I’m horrible with correspondence, I always have been. I can’t remember the last time I sent out Christmas cards or even wrote an actual letter. When it comes to updates with family and friends, I tend to go the third party route, getting the 411 on everyone through one or two sources. So one of the reasons I like Facebook is the ease it gives me to keep up with people and their lives. It also gives me the opportunity to learn a little more about people that I might not get in the physical world. I also like being able answer the age-old question, “I wonder what ever happened to so-n-so.”.
While I enjoy this global connection the social networking tools like Facebook gives us, I don’t like how it is destroying actual communication, and actual friendships. We are connecting but we aren’t communicating.
I posted earlier this month about being unfriended and I really was amused and not surprised. I never considered that person a friend, but I did find her postings entertaining for awhile. If I had any sort of real friendship with her, I would have been devastated to be so superficially dismissed from her life. Which is just what happened recently with a couple of friends of mine. Twenty-plus years of friendship thrown away over Facebook postings. I’m talking about adults here, not silly teenagers who are used to changing friends as often as they change fashion trends. Adults who have seen each other through the best and worst of times. Attending weddings and children’s birthdays, and nursing each other’s families through crisis; all gone because we are forgetting how to communicate and interact with each other.
I took a class in college called Interpersonal Communications that focused on all of the ways that we communicate other than verbally. I took away so many interesting lessons in communicating. One of the best, I think, was the sending and receiving of information. Regardless of how your message is intended, if it is not received correctly, then effective communication has not occurred. This is where body language, facial expression, and tone of voice and inflection comes in very handy. And these are all things that have been silenced and erased with “social networking”. There was a time when written communication took more time and thought than verbally expressing yourself; if you’re like me, that extra filter can come in handy when suffering from verbal/mental diarrhea.
I like to look at Facebook as the ultimate cocktail party; you can socialize and twinkle about between a multitude of little conversations without having to get dressed up. You can come and go as you please without having to come up with little white lies to extract yourself from a conversation you no longer find interesting. And like a cocktail party, you can socialize and get to know people in a way that school or work doesn’t always provide. I have a couple of regulars from the restaurant where I work on my friends list. I don’t always get a lot of time to chat with them while I am working and Facebook gives me the opportunity to get to know them a bit more.
My “real” relationships, the ones that carry me through my day-to-day life, do not begin and end on Facebook. If I have an issue with someone I pick up the phone and call them and talk to them about the problem, I don’t use Facebook to “communicate” with them. This is why I am upset about the ending of this friendship between my friends. These people have history and memories that are now tarnished and marred. Even if one of them may be willing to try and talk, I am sad to say the other one probably is not willing to mend fences. Both of these people were in my wedding and played a vital part in the adoption of my son, they both mean a lot to me. I don’t always agree with their viewpoints on the world, but it would take a hell of a lot more than some ill-chosen words for me to write them off. And even if one of them said something that I could not forgive, I wouldn’t end the friendship via Facebook.