Tuesday, July 20, 2010

There's Danger There

With things like the Facebook phenomena going at full steam, I think we need to be careful. The line between our online and real lives has completely disappeared and there is really no difference anymore.

When we first sign up, we're inundated with friend requests and tend to accept them all. No one wants to be that guy with less than the requisite 400+ Facebook friends. What kind of antisocial loser are you anyway? After a while, we realize that having 537 Facebook friends leads to spending a lot of time reading posts that hold no interest whatsoever for you. Do we really care that the guy we rode the school bus with 25 years ago is having dog training problems? Is it crucial that we know the everyday comings and goings of the woman we chatted with for ten minutes at a mutual friends' party? Once upon a time, I would ask myself if I've had three face to face conversations with a person before clicking the "accept friend request" button. Lately, I have begun to fine tune a little bit and ask myself if I have had three conversations I have enjoyed with a person before clicking that little button. I figure, if we don't have much to talk about in person, chances are pretty good I'm not going to be terribly interested in your online updates.
Just because we have people in common does not mean we're going to have anything else in common. The simple fact that we both like someone does not make it automatic that we're going to like each other.

"De-friending" someone on Facebook may seem bloodless but it's not. Cutting someone out of your computer life is now the same as cutting someone out of your real life. It hurts just as badly, perhaps more because you don't have an argument, you don't really know when it happened, just that one day this person removes themselves from your life. To the de-friender, it's just a mouse click, to the de-friendee, it's a "I don't respect you enough to tell you to get the hell out of my life." It's still painful. Kicking people out of your life shouldn't be as easy as a mouse click, it should be hard, wrenching, tear-inducing and not done casually. Facebook has become the weapon of choice if you want to hurt someone, air dirty laundry, or just start a fight.

Before you de-friend someone, think if you'd look them in the eye and say "I am cutting you completely out of my life." before you click.

The concept of private thought has become a thing of the past. There is no such thing as an unpublished thought and we seem to forget that sometimes there are things that should stay inside your head, not out there for the world to see. Family squabbles used to be settled over a rip roaring, dish throwing, wake the neighbors shoutfest and then it was over, back to business. On Facebook, there is no such thing as a family fight because the whole world can watch and participate. Everyone has the chance to put their two cents in and something that starts out stupid and small becomes huge and uncontrollable and capable of destroying relationships. The old "with great power comes great responsibility" adage can come in to play here. Watch what you post, it's gonna bite you on the ass at some point.

Be careful out there.