Monday, 21 November 2011

Facebook - another layer of friendship.

I am lying on my bed taking a break from my latest essay. Its about the competing models of boyhood in Little Women and Treasure Island ... yes ... I know ... that's why I'm taking a break ...

And I got to thinking ...

About Facebook really ... I have friends on Facebook who would not be my friends if Facebook did not exist. By that I mean that we would have, did, drift apart, but Facebook brought us back together. I don't mean that we are back together in a deep and meaningful friendship where we spend weekends strolling on beaches or evenings playing chess and talking about world politics - I mean that we ... well we kind of stalk each other.

God that sounds terrible. When I say say stalk I mean that its like we are on a night bus, on the way home and we have the chance to glimpse inside the lighted windows of the houses we pass. We can see the people sitting down to dinner, or taking photos or having BBQs. Maybe its less like stalking and more like supporting from a distance or like taking an interest without intruding too much.

Facebook has created a new layer of friendship that just wasn't there before. There are people that you like, people you worked with or went to school with, but you were never going to be that close to. They might have moved away, gone abroad. They might be people who you really like, but probably spending an evening down the pub with them just wouldn't quite work ...

So Facebook is perfect for dipping. Of course there are still the real friendships which can co-exist alongside the dippers. I have real life day to day friends who are also my Facebook friends. And I certainly don't have anyone as a friend who I don't actually know in the flesh, so to speak.

I just love being able to see holiday snaps straight away, nights out ... In many ways I can be a better friend because I can see when something has happened in someone's life instantly. They don't have to phone hundreds of people - just post an announcement and the world of friends are there in an instant to help.

The concept of social networking does not diminish the idea of friendship, it deepens it, adds another layer. There are people who have become far closer friends of mine because of our use of Facebook than they would have been if we only saw each other on high days and holidays. I can pick up if someone is feeling down and send my love and they can do the same to me.

My Facebook is not the cyber bullying place of teen angst and keeping up with the Joneses. It is more a comfortable middle aged place where the people watch out for one another. Is that a naive view? Maybe ... but I don't think so. These things are what we make them. The users create the atmosphere and the rules. Like attracts like. For me Facebook is a place to publicise charitable events, a place to chat, a place to laugh. Yes I know - I am sounding very middle aged and this is probably the death knell for Facebook as I type.

How strange to think that the dream of a young American student has spread to leafy English suburbia and has become a phenomenon in terms of friendship that was non-existent only 7 years ago. As I say - its not a replacement for friendships, its another layer, a way of keeping in touch, of sharing and supporting. And surely that can't be bad?


Urban Cynic said...

Sorry, I couldn't disagree more. I hate Facebook - it started as a stolen idea from a horrible piece of work and is now a place full of huge show offs determined to inform the World of their every movement.

A timely article was written in the Guardian about it, some of the comments sum up exactly how I feel about it. I wish it had never been invented as I don't think it's enhanced many lives at all & has changed the way we see privacy forever. I appreciate what you personally get from it though... but I think it's a lazy way to communicate.

Urban Cynic said...

Helps if I attach the link!

sarah at secret housewife said...

I can definitely see your point.I can see that it is used by some people as a " look at me everyone I'm so wonderful" thing. I will go and have a read of that article.For me, Twitter is a worse offender in that way.
I think Facebook could make you lazy, but for me its an addition to my friendships, not an "instead of".
I'm off to read the Guardian !!

Rosie said...

I disagree with Urban Cynic: facebook is, and always has been, what you make it, and with increased privacy controls and choice, you can choose what you share with whom, who sees what you post and so on. My experience is very close to yours and I've found it's enhanced my life very much. I think your analogy of another type of friendship is very accurate. Great post. Rx

sarah at secret housewife said...

Thanks Rosie.Having read the Guardian article my opinion has not changed.Facebook is what you make it and there are as many versions as there are people. I still see it as a welcome addition to my life. Sarah x