Wednesday, April 7, 2010

EFM: Evading the Facebook Monster

While catching up on reading the blogs listed in the left-hand column, I saw on another blog that I was six days old. Oops!

Truth is I've been busy entertaining as my mother was in town for a few days, and I'm getting ready to be in Boston for almost a week for work (first time I've used the phrase "for work" in a long, long time...and I don't like it).

But while it says I've been absent six days, it really has felt much longer than that. I'm out of rhythm. And I don't know what to write about as I've also been out of the foreign service loop for most of a week.

So I've decided to ease myself back into the routine by bringing back my old nemesis, technology.

Going all the way back to day one, I've been outspoken of my hesitancy to embrace technology. It's nothing personal against technology; it's just that the new stuff tends to be expensive and doesn't really seem to offer that much benefit for the price. When the latest and greatest becomes more mainstream and more affordable, that is when I make my move.

facebook (with a lowercase "f") is free. But you won't find me on it. Ever. I'm not on Linkedin, either. Yet. twitter (with a lowercase "t"; what is it with online networking and fear of capital letters?)? Forget it. No chance in hell.

I don't get these Web sites, especially the lower-cased duo of facebook and twitter. Linkedin at least feigns some professional usage, and between that and the fact there is a foreign service spouse network thingy, I can see myself joining.

twitter is the bane of my existence. Does everyone who uses this service suffer from such illusions of grandeur that they think their friends/family/unknown followers care about what they are doing every moment of the day?

As for the facebook monster, I think it is the gateway drug to twitter. The cult of celebrity has made us all too willing to overexpose ourselves on the Internet.

I do see a little irony that I bemoan the voluntary sacrificing of privacy and my writing a blog. But let's be honest. This blog is only a little about me. Other than a picture, limited biographical info and the fact that you can relate to me as a fellow foreign service spouse, you don't know much about me.

I stopped by facebook as I was writing this to steal a logo or something (it also has been a while since I've used any art). And I found this expression: "Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life." (Interesting they chose to capitalize facebook in this sentence; probably because it is the first word, or they don't adhere to their own style.)

Perhaps, but so does e-mail, phone calls, postcards, and <gasp> letters. If anything, I'd argue all of those other methods are better at connecting and sharing with the people in your life because you will be connecting and sharing while enjoying a little bit of privacy. A little privacy will give you the peace of mind to share more intimately than anything that ought to posted on the Internet.

What facebook is good at is allowing you to connect with the people that, more likely than not, you made the decision to disconnect from your life. Sure, sometimes that decision is made gradually overtime, but if you really wanted to keep in touch with your grade school crush, chem lab partner or a college acquaintance, you would call or e-mail occasionally. Right?

I've read enough of other's thoughts on facebook to know that many will disagree with my sentiments. And maybe when I'm living elsewhere and phone-communication is more infrequent, perhaps I might be swayed. For one thing, while many complain about parents finally learning how to use facebook, I think this actually is a benefit as fewer people are posting embarrassing and/or incriminating photos as in the early days.

Time will tell, but don't waste your time looking to friend me because as far as facebook and its ilk is concerned, I don't exist.


  1. While I do have a FB account and Twitter account, I don't update on either all too regularly ... mostly because my internet connection is spotty - and it's usually when I need it the most that it cr*ps out on me.

    My husband on the other hand is a lot more like you... in fact, aside from his state dept e-mail, he is never on the computer. No personal e-mail, no FB, no Tweeting, nothing.

    All of those social networking sites are (in my humble opinion) very voyeuristic ... people write on them, just like they write on their public blogs, because they want people to read what they write.

    However, I will agree with you that if people really wanted to stay in touch they could call, send a letter, or write a personal e-mail.

    But... just wait until you are posted overseas ... and your internet doesn't work, you have no lifeline, it's too expensive to call out, you find that none of your friends want to call you because it's too expensive or they don't understand the 12.5 hour time change, it's been 2 weeks since you've talked on Magicjack to your parents, your siblings, your in-laws, and all you want to do is post one teeny, tiny little line on your social media account that lets the outside world know you're alive...


  2. Hey David~

    I'm going to respond to this with a series of small stories.

    Long ago, way before my husband even applied to State, I was desperately addicted to the blog

    by Michelle Au. Oh. My. Goodness. I could read her blog all day long! (And had read it for multiple years, beginning when she was in medical school.) But she really didn't update often. Probably because she's a doctor and has a real life. So she would update once every couple of weeks or so, on average.

    Then one day, this little box appeared on the side of her blog. It was a Twitter stream, but I didn't get it at the time. I just knew that the little box updated a whole lot more than the blog itself. I WAS SO HAPPY!! I would check her blog all the time, just to read her funny quips in the little box. Heaven.

    Now I understand: she could update on her cell in between cases (she's an anesthesiologist). She was even MORE witty (how is that possible!?) in tiny pieces - text 140 characters and shorter!

    It's like - mini blogging! But from her phone! So I joined Twitter. Yes, just to read her... and other bloggers who Twittered because it was so much easier than sitting down to blog.

    And guess what - fabulous offshoot: my mother-in-law, with a horribly slow internet connection could read my Twitter page (because there aren't any images) very easily, even when she can't access my blog!!

    This availability of Twitter for her has been a HUGE, HUGE blessing, so I try to update on Twitter just for her, if for no other reason.

    A few weeks ago, I took a look at facebook. The thing I swore I'd never, ever use. But I started realizing that some of my favorite State Department bloggers used it - and put pictures on it - and I could learn even more about the State life! So I joined. With a pseudonym. Badly misspelled. (Facebook forced me. Long story.)

    O joyous day!!! The heavens parted and the universe opened up. Because I am the type of person who longs for that form of contact - that form of closeness - that kind of access.

    And you know what? After joining facebook, my old next door neighbors from right when my husband was hired by State found me and kindly added me as a friend. ( We had lived in the same house -next door to them- for almost six years. My children grew up with their children. I LEFT THEM MY BELOVED KITTY CAT, knowing she'd be happier there than with me. )

    The mom of that family is very, very busy. She may not have the time to send out personal emails or letters with photos in it. But, David, when she friended me, I was able to then access her pictures of the children I almost thought of as mine and the kitty cat who used to be mine and I'm not ashamed to say it:

    I cried.

    I cried and I cried over the pure joy of seeing those kids (now almost adults).

    Of being able to see that family. Maybe I'm not on their email list, or maybe she doesn't send me letters in the mail - who has that kind of time, anyway? - but maybe all she can spare is the time to update facebook every now and then and David, it means the world to me. THE WORLD.

    Maybe it's because I'm a girl, and long for close contact. Maybe it's because I have children and it's easier to share information and pictures about them. Maybe I'm crazy (totally and completely a possibility)... but Twitter and facebook fill a gap that my blog just can't.

    Not that I'm trying to get you to use them! I am So. Not. I'm just trying to help convey why I do, and how they have blessed me and my entire family. Over and over again.

  3. Here is my take on it. I HATE HATE HATE to talk on the phone. I have changed since High School, but am still interested in what everyone else is doing. Call it nosy if you want. But Facebook has allowed me to AVOID the phone at all costs. If I'm curious about someone, I just look them up. I don't even have to leave a comment or anything. I find that nice. I still don't get twitter... :)

  4. Here are two specific things facebook has helped me with:

    1. When I wanted a google voice account, I searched message boards online and solicited invites. I also did the official sign up with google. No results. I posted a request on my facebook status and had an invite within minutes.

    2. When Alex and I would go out of town and didn't want to pay $40 per day for a kennel, we asked if any friends or acquaintance wanted a free place to stay in NYC in exchange for dog sitting. We've never paid for a kennel, and the person who stayed with our dog was usually not someone who would have otherwise known we needed a dog sitter.

    I also believe that our relationships with people are not black or white. It isn't "I want to keep in touch with this person regularly" or "I never want to keep in touch with this person." Facebook is great for that in between area when I want to know what my former coworker is up to, but I do not want to email or call her every week.

    Just my opinion.

  5. I predict that within one year's time you will not only be blogging, but actively engaged in 2+ forums, twitter, FB and LinkedIn. They have rocked my overseas world. I feel more connected to my "global peeps" than I ever did in Minnesota. I have skype dates every week with a new coach/friend that I met online. I absolutely love it - my friendships know no physical boundaries now. And I have so many places to stay when I go visit new cities because online friends are also incredibly generous.

    Do give me the satisfaction of reporting back when my prophecy comes true, okay? :)

    And if you do just 1, do Facebook. It's a great way to see what your FS friends are up to in their adventures. And keep track of them.