Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
– Ecclesiastes 7:10
I’m an old soul; that’s no secret. I don’t like change; that’s no secret, either. In most instances, I tend to be more likely to agree with people older than me than most of my peers are. All those young whippersnappers texting in chapel? *Shudders*
One big area of difference: the issue of Facebook (and other social media, but Facebook is the one with which I am most familiar). Many – not all, certainly, but many – people a generation or so older than me are very leery of Facebook. I love it. (Also the internet in general, but that’s a bigger subject than I want to get into at the moment).
Aside from religious matters, this is one of the few topics of conversation that make my lips compress, my heart beat a little faster, and my voice shaky, wanting to say something to prove my point but not sure how to phrase it. This came up in the college class on Sunday (I’m not entirely sure how), which is why I’ve been thinking about it. So here are the points I would like to make that I’m not always able to articulate in the moment.
Facebook has its dangers, and it can be badly misused; I’m never going to try to deny that. But while we’re on that topic, so does texting. So does writing a blog post. So does talking on the phone. So does writing letters. So does sending a telegraph. So does word of mouth. So does talking face to face! The dangers may manifest themselves in slightly different ways, but I don’t think they are significantly greater or smaller in the different situations.
I often hear people saying social media such as Facebook reduces people’s ability to have meaningful conversations in “real life” (and I use that term loosely) because you’re hiding behind a screen. I think that’s a bit silly. It implies that it is impossible to have meaningful conversations on Facebook, which is not true. I’ve had lots of those. Do they not count? Besides, as someone pointed out in class, that’s probably what people said when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.
Now, there are two main reasons this is such a touchy subject with me. (That’s a polite way of saying I’m going to tell you about them.)
One (not necessarily in importance, just in the order I’m telling you about them):
I’ll admit it: I used to be very skeptical about meaningful conversations and relationships on the internet. Then, a little over four years ago, I joined a Narnia forum. I changed my mind very quickly. It’s really amazing how well you can get to know somebody just by their words. You can have fun. You can have disagreements. You can be supportive. You can be kind or cruel or thoughtless or gentle – all with just words.
Two people in particular whom I met on that forum have become quite good friends. If you read my blog regularly, you’ve heard about them. GG and I traveled ten hours to stay at D’s house for several days without ever having met her in person before. And I know that sounds very strange, but even before I’d met them, I knew these girls much better than I know my current roommate, and nobody thinks it strange for me to be living with her.
I have an unfortunate habit of living far away from my really good friends. Which means we need ways to communicate other than seeing each other all the time. It happens that none of us like talking on the phone. Writing letters is wonderful, and I do it occasionally. But it’s just not the same as the day-to-day interaction you have when you live near someone.
In my opinion, Facebook gets you closer to that. Sure, you don’t have facial expressions or tone of voice or hugs. But you don’t have those things with letters, either, and you only have one of them with a phone. What you can have is that day-to-day interaction. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t chat with one of those far away good friends, or post something on their wall, or have them post something on my wall. It is possible to keep up with someone well on Facebook. It takes effort and time, sure, but so does keeping up with someone you see all the time in “real life”.
In conclusion (that sounds very professional, doesn’t it?): I love Facebook. It has been instrumental in helping me develop and maintain some beautiful friendships. You do not have to love it for yourself. You do not have to have an account. You do not have to use it the same way I do. But please realize that it really can have a valuable place in someone’s life and relationships.