I have a few people in my life who don't "get" Facebook. Their reasons may have some validity. One friend just doesn't need another time-sucking activity in her life. Point taken, said the woman with way too many time suckers. Another believes there is no reason to reconnect with people she lost touch with. I think she's missing out, but hey, her loss.
Like most people, I had to set some Facebook parameters. Facebook is my time killing playground. My playground, my rules. If you're using your news feed to spout annoying political opinions, you're hidden from my news feed. If you're using your status update to spout political opinions I respect (note I didn't say agree with; there's a difference), you may or may not be hidden. It depends on how much spouting you're doing. Occasional spouters are left alone. Chronic spouters can go hide. Your mileage may vary. You may use Facebook to have mind-changing political discourse with some friends. That's the beauty of Facebook. It's your playground, too.
You may be saying, "What? How could Lori, the former journalist and supporter of the First Amendment, advocate censorship?" Despite what some people like to cry, the First Amendment does not grant the right to say what you want without repercussions. It gives you the right to say most things without fear of being arrested and thrown into a dingy prison cell with no hope of ever seeing the sun again. I can promise that I will not have people arrested for spouting political discourse. I'll just hide them.
Who else might be hidden? People who tell me about their sex lives, whether they're being specific or posting the results of a quiz that describes them as "hotter than a burning ember." People who use lots of foul language. People who Vaguebook. Look it up. It's a very apt term for those status updates that say, "I am bitter" or some other alarming sentiment, causing friends to say, "Honey, what's wrong? How can I help?" A true Vaguebooker gives cryptic answers, like, "We'll have to get together later," or "I hoped you'd understand," or "I'm going to have to work through this alone." Hide, unless they provide adequate entertainment value.
Anyhow, after the above discourse, you're probably thinking, "What the heck is she doing on FB? She obviously hates it and wants to hunt down Mark Zuckerberg. No, I don't. Loved the movie, though. And I love Facebook. Here's why:
- I no longer forget people's birthdays. I am horrible about remembering birthdays. I typically turn over a calendar page when it's the 10th of the month, meaning I miss everyone who was born on the 1st – 9th. But, thanks to Facebook, I can actually wish someone a happy birthday on their actual birthday. Caveat – you must be on Facebook and list your birthday to enjoy this benefit.
- I can look up people I used to know. As a rule, I stay away from anyone I've dated. Until I met Matt, I had awful taste in men, so most of the guys I dated were idiots. Old school friends and coworkers, however, are a welcome find. Newspaper people have this strange fraternity. I guess when you've lived on Ramen Noodles as you work full-time, struggling to pay off student loans while the general public refers to you as vermin, you have a sort of camaraderie. Hence, I enjoy reconnecting with my fellow and former scribes, photographers and other talented folks.
- Family members start to make sense. When I was a teen-ager, I'd attend the family reunion and ask my mother to identify relatives. She thought I was interested in my heritage. Frankly, I had my eye on a cute 16-year-old, and I was hoping he was my second cousin's friend, rather than my second cousin. I know, apparently this is legal in some states, but I preferred to stay several family degrees of separation away from someone I wanted to date. Anyhow, thanks to Facebook, I'm finally starting to make sense of some of our large extended family. (Grandpa had two brothers and seven sisters. They all had kids. Need I say more?)
- Games. I have great memories of watching game shows in the '70s. I watched many of them at my grandmother's house. "Family Feud" was a favorite. Grandma used to always remark about how Richard Dawson sure did like to kiss the ladies. I'd sit there with my extended family, listening to my grandmother, mother or aunts shout the correct answer at the TV. I dreamed of participating. It would be better than the time my mother appeared on the local game show, "Bowling For Dollars," and won $9. Anyhow, with my family we could certainly plan on winning the $5,000. Plus, my grandmother would get to kiss Richard Dawson. We never made it to sunny California for the show, so I have to be content playing it online. Yes, I know Facebook apparently compromises my privacy with this application. Have at it, Facebook. You now know that I'm a bit addicted to "Family Feud" and I hide the Vaguebookers.
- Other reminders. See No. 1. I tend to forget things. But, if my group or organization is on Facebook, they send out timely reminders. Bring canned goods to church on Sunday. Don't forget the neighborhood party on Friday. Facebook even reminded me to vote. It's like having a wife. A wife who remembers things.
- Pictures. Seriously, if it weren't for Facebook, would you really have any idea what your second cousin's children looked like? Thanks to Facebook, not only have I seen pictures of my second cousins' kids, I was able to follow another second cousin's labor. All 30something hours of it. Fortunately, she was rewarded with a really cute baby, who gets my arms aching. Baby pictures tend to do that these days.
- Pictures, part II: Facebook is an exhibitionist's dream come true. Thanks to modern technology, you can see pictures that document every part of the day. You can see self-portraits. Formal portraits. Goofy pictures. You may not talk to these people, but you saw what they did last summer.
- Parental supervision. When the child wanted a Facebook account, we made a deal: She needed to friend us and give us her password. Now, tweens and teens tend to want voluminous friend lists. Consequently, you get a friend request from many of your child's friends. Friend them. How else can you see what they're saying to each other? Plus, you can call them on it when they're careless enough to drop a curse word or call someone a "retard."
- TV shows and other products. You really don't reap a lot of rewards when you "like" a TV show or a product. Maybe you get an occasional preview, or you can wade through comments that say "(TV show star) is so hot." But, anyone who knows me understands why I had to "like" Pop-tarts.
- Time's a wasting. When it comes down to doing the laundry or checking Facebook, Facebook wins. Cleaning floors or Facebook? Facebook. Writing a story due tomorrow or Facebook? Facebook. Homework or Facebook? Wait a second, are you done with your homework? Get off that computer RIGHT NOW and finish it. What can I say? I spent 30 minutes writing this. You just spent a few more reading it.
Long live the social media.