I only recently rediscovered Facebook as a ‘thing’. I had been on Facebook before, but had become annoyed with the definition of ‘friend’ – quite often there were people who wanted to be my ‘friend’ who were not people I would have called ‘friends’ in real life. This is not to say that I don’t like them, but that I found the term ‘friend’ confusing. In the end, I gave up on it, left Facebook and felt I had retaken the moral high ground, reclaimed the word ‘friend’.
What an arse.
When I got back into Facebook, I took a different line. I realised that the way to ‘be’ on FB was to act out a persona. The equivalent of being in a crowded pub with a bunch of people you ‘sort-of-know’ and playing to the crowd. In effect, you act. That way, you can entertain (one hopes), engage and just enjoy the whole thing. For what it is. Nothing else.
Facebook is full of rants – some funny, some not. Full of statements – again, some funny, some not. And there’s lots of Vaguebooking going on these days. But now I enjoy it. I also see it as a challenge to have the final word; somehow to pip someone else in the comments line is oddly satisfying.
Now, not to get all weird about it, but that does make me wonder about the state of 21st Century contact. Where it boils down to, effectively, a competition to ‘win’ a pseudo argument and imagine that others are cheering you on. Perhaps it’s just me, but this is a whole new sort of communication with other people – incomplete. Devoid of body language. And we’ve all been told how much of communication is non-verbal.
To the outside world – and I’m talking other Facebookers here – that leads to an impression of who you are. Or at the very least an assumption that you are this, rather than that, because of the Facebook version of you. In short, Facebook perpetuates, or allows, myths to be created about the person you really are. It’s a good way to hide. If you play it well. With the lack of other forms of communication, the wordsmith wins. But the prize may be less than satisfying.
And then you meet someone you only really know from Facebook in real life. And it’s odd, very odd. In fact, I nearly felt like I had to have a keyboard on my knees just to be safe. And then I remember how to talk, chat and just enjoy being with people.
And I reflect, like with new Twitter friends I met at IATEFL 2010, that so much ground has been covered – and even if you are acting on FB it’s still you – that in some ways we already know a lot about each other, that in the end keyboard contact has made developing friendships offline a helluva lot easier. And quicker.