“Let’s stay in touch.”
I’ve said that at high school graduation and college graduation. I’ve said it to co-workers on the final day of a job. I’ve said it to friends-of-friends I met during a long weekend.
But it never happens.
It’s HARD to stay in touch. Inertia is easier than sending an email, making a phone call or sending a text message. Staying in touch requires consistency and perseverance. Send an email to a high school friend and he doesn’t reply? Move right along without thinking twice about it.
Along Came Facebook
But then came Facebook.
At first, I didn’t use Facebook often. I friended family members and close friends, and used it to glance at what was happening in their lives.
Over time, my friend list grew to include high school classmates, college classmates, current and former co-workers.
A high school classmate would see me “Like” another classmate’s post and send me a friend request.
This cycle repeated itself and I became Facebook friends with lots of my high school classmates. In a class of 300, I must be Facebook friends now with more than a third of my classmates!
As a result of this larger social circle, I transitioned from casual user to regular user. I went from checking Facebook twice a day to checking it ten times a day. Classmates, friends and family were the gravitational pull and Facebook was Mother Earth.
Facebook In Crisis
We’re in the midst of the #DeleteFacebook movement, which arose from revelations that a company named Cambridge Analytica exploited the data of millions of Facebook users. Later, an internal memo leaked revealing statements made by a Facebook executive that don’t paint the company in a good light.
This post is not intended to be a defense of Facebook. They made mistakes and are suffering the consequences.
However, in deciding whether I should delete Facebook, I thought about my use of it. And for now, I determined that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and risks. In the rest of this post, I’ll outline those benefits.
Staying in Touch with Just About Everyone
I’ve friended people from all phases of my life. Facebook helps me stay current with them.
Scanning the Facebook newsfeed is like ambient noise. I’ll swipe and scan, swipe and scan. Images and text whoosh on by. When I see something interesting, I’ll pause to click “Like.” If something rises to the level of “super relevant” or “significant life moment,” I’ll invest more mental resources and leave a comment.
Scanning the feed is like having music play in the background. It’s there and I’m hearing it, but only when my favorite song comes on do I stop to really take notice. In the meantime, the background music sinks in, so I remember that Joan went to a Broadway musical and Dan was at the beach.
Over the course of weeks or months, the musical and the beach come together to go along with the babies born, the weddings celebrated and the children who graduated.
Swipe like this a few times per day and I’m caught up with friends from high school, college, first job, next job and current job.
This is all made possible in an environment that’s casual and non-committal. My Facebook friends post updates when they have something to share, while I’ll see their updates when I’m ready to receive them. Unlike phone calls, emails or text messages, there’s no expectation of an acknowledgement or a reply.
My Friends Stay Connected with Me
My typical Facebook posts are:
Photos of places I visited
Funny things my daughter said
Funny things I think up (at least I think they’re funny)
Photos of my dog
Thoughts about my favorite sports teams
Taken together, you can learn a lot about what’s going on in my life 😎
Last year, I attended my high school reunion and Facebook was central to my attending. A Facebook Group was used to plan the reunion. Also, the friendships I preserved via Facebook made me excited to re-connect with classmates in person.
When I saw classmates at the reunion, they’d greet me with comments about my daughter’s quotes or the cuteness of my dog. They stayed current with me via Facebook.
My mother uses Facebook to check in on her kids and her two granddaughters. My relatives in New York, New Jersey and Taipei can see what I’ve been doing. Co-workers from my first job know what’s been going on in my life.
Without Facebook, this wouldn’t have been possible.
Making Something Meaningful Happen
In high school, my best friend, Lou, was also my next-door neighbor. We spent a lot of time together playing sports, watching movies and goofing around.
I went to college a year before him. We went on with our lives and didn’t stay in touch.
A few years ago, I got his email address, but only exchanged a handful of messages with him.
During the high school reunion last year, his sister Deborah “Liked” one of my classmate’s posts.
Even though I hadn’t spoken to her in ages, I sent Deborah a friend request, which she accepted.
A few months ago, she posted on Facebook about the sad news of Lou’s sudden passing.
I attended Lou’s memorial service to pay my last respects. I felt guilty that I didn’t keep in touch. Because we lost touch, the news of his passing would have escaped me if it wasn’t for Facebook. I’m thankful I could see him one last time.
Where to From Here?
I’ll continue to use Facebook, but I’m not sure what may happen down the road. Facebook has work to do to stem the #DeleteFacebook tide and re-gain the confidence of users. If there comes a day when the drawbacks outweigh the benefits, I’ll leave. Whether that day comes or not, it’s made a big and positive impact on my life.