The premise of the article seems to be, and I have heard this before from so many places, that Facebook is taking the place of real relationships. That our scanning and lurking and viewing people's posts has become a substitute for the back and forth, give and take, face to face messiness of real friendship. I can see what he is saying, but, in my experience, that just isn't so.
I believe that, for a lot of us, Facebook has not become the substitute for face to face interaction, Facebook has become the substitute for NO interaction.
Think about how many people live day after day with very little contact with other people, or at least other adults.
You have mothers of small children trapped inside their homes, longing for anything remotely resembling an adult interaction. You have people who work from home, a growing trend in our country, who would spend the entire day cut off from society at large if it were not for Facebook. You have retired people or those with chronic or debilitating illness who have trouble getting out and about who, but for the likes of Facebook, would spend a lonely existence glued to the television.
Ours is a mobile society. We have families separated by hundreds or thousands of miles due to jobs or military service. Pre-Facebook those people would be isolated and limited and out of touch. Today, they have options for connection.
But it is the essence of relationship that the author seems most concerned with:
In reality, community isn’t always supposed to be comfortable. Real community is messy. Real community is unedited. Real community involves taking time to actually be with people, even if that means finding time by making sacrifices. It means investing emotion into someone else’s life—even if you get nothing in return. It means getting hurt and getting involved. It means taking the filters off and embracing the parts of your friends’ lives that haven’t been cropped out of a picture or have gone unmentioned in a status update.
That description is so true. That IS what real community is. And I had a tough time finding it before Facebook. Living in a culture where everyone puts their best foot forward and keeps their cards close to the vest, not to mention where time and opportunities for interaction are limited, community was so elusive. For me, Facebook, to a certain extent, solved that.
I don't crop my life for Facebook. I DO communicate back and forth. I DO get involved. I DO get hurt. Facebook doesn't change that.
What Facebook does, however, at least for me, is provide an opportunity for connection. I can make a status update or share a blog post and the conversations start. Those who long for connection will chime in. Often these conversations will go out of public view and into private messages. And sometimes they will turn into face to face meetings. The ones that are, according to the author, so important.
And even if face to face is the ideal of relationship, it is easier said than done. For example, anybody with young children knows how hard that is. Mothers who work inside and outside the home alike can have limited time to set all aside for a 2 hour cup of coffee.
Members of my church are spread across 7 different counties. Getting together, face to face, is limited to Sunday mornings and (perhaps) another time during the week. There is limited opportunity to share the things of our heart in that sort of setting.
When I first moved to my town 20 years ago, I was terribly lonely. I was a young mother with 2 toddlers and a husband who worked long, long hours. It was hard to break in to the circle of already well connected people at church. I even remember overhearing one woman say, "I am relationshipped out. I don't need any more friends." And even though others didn't say it, I wondered if they felt the same.
You hear that others are lonely as well. But it is so difficult to know WHO it is that is lonely and WHO it is that is eager for the type of relationship that the author of the article describes. Facebook provides an excellent jumping off point for that.
My friendships have multiplied through Facebook. It is there that I can get to know people, their likes and dislikes, their ups and downs and their daily grind, and yes, if they are honest, even their struggles. This level of familiarity makes the getting together times, when they do happen, all the richer, because I am not having to start at square one.
Facebook is by no means perfect. I have had to take breaks from it myself for a number of reasons. But some of the richest interactions and relationships I have are, at least in part, because of Facebook. I don't think I need to give it up in lieu of "real" friendship. I already have it.