I Like You On Facebook
April 5, 2011, 8:57 am
Filed under: popconsumption | Tags: ,

Sometimes I really like people as their digital selves. They write messages and postings in a tone that is utterly foreign to how they are seemingly in person. They post funny or interesting stuff that goes beyond the spam level youtube videos and G&M political articles that we all already knew about anyways (or didn’t want to know about). As a result of not seeing people for years, I forget about whatever negligible real life relationship and interaction we had.

Conversely, there are people I absolutely adore but whose absence from any digital communication leaves our relationship strangely underfed. It is the traditional feeling of ‘losing touch’ except it’s not because your address was inaccessible or someone’s phone number changed.

And reunions? Sometimes the reunions with people I like on facebook but never got along that well with in real life are so hilariously incongruent. I remember why we weren’t actually friends, the ability to manage one’s image is so apparent. But the other side is less clear – does a lack of digital contact begin to damage relationships when the channels, be it an email address or some kind of other method, are just sitting… waiting… unused?

One of my acquaintances here said: “you’ve been quiet on facebook lately.” Another friend I got in touch with to congratulate on his wedding noted I hadn’t updated my profile picture for over a year. Oddly enough, people notice, and sometimes it appears the passive silence is taken for active distance. More people have removed me as a ‘friend’ in the period since I’ve closed down most of my wall, stopped posting pictures, and removed all personal information. [Other phenomena: upon finally posting a picture of myself with a guy in an obvious relationship type photo last year, a substantial number of exes suddenly deleted]

Social media only counts for two things. The network and the impact on actual friendships. As a formal and informal networking tool, it can’t be beat. There is no easier way to Make Friends And Influence People than to casually follow their life events and comment on them when you run into the person or to send out affirming messages. Most people actually forget that you wouldn’t know this stuff in real life, and in all likelihood don’t deeply care about their new baby/house/husband/dog. For the international set, it’s a useful way to keep tabs on where your contacts actually are so you can renew them if you’re in the area and jump start a life or vacation somewhere. It is the impact on actual friendship that is more questionable.

One on side, the ability to keep up easily with the details of your real friend’s lives is important. If you’re busy, you still won’t miss major changes and can respond to them. You can organize events easily and give each other the affirmation that distance makes difficult. On the other, the temptation to participate in the networking side of social networking ends up sucking up time that should be spent actually having and building relationships. At this point, the wide blown no limits lack-of-privacy free-for-all that is popular social networking has begun to negate the positives because we don’t tell the truth about our lives on the internet anymore (if that ever happened, I think at some point it did). I can’t follow what my actual friends are dealing with in their everyday lives because it’s no longer there – among educated career minded people facebook is largely censored for any number of reasons. Mine sure is.

Sometimes I think about hitting restart and moving accounts and being honest again. Posting recent pictures, going wall to wall. Then maybe I could be someone people like on facebook! Then I could better passively maintain relationships! When this impulse hits I just reflect on the people I actually consider my friends, scattered as they are right now, and send an actual email telling them what I’m actually doing and thinking and feeling and requesting back the same.


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