What Facebook does well

Over the years I’ve had mixed feelings about Facebook.  A number of times I have debated closing my account and giving it up altogether.  So I’m aware of all the critiques, and I agree with most of them.  But here’s the thing.  Sometimes, Facebook can be an even better connector than face-to-face contact.  And I’ll tell you why.  If you go to a reunion, or run into an old friend on the street, you’ve got about five to ten minutes of big-picture conversation.  You find out where they are living, what they are doing, you see photos of their pets or their house or their kids, you trade stories about whether you’ve heard from a mutual acquaintance…and then you just smile awkwardly, because you have not seen this person in a decade and that’s about all you know to say.

Earlier this week, I tweeted that I love Christmas music but there are two songs that make me want to be a bit violent- Santa Baby and Baby It’s Cold Outside.  (Right?!  RIGHT?!)  Within a few hours, I had comments on my Facebook page from the following:

  • the girl who lived across the street from me my entire childhood
  • three college friends
  • one of my best high school friends
  • a mom friend whose son goes to school with  my son
  • one of my church people
  • my cousin
  • two people I met through conferences
  • a minister gal pal
  • a friend I met at a summer job in college
  • and the sister of a guy that goes to my church

How awesome is that?!

It hit me when looking over the comments that someone from just about every facet of my life had commented.  These are people who, for the most part, do not know each other and will likely never meet, and furthermore, they are people who I am glad to be connected with but do not see on a daily basis.  And here’s the brilliance of Facebook:  If I were to happen to run into one of them say, at the mall, it would be incredibly socially awkward, after running through the basics of how are you and what are you up to these days, to say, “So, that Santa Baby is annoying, isn’t it?  I don’t know about you but it makes me want to poke my eyes out.”  Because everybody knows that those kinds of comments are the kinds of things  you say to people you actually live your life with, people you see often enough to give room for these other sidebar conversations to happen.  With Facebook (or Twitter), you can say them to everybody at the same time- people you see all the time, people you haven’t seen in a decade, people you haven’t ever met in person.  And it’s absolutely okay–encouraged, even–for any and all of these people to respond.  All of a sudden, everyone is on the same level as the people with whom you spend your daily life.

I believe there is a true relational value to that kind of thing.  That’s the stuff we really miss when we live far away from people- the everyday stuff, the it’s-not-a-big-deal-but-I-felt-like-telling-you stuff.  The stuff you can say when you already know all the basics.  These little random wall conversations keep us connected over things that we may never say in person, or over email.  These are everyday intimacies- stuff that gives others a small glimpse into your daily life and invites them to comment or nod their head in agreement across the miles.

I keep my Facebook account because it allows everyday conversations to happen among people who otherwise would never have a socially mediated and appropriate way to do so.  (Let’s all just hope that this comment doesn’t open the door to those prone to TMI…)  Because let’s face it- when else would I ever in a zillion years get to have a conversation about Christmas music with all those random people simultaneously?!

2 Comments

  1. Rachel BaughmanDecember 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Very timely post Danielle. I’m listening to Tony Jones talk about facebook and social media for pastors right now.

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