I like facebook – I check it all the time.
I use it for all the usual kinds of things: like talking to my friends, planning events, sharing photos, figuring out my schoolwork, and catching up with people I used to know. I also have it to thank for other things: like for telling me when a band is playing in Toronto, for allowing me to magically “remember” everyone’s birthdays, and for providing, as of today, almost 78% of The Reckoner’s traffic. A bit of a design nerd, I’m always impressed with facebook’s ridiculously simplistic efficiency (I’m usually the one smiling alone at my desk while other people bitch about a layout change through their status updates). And so a few days ago, after suggesting what I thought was the obvious end-all solution of facebook to the task of organizing something with fifty other people in my grade, I was shocked (and initially a little appalled) to learn: some people are not allowed to use facebook, and others choose not to of their own accord.
The situation escalated. Other people joined the argument with strong opinions. Should we use an external website to accommodate for those whose parents won’t let them use facebook (even for work) and for those who just don’t like it? Or should we stick with facebook, which most of us already use to communicate with each other?
It got me thinking about this weird beauty of the website: it doesn’t just allow you to connect with a few of your friends, or even just most of them. Practically everyone you’ve ever known is either on facebook now, or will probably be at some point. I rethought which side I supported in my grade’s argument, and decided that it’s stupidly presumptuous to think that just because I like facebook, everyone should. In fact, I came to realize that, with a different list of friends, with a different schedule, with a different environment, the website built for efficiency and usefulness could be nothing more than a cluttered, drama-infused, distracting waste of time; who am I to judge people who avoid it? I was satisfied with this conclusion for a few days, but there seemed to be something else bothering me about the site. I thought for a long while, and then I thought of something:
Would we be less lonely without facebook?
And from there, I looked out the window and the repercussions of the social network hit me all at once.
Would we get out more? Would we be less shy, reclusive, and reserved? Would we pick up the phone and call our friends? Would we be more polite when we talk to people? Would we ask new friends what kind of music they like? Would we reminisce our memories with our friends by sharing photos in person? Would we be less judgmental of peoples’ appearances? Would we be more able to put things in the past? Would we be happier? We’ll probably never know.
Social networking has changed the world irreversibly, and whether or not we support it, we’re going to have to learn to live within the society it’s created. Facebook can be great – it can be useful, interesting, and fun. It can also be distracting, time wasting, and incredibly creepy. Stick to it if it’s right for you, but don’t be afraid to cut back or deactivate. Social networking has effectively hijacked the way we interact with one another in every respect, and I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a bad thing. All of that said, maybe now, after that argument of whether to use facebook or an external forum to organize our event, we’re one step closer to understanding the effect we impose on our lives every time we log in.