Facebook this. Facebook that.
I hear experts and whiners opine on the drawbacks of a Facebook-obsessed culture quite frequently.
And I get it.
I get that technology has changed the way we communicate in ways that are significant and probably permanent. And I definitely get that Facebook isn’t for everyone. One of my brothers and two of my parents refuse to go anywhere near Facebook.
I have friends, colleagues, and relatives who steer clear of the social network for a variety of reasons. They want time away from the computer. Or they’re busy doing other things. Or they think that Facebook is just about telling the world what you did today and why you wish you had another teacher, boss or another option for dinner.
But for an introvert, Facebook is a really useful tool.
Yes, I’m an introvert. With the exception of those close to me, people are usually a little surprised when I say this. But highly evolved social skills and the confidence of maturity do not necessarily translate to extrovert. For all of my 50 years, I have preferred the company of my thoughts to the company of a crowd.
Of course the ideal situation has always been having a best friend or partner or other kindred spirit with whom to share those thoughts. One-on-one has always been the best. But life can’t be just one-on-one. If you work, if you aspire, if you dream, then the day-to-day will usually involve more than just one other person. Even if you just exist, life usually involves other people. And other people have historically proven problematic for me.
For a million reasons that can be traced to my genes, my family, socialization and aliens, I spent years questioning my personal appeal. I doubted the desire of others to spend time with me and include me in their inner circles. Yes, I had friends and yes, I was friendly, but I was never comfortable in a purely social environment.
My teen years were especially difficult as I struggled to find those one or two people who would understand what made me tick — and appreciate it. But back then, loners and other nonconformists did their alone-ing and non-conform-ing in the isolation of their parents’ homes.
It wasn’t until college that I began to find those who would talk about Camus for an hour or debate the importance of understanding the purpose of the possessive. The fabulous inventions of the college cafeteria and library made it easy. You could easily see who preferred the company of their books and notebooks to everything else. Even better, you could ask to share their table or easily start a relationship with a stupid question regarding the hours of the bookstore.
The college cafeteria was eventually replaced by Starbucks and bookstores with in-house cafes. Those needing laptop plugs became instant logistically-bound friends while those without laptops learned to innocently ask what we laptop people were concentrating on with such intensity.
But Facebook has provided an opportunity that I’ve never been able to enjoy in the school cafeteria, the neighborhood coffee shop or anywhere other people tend to congregate. Facebook has allowed me to interact with a higher degree of casual comfort, unafraid that I may be placing the other person in an awkward situation.
On Facebook, I don’t need to worry about whether someone is waiting for a date or saving a seat for a spouse or just plain hoping I’ll get lost. On Facebook, all interaction is voluntary. It’s easy to throw out a social prompt — via a “Like” or a post or a comment — and then get back the energy of people who genuinely want to engage. Even better, you get that energy back at a time when others are available to engage. It’s hard to interrupt someone on Facebook or accidentally suggest that you want more — or expect more — than a simple and brief mutually fulfilling interaction.
Yeah. I’m good on Facebook.
I really hope that Mr. Zuckerberg doesn’t have any plans to transfer Facebook into the real world of in-person interaction.
How do you tell your friends that you’re scared to meet them?