So, I don't know what impelled me to do it, but I joined Facebook the other day. In case you're slightly older than I am, social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace (or as my friend Pete calls them FaceSpace) are online social networking sites that connect you to people through existing members. As of today at 4:30 I have connected with over a dozen people that I have not spoken to in over ten years. Wow.
It's quite a thing. It certainly has limits, and perhaps even some negative aspects, but hasn't everyone thought to themselves "I'd really love to know how so-and-so is doing right now"? Well, now I get at least a peak at how so-and-so is doing, as well as where he lives and what he is talking to his friends about.
The limits: it's superficial, it's unreal, you can't hug people. It's not like being there, that's for sure. My "friend" Gabe is living in London. I heard from him today. Gabe was a casual acquaintance in college and will probably continue to be so. Will either of our lives change even slightly due to our encounter on Facebook? Probably not. Was it a good thing to know what he's doing and what he looks like after seven years?
The thing that initially struck me about Facebook was this feeling of being connected. In every other age beside our own, you would grow up and live around people for long periods of time. You knew the people in your neighborhood or town. You knew their families, so even if they moved away you would get news or even the occasional visit. It's not like that anymore. People are so mobile and transient, and besides people don't know each other as well anymore anyhow. Facebook is kind of like the hometown that you can come home to, except that it's not really and they're trying to make money off of you somehow.
People move on, and today they move pretty far and fast. It's not a good thing and digital technology will never make it the same. There's nothing like being there. It's like the old AA saying: "If you care, then you're there".
So I won't let Facebook substitute for real relationships. It's still important to know your neighbor and to go over their house every once in a while. But it's good to see old friends smiling and waving in pictures with their husbands, wives, children, or friends. It makes me feel like I'm there, and that they're OK.