and teaching basic English. It’s become her retirement hobby and way of life. Several former reporter colleagues – one in Lowry, one in Texas, one in Afghanistan – have contacted me through Facebook. We hadn’t been in contact for many years. What a pleasure it was to hear from them. Many acquaintances and I have always kept in touch once a year through Christmas cards and letters. Facebook is a treat because now we can exchange updates and pleasantries more often.
Facebook really does transform this big wide world into a kind of chit-chat (and sometimes informative) “global village.” It amazes me how many people are connected in one way or another, indirectly, through mutual friends and acquaintances. Small world, indeed. As a reporter I’ve known that for years. Reporters have to ask a lot of questions when interviewing people, including some biographical background. As a result, we reporters discover those connections all the time. To this day, for instance, I’m flabbergasted – after 35 years of interviewing — how many people grew up in the Benson area and knew my relatives there – something I never would have known had I not interviewed them. Facebook, like reporting, is an interesting way to learn those far-and-wide web-like connections among so many people.
But here are some of the reasons why I dislike Facebook. At times it reminds me of a vast ocean of trivialities, which bob about on waves, appearing and disappearing from my attention span. Small talk and chit-chat are fine, in person, when people run out of anything interesting to share. But when so many spend so much time typing trivial remarks, I’ve got to wonder if there isn’t anything else they could do with their precious time. Don’t get me wrong; some of the chit-chat is amusing and clever. Sometimes I laugh out loud at the ping-pong exchanges. But, too often, the comments are so mundane as to be – well – ridiculous. It all reminds me of an aunt who would send us Christmas letters as long as little novels that would include mentions of what the family ate at rest stops during sight-seeing travels.
“We stopped at a restaurant just outside Des Moines. We ordered steak, fries and apple pie with ice cream. Pretty good for the price.”
I would nod off while reading those “culinary adventures.”
Well, that’s what I mean about Facebook. A little trivia goes a long way. Less is more.
I don’t spend more than 15 minutes a week on Facebook, and then only when I’m notified there is a message waiting for me. I do try, each time, to reply to the message.
I keep wondering: When I retire, will I spend more time on Facebook? Will I plunge into that ocean and bob about, swimming with trivialities? I don’t think so. At my age I’m not the good swimmer I used to be. I’d drown. And besides, there’s just too much else to do.