The Facebook Experience

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In today’s technological world, you don’t need a close call for your life to flash before your eyes – you just join Facebook.

I was reluctant to join at first. After all, between work and family obligations, there’s little time for much else these days. However, Jewish News started a page, and, being a loyal employee, I joined Facebook so I could check it out.

I was amazed to see how many people I know had already joined; I discovered a social circle existing in a different dimension. I quickly got in touch with my current friends and enjoyed reading their “status updates,” which kept me up to date with their weekend activities and their children’s antics.

I tried to persuade uninitiated friends, my sister and other relatives to join. After all, it’s so much more time-efficient to post a status update and upload photos during the kids’ naptime or after bedtime than to pick up the phone or type multiple addresses into an e-mail. Some people protested at first, claiming they didn’t have time, but after prodding by myself and others, they gave in to peer pressure and posted their profiles.

Married people often begin with a family photo as their profile picture, especially those for whom the whole JDate experience is too fresh. I did the same, since profiles on the Internet reeked of singledom. Over time, as I became more comfortable with this type of social networking, I posted my individual photograph. In my case, it was also because a family photo made my face too small and I was worried people wouldn’t recognize my name if they knew me from my maiden name or the name from my previous marriage. But although my photograph doesn’t include my family, it is a head shot rather than a body shot, which is the popular profile photo choice for singles.

I’d recommend Facebook to new parents or parents with young children, because it’s a way to keep in touch with friends when you don’t have the time or the energy to leave the house. And while I haven’t used the site to meet new people, I have reconnected with people from my past.

One evening, after my infant and 2-year-old were both sleeping, I started delving deeper and looked at my friends’ friends (for the uninitiated, “friends” is Facebook lingo for the people in your social network).

I was bombarded by familiar names and faces. Although some of them I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years, most of those faces were recognizable, which helped with married women who didn’t list their maiden names in their profiles. I started contacting people I knew in high school, summer camp, temple youth group and college.

It’s been amazing.

People had scanned photographs that probably haven’t seen the outside of a photo album in more than 20 years, then posted them on Facebook. All of a sudden, you get a message that you’ve been “tagged” – identified – in a photograph of a long-forgotten moment. I have albums filled with photographs of many of these people and plan, one of these days, to carefully peel the photographs off the sticky album pages, scan and then post them. Some of my more technologically advanced friends even transferred videos from their VHS tapes to their computers. The other night, I watched a dance performance from my college days that a college friend had posted and found myself singing along to the song in the finale.

Another Facebook feature allows people to post status updates announcing what they’re doing at any given time. It becomes very addicting to read about what everybody is up to. At first it had a stalkinglike quality to it, but then when you realize that postings are voluntary and in each person’s own words, then the creepiness disappears.

As the number of “friends” increases, the constant chatter can become a bit overwhelming – with so many voices, it’s hard to keep up. It reminds me of the scene in “Bruce Almighty” when Jim Carrey’s character gets bombarded with the sounds of all the people’s prayers.

If you are able to keep up with these status updates, you can find out where your friends are physically (Julie is on a plane headed for New York) and mentally (Heather cannot wait for the weekend) and share their unique experiences (Rachel is at the ER because her son just stuck a dime up his nose).

Facebook also includes some attributes that I’m still not that familiar with. I’m not quite sure why I would want to “poke” someone, and perhaps this is unsocial of me, but I don’t usually accept any of the requests that people send. Some of the requests sitting in my notifications pile include “butterfly collector,” “kidnap,” “super cocktails,” “green patch” and “What 80s hair band are you?” I apologize if I’ve offended any of my friends by not accepting these, but I’ve been too busy looking at everyone’s photos and following their status updates.

As one friend recently wrote in his status update, Facebook is a time machine. For instance, one friend’s photo album of high school photos brought me back to the ’80s, and another photo album of her husband and children brought me back to today.

Although it’s rare these days that I’m out of the house past midnight, I sometimes “socialize” on Facebook until midnight, when I have to cut myself off and head to bed.

I realize that to some people, this type of social life may sound rather pathetic. Those without small children at home may not understand how much effort and planning it takes to leave the house and may not fully appreciate how valuable Facebook can be.

I imagine older generations sighing and reminiscing about sitting on their front porch and actually talking to their neighbors in person. But, to me, the Facebook experience is better than losing all contact with the many people that are important to us as we maintain the pace of our busy lives.

Follow Jewish News on facebook.com. This article first appeared in the Feb. 20, 2009 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

 

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