Let’s keep in touch

I’ve left Facebook.

Oh, but how will you keep in touch with all those friends?

I’m not convinced that I really was.

What does being “friends” with someone on Facebook really mean? It means that one of you clicked on the invitation link and the other person, for whatever reason, clicked to accept. Does this mean they really care about keeping in touch with you? hmmm… maybe if they did, you wouldn’t need Facebook, you’d be at least emailing each other if not phoning/skyping/texting/meeting up.

Sure, some of the people I was FB-friends with are people who are what I’d call real friends. That’s why it took me so long to decide to leave. But with those who are real friends I can keep in touch in other ways. Yes, I am aware that this takes more of an effort. You have to deliberately choose to email someone in particular, rather than the general posting on FB, where you just release your updates into the air and leave it to each person to choose if they want to respond. But FB doesn’t show all your updates to all your contacts – even if they’ve signed up for it. So even if you really care about your friend Jemima and want to know all her news, and even if Jemima really values you as a friend and includes you in the access to all her updates, you may still find yourself hearing on the grapevine that Jemima had a baby and yes, she posted about it on FB, but FB chose to filter that out of your feed for some reason and only show you her photos of what she had for lunch.

There’s a lot about the concept of Facebook that appealed to me. I like the idea of just posting updates in a general way, which means you can share trivia from your day-to-day life – stuff that you wouldn’t dream of emailing all your friends with. But the privacy issue makes it far too stressful for me, and there’s also the issue of it simply not working all that well – like I said, they don’t show you everything you want to see, and you just never know what you’re missing. And of course the other side of the same coin is that you don’t know what your friends are missing. So you might share really important news and get no response, and you can’t know if that’s because everyone is ignoring you or if it’s because FB decided your update isn’t important enough.

So there are technical downsides in terms of how Facebook works, and then there’s the issue of interpersonal relationships: sharing bits of your life with a bunch of people when you don’t really know how many of them actually care, how many of them regard you as a friend at all.

I’m tired of that. I’m tired of posting stuff and getting hardly any response. I’m tired of not posting because hardly anyone responds anyway. I’m tired of seeing cryptic updates and wondering if I should ask what it’s about or if it’s some kind of inside joke that only this person’s friends would get. Or asking a question and getting no reply, and never knowing if it’s because that person just didn’t get an alert for my comment or if it’s because they don’t want to answer.

Not to mention all the emotional blackmail. How many times have you gone onto FB and not seen any demand that you must reshare yada yada yada to prove that you are a caring human being or whatever?

I’m tired of all that.

So how will I keep in touch with all these friends? I won’t. I will keep in touch with those who care enough to use other means of communication, and vice versa.

That’s how it was, wasn’t it, in the pre-Facebook days? People didn’t stay in touch with everyone they’d ever met, did they? I feel that FB is kind of muddying the waters, it’s making it a lot less normal to say things like: oh, Jemima? yes, I was friends with her at college and we kept in touch for a while but then it fizzled out.

I’m going back to that. I think it’s much healthier than having a whole load of people who are kind of in touch with you but not really. I like knowing where I stand, even though it can sometimes be painful – yes, it hurts when you find that someone you regarded as a friend is no longer bothering to keep in touch with you, but I’d much rather know, and deal with the pain, and move on. I don’t want a whole bunch of question marks as FB-friends.

P.S. Those who know my love of online social networking may wonder how come I’m saying all this. But what I love about it mostly is the connections I make with people I don’t know offline. On Google Plus, I post whatever I like and I don’t worry about whether friends from real life would like it or not – there are plenty of other people who like reading my stuff. Friendships do happen there, but they’re not the be all and end all, they’re not a necessary part of what we’re there for. On Google+ you can add someone just because you find their posts informative on a subject you’re interested in, or because you like their writing style, or whatever. I have got to know some people there who I regard as friends now, but there are people who read me just as you might read a blog or a newspaper column, without any personal relationship involved. The expectations there are totally different. It can be as personal or impersonal as you like. Whereas Facebook is mainly for keeping in touch with people you know – and I’m not convinced it’s such a good way of doing that.

8 thoughts on “Let’s keep in touch

  1. Actually, I like Facebook. There are at least two girls from high school who wouldn’t give me the time of day back then – I wasn’t in their social circle – but who’ve become good friends now… I wouldn’t have that if it weren’t for Facebook. Then there’s family I wouldn’t connect with otherwise. Mail to them never gets answered. We’re just not close enough, but I don’t want to lose touch again. I was starved of family for far too many years.

    I do agree though that the viewing glitches are irritating. I hate that there are some whose updates never show for me even though we’re good friends and there are some whose banal updates I don’t mind missing, but they’re always there, in my face. I ignore the emotional blackmail posts. I had those even in email for years. I think they’re just a part of online life… even offline… “If you love me, you’ll… ”

    G+ takes so long to load for me. I think because it’s so busy. I haven’t managed to get close to anyone there and my closest friends don’t go there, though I do have friends there, but those friends I usually see on other platforms as well.

    Oh! You’ll appreciate this! I set up a second Youtube account that I didn’t want associated with my main one. It has a completely different purpose. Anyhow, I gave myself a name. Google kicked it out sharply. Oh yeah? So I used my real name, but changed the language version (if that makes sense… a bit like John and Johan). I’m currently ‘under approval’, so that may or may not be accepted. I know you had name issues on G+. It made me think of you. Was that ever resolved?

    Oops… I blogged on your blog. Sorry! :)

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    • The names policy on G+ was changed ages ago, they backed down on demanding that people use their real names – the only thing they won’t allow now is names that don’t look like a person’s name, so for example you can sign up as Jane Smith but not as, say, JaneSmth37.

      I’m sorry you’re finding G+ taking too long to load! do you have a slow internet connection? I wish I knew what to suggest. It would be lovely to have you there!

      And I’m pleased for you that you find Facebook so helpful!

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  2. Thanks for posting your thoughts – I feel like you do about Facebook, slightly different reasons but largely the same… and am quitting it just before Christmas (warned everyone a week or two ago, to give them time to FB-message me if they wanted to before I was “too hard to communicate with”.) It’s oddly comforting to hear someone else come to similar conclusions. I keep thinking I ought to sit down and articulate mine, but I think for me it’s probably most important to just quit it, and try to invest that time spent in real (hopefully face to face) relationships.

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    • Thank you – it’s comforting for me too, very affirming, to hear that others feel the same. (My gut feeling is that introverts generally would get less out of Facebook, because we tend to crave deep, meaningful communication and feel starved by a lot of brief soundbites.) (hmmm… haven’t you and I had this conversation before? :))

      I also did the prior warning thing. I actually posted an event on my timeline: leaving Facebook. :) One friend followed me to Google+ and that was a nice surprise. Am hoping to stay in touch with some by email. (With all the moving around I’ve done over the years, I have friends scattered all over the place.) Some will fall by the wayside, but if they can’t withstand this, then I’d rather they do fall by the wayside really.

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  3. Amen! I’ve feel the same about FB..Altho I’m staying with it simply to keep in touch with out of state family. I find FB rather fake and phony which bothers me, Sadly, I suppose it’s a reflection of how the world has become… By the way, Love your posts!

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    • Totally understand about staying on there for keeping in touch with family who are far away – I think a lot of people are there for that reason. (I also have family far away but we keep in touch in other ways – mainly email, a bit of Google Chat, a phone call once in a while. It feels much more personal.) (But then I’m talking about close family. I’ve never been good at keeping in touch with extended family, and most of mine don’t post on Facebook anyway.)

      oh, and thank you for your kind comment about my posts!

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  4. Excellently stated. I am gravitating away from Facebook for the reasons you mention. My original reason was Facebook’s new algorithms. I am really frustrated that I can’t get the things I want to see to show up in my stream. However, it is starting to seem like a giant time suck, and the time I’m using is for people I don’t really care about anyway. Why?

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