Facebook: Not ready to sign on to the latest communication tool


 Okay, I admit it. I’m not a fan of Facebook.

I let that revelation slip out last week with a group of friends. After the jeers, hisses and heckles had finally subsided I was able to speak my piece on the matter – using not so eloquent terms. Here’s a chance to clarify.
I also came to realize just how unpopular my opinion is – or at least it was in that setting.
But am I really alone? Do others feel the same way?
After searching “I hate Facebook” on the Internet, I have since learned there are many others with similar opinions, most express much more zeal on the topic.
Headings like, “Five reasons why I hate Facebook (with a passion),” and “Lots of reasons to hate Facebook,” and even a more subtle heading like “I HATE FACEBOOK!!!” filled my computer screen. 
There are obviously some passionate feelings about Facebook.
Before going any further, a brief explanation of what Facebook is may be in order, (for those who are as technologically inept as myself).  Facebook is a hip new social networking Web site that allows users, age 13 and older, to post pictures and information about themselves. Created in 2004, the site currently has over 400 million users worldwide. Users add other Facebook users as friends, updating them on what is happening in their lives through messages and photos.
It’s a great way to keep in touch with family, friends and long-lost acquaintances - so my friends say.
After creating a unique profile, listing personal and contact information, users are able to communicate with “friends” through public and private messages. To alleviate privacy concerns, Facebook allows users to choose what others can see on each profile. Some choose stringent settings, which is particularly optimal for younger users, allowing only “friends” to see anything posted, while other users opt to allow photos to be seen with no messages, while still others let the whole world see all that is posted. It’s all up to the preference of the user. Other privacy setting options exist as well.
Oh, and by the way, it’s all free. Facebook is funded through advertising. 
Now, before listing the reasons why I’m not a fan of Facebook, lets make one thing clear. It’s Facebook receiving the critique – not Facebook users. (This can become personal and that’s not the intent.) 
This is a critique on Facebook as a medium - a mode of transporting communication stimuli from once source to another.
First, consider the difference between grazing and communicating. 
I became more familiar with Facebook when my son opened an account earlier this year. While monitoring postings and activities, I’ve looked at the profiles of others. Geez, to admit it openly sounds creepy, but guess what? That’s what everyone is doing on Facebook. Grazing. They’re peering through photos, messages and whatever else is allowed to be viewed.
Seeing the profiles of others is what some say is the best thing about Facebook. Rather than talking with folks, you can find out what they’re up to by checking out their Facebook profile.
Although grazing isn’t necessarily all bad, one has to admit there’s not a lot of communication involved. Users can post comments on photos or wall messages, but I’ll bet there’s a whole lot more grazing going on than anything else.
And no matter how you look at it, grazing equals snooping. 
Besides the snooping factor, Facebook emphasizes the self-absorbed “TMI” principle. “TMI” stands for Too Much Information. 
Before posting that one hundredth and one picture of yourself, your pets and your friends, it may prove useful to weigh this question – How much of me do others really want to see?
When talking with someone either face-to-face or over the phone it’s pretty easy to tell when the conversation has gone on too long. Loss of eye-contact, in face-to-face settings, is one of the many physical telltale signs. Over the phone, listeners respond less, yawn, hum, or make other distracting noises signaling enough is enough already.
How many Facebook users out there are letting folks know they’re posting way too many photos of themselves? I don’t know. Maybe there are a lot of them. Let’s just say, “the less is more” principle isn’t always followed.
And how about this friend thing? We’ve all seen profiles that included a friends list that mixed friends in with enemies. Rather than rejecting a friend request from another user, most users opt to add the person as a friend.
Maybe that’s being polite, but it all seems just a little phony.
Maybe Facebook should consider adding the Frienemy category. How would that feel to be rejected as a friend, but accepted a Frienemy. Kind of a humorous option to consider, but at least a little more sincere. 
A more complete listing of why to hate Facebook can easily be found. Just Google it. The reasons are endless. 
But before I prescribe to the “I hate Facebook” fan club, lets remember it’s usefulness. It facilitates contact with each other, allows users to connect with long-lost friends and acquaintances and for businesses it can prove to be a very resourceful tool. 
I just can’t help but prefer the telephone, e-mail or better yet, stopping in to visit. If you want to see photos of me and my family look at the shelves or walls of my home or office. You can gander at them for as long as you feel comfortable. Or how about using email?
But who knows, if  I would have lived in the 1870s I might have been one of those referring to the then latest invention in communication technology as the work of the Devil.
But instead, I’m such a fan of the telephone, I’m carrying one around with me wherever I go.
Lets just say, I’m not totally anti-Facebook. I’m just one of those not ready to sign on - at least not yet. 
Published July 14, 2010

 
Article Type: 
Editorial

In response to the concern about Facebook, I offer the following: Anyone who uses a computer on the internet should be aware that there is no such thing as true privacy. All one has to do is to Google their own name to realize this. In addition, there has been no such thing as true privacy for the 63 years of my existence regardless of the internet or Facebook. Our phone operator on the party line in the 1950s knew where we were to be found at any time of the day or night...that was a great benefit for family and community safety. Our farm bell found us wherever we might be as kids and we sure beat it home in response...faster now with texting... Given that, and given that most of us use Facebook as tool for communication and connection beyond the froth of games, photos, and current status, it is wise to learn how to set and monitor privacy settings. As for children (that means anyone under the age of 16 at least), no computer should be in an area private to them and it should not be used without supervision by an alert, savvy adult who is aware of how predators and cyberbullies operate. Sites can be limited with parental controls. The same is true of internet access via cell phone and texting. These should be tightly restricted and limited for all children. I find it beyond ridiculous that we worry about children climbing trees for fear of a fall but let them text and chat without oversight. I disagree that friends generally allow suggestions from other friends on Facebook to prompt them to ask for connections as well. I have former college friends on my friends' list, a few colleagues, and a few former students now in their late 30s as well as family. My friends on Facebook, who number 74 total, share only what they want seen of their profiles...some like to share a bit of their lives, others leave it only to name and gender, if that. I think the dilemma is a lack of willingness for many adults to learn how to operate in cyberspace and to adapt as technology changes. It's like sticking with a lovely quill pen when much more richness can embellish the elegance of that style of writing. In the same vein, while many parent bash and fight with their children over their game time, friend contacts and online worlds, they fail to "get" the comparative safety and choice to exist or not with others in their peer world. Given the damage I am asked to help repair every day in therapy, I'll opt for online over the bully smashes anytime, assuming there is some real life balance in daily living and relationships. The down side, of course, is the loss of real news, real investigation, real networking and support over media bytes, and pre-formed internet life via websites. There is great power, as we all know, in opening millions of eyes to world events, from all angles. There is dangerous power in using the internet as a means of policy making, social engineering and "truth" when it is all myth or intentional skewing of historic events. Just as most of us do not open our homes to all who come our way, there is no need to do the same with Facebook or any other social networking site. My links range from the Truthout to the Dalai Lama to Moveon.org, to toxic chemical sites, Ayurvedic ones, and all the major news sources, national and international. I celebrate that I can see what's going on at the Louvre with a click, and still appreciate the days when I watched the linotype operator spit out lead slugs as he typed up the stories for print at the paper where my mother was a copy editor for years. Both/and versus either/or? Aliceann Carlton, LCPC

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