I actually know people who aren't on Facebook. Really. I know that is hard to believe but they are out there. The holdouts.
Most of them think Facebook is about telling people what you had for lunch. Well, sometimes that's exactly what it is. And the problem with that is? I mean, if I meet my pal Priscilla for a walk around the WaDu, I might talk to her about the latest study that shows stress is actually beneficial to your health, or about dopamine latency, or. . . what I had for lunch. If it is memorable, that is at least as important to our lives as a new study showing stress is beneficial. It might actually also be beneficial to our health to discuss lunch. Hmmmmm.
I think that is why I like Facebook. It is almost always instantly good for my emotional state. If I'm locked on a sentence when I'm writing, not sure what will follow after that long, trolling dependent clause that I was sure was going somewhere once upon a time . . . A glance at my bright, peppy friends on Facebook almost always reminds me where I was heading, even if I never thought of that direction before. ("Reminding" or re-minding, as we say in the trade, is a very important function of Facebook).
Some of my non-user friends prefer to call Facebook "mindless." That's actually not a bad thing either, sometimes. Some days my brilliant friends on Facebook depart from their role as intellectuals and are all affect. Public feelings, as Lauren calls them, can be particularly powerful, precisely because they are directed not at any one observer but somewhere indefinitely "public" and that means you can catch them or not. Like mythical raindrops with enough space in between the drops that you can choose whether to get wet or to avoid the rain a while longer. You can drop in, so to speak, and move in and out of the drops. ("It's not about me." Or, "This is so about me!" I like the dabbling, darting nature of address on Facebook. It's only a direct hit if I want it to be.)
I also go to Facebook because I have a community there whose politics I may not always agree with but who can be counted upon to be suitably disagreeable when something unconscionable happens. They can be passionate and opinionated and irrepressible. I love that. Intemperate. Even better. If I'm disgusted with something whiny I'm reading on the Huffington Post or complacent in the NY Times, well, I know someone will have a snarky comment about it on Facebook. Even better, if I can't bear to tune in to conventional news media, I know on Facebook I will have a remarkably interesting slice through the day's happenings, whatever those may be, and from a slant just slanted enough to be worth my time.
And if it isn't worth my time, something else is one click away. Facebook doesn't come to me. I go to it. And that means I can leave, thank you, without any rudeness. There is no requirement to update, link, comment, or even like. I can gawk and stalk or participate away (I'm a writer, what can I say? I do a lot of participating).
I also like it that there are many parts of my everyday life that are invisible to other parts of my everyday life but, on Facebook, all the pieces are more or less there, even if piecemeal (to return to the lunch metaphor). I can update about politics, technology, pedagogy . . . or Ken coming home from the market, an upcoming vacation, learning to moonwalk, mourning a friend or someone admired from afar (o, Merce!) . . . Not every colleague I meet knows I'm learning to moonwalk with a Facebook friend . . . Not every colleague would find it even imaginable that this academic creature known as "Cathy N. Davidson" (please do not omit the "N.") would spend some part of every hour learning, ludicrously, how to moonwalk.
Is it possible in this so-called fragmented, decentralized, customizing life of ours that some of these digital devices actually restore community that was lost in the so-called "bowling alone" suburbanized era in post-War modernity? Is it possible social networks put together the fragmented, alienated self? Not sure. But, mostly, it feels good. Sometimes. And, when it doesn't, I leave the site and, of course, I go twitter. Or blog.
These are just a few mindless thoughts about Facebook on an afternoon where I'm waiting for a call to come in, an appointment to happen, and, well, darn, I'm really not up to the three more tenure files that rolled onto my desk today. So I take this ten minutes of luxury and see what my FB pals are up to. Thus this rambling little blog that, of course, I plan to reblog. On Facebook. Of course.
Why do YOU like Facebook? Or do you hate it? (In which case, why waste time reading about it?) In any case, I'd love to hear . . . who knows, it might inspire yet another mind-wandering ramble about my so-called Facebook life.
(p.s. And if the Search function were working as it should on our new HASTAC site, I would send you to my rants on Facebook. Facebook really does creep me out sometimes, a lot of the times, on issues of privacy and data mining. Sigh. Balancing the creepy factor against the warm and cozy human factor. Like a lot of life. Sigh and sigh again.)