Monday, January 27, 2014

The Final Fate of Facebook?

Before there was this blog. 

Before I was on Twitter.  

Before that, my first foray into the world of social media was Facebook

Facebook was going to save my life.

Up front, I have no social skills. This has been verified under strict lab conditions during experiments conducted at the Mayo Clinic.  In any given social situation, my ability to execute an appropriate and not at all awkward social response to an inquiry, question, introductory remarks or some other social interactive stimulus experienced a 92.7% failure rate. 

Oh, the frustration of being so clever, so witty, so insightful and not being able to share it with anyone because I have the social skills of furniture. What is the point of being awesome if no one is paying attention?

Facebook was going to fix all that. 

OK, I'm being a bit over the top with this "being awesome" business but the thing is, we all have our strengths, our passions. We all have something that makes us unique and by extension makes us awesome. But sometimes getting people to see that can be difficult.  But that's where Facebook was going to come in.  

On Facebook, I would have time to think about what funny or wise thing I wanted to say, craft a response designed for maximum impact and posts those witticisms and observations for all the world to see.  Then I would cast a net wide about the world, people would see who I was and think, "He's kind of goofy but cool in his own way." And they would become my friends. 

Yeah, pathetic, I know. 

In the Fall of 2012, I shut down my Facebook account. 

Facebook made me feel even lonelier, not less so. Basically, Facebook could easily be called Everyone's Life Is More Interesting Than Yours. Maybe I'm not as smart and clever as I think I am. Maybe I am in the virtual world what I am in the real world: someone without social skills.

If that sounds depressing, well, it is depressing. We're talking depression, major depression that has hindered me my whole life and was only getting worse with age. And Facebook didn't help. 

Lunch plans and sympathies in time of loss and joys in time of triumph and bad jokes and commiserations about work all passed back and forth between everyone on Facebook. Except, it seemed, me. 

I knew I needed to get help with my depression. Among the steps I took, I get rid of something that was only making it worse. I walked away from Facebook

So I got on Twitter and to be honest, my level of response from people to things I say and share is no better and may be even worse that on Facebook. But I have zero expectations from Twitter. I post things to this blog with certain knowledge that no one is reading this stuff and I don't care. I'm writing this for my benefit and IF someone does read these things I post and gets some modest amount of enjoyment from them, that will be good. But I don't expect it. 

But Facebook was different. In a lot of cases, I was Facebook "friends" with people I already knew in real life. These were people whom I have to assume did not want to know me better. Perhaps it was the sense of desperation, that I was trying too hard to be likable. I'm willing to admit to my own culpability if my foray into Facebook was ultimately a failure. But that's not to say it still didn't hurt, being a ghost in a crowded house. 

I recently returned to Facebook but mostly to keep an eye out on my daughter. Her mother and I agreed she could have a Facebook account when she turned 13 but we were going keep an eye on her. 

So far, her activity on Facebook has been quite uninteresting.  Mostly because all the other people she wanted to connect with aren't bothering with Facebook anymore. 

Last week saw the release of this story that Facebook will lose 80% of its users by 2017. Basically, youth drives these things and Facebook has become less exciting for young people. There are other ways to interact through social media: Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter, etc etc. Who wants to be on Facebook anymore? Geez, your grandmother's on Facebook

But I also think part of the problem is Facebook's promise has not been fulfilled. The community of people around the world on Facebook is at best only a virtual community. With no strong ties or solid foundations, the connections made are extremely tenuous. Loneliness, the desire for human connection, the need for community was never going to be resolved sitting alone in front of a computer.

Facebook was never going to save us from ourselves.

Facebook was never going to save me from myself. 

Until next time, be good to one another. 

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