Facebook has certainly changed the way people communicate. That’s a given. But what is left unknown is whether the social networking site has benefitted people’s relationships or caused them to suffer. When Facebook first came into existence, I was one of the last of my friends to sign up for an account. I kept getting invited by people to join, but I had little interest. However, after going to school and hearing everyone talk about it, I started to feel a bit left out. They would be talking about subjects that I had no idea about, and they would sign petitions and join in a political discussion that I was left scratching my head to. So I opened an account.
It wasn’t long before I saw that Facebook is a pretty neat revelation in the way in which people communicate. I started spending hours on it, looking at photos, commenting on people’s posts, and posting my own content. But like Hal Niedzvicki says in his essay “Facebook in a Crowd,” the social networking site may be damaging relationships (Niedzviecki, 2) Sure, people can catch up with old friends and see what they’re up to, but Facebook friends aren’t really “friends.” You can’t count on them to be there for you when you need. You don’t go over to their house after you break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend and drink a few glasses of wine. And this is the type of thing that Niedzviecki learns when he invited his Facebook friends to party and only one person shows up.
I’ve never friended someone that I don’t know. I think many people do just so it looks like they have hundreds, or thousands of friends, and I think this is sad. The best way to make friends is by participating in activities where you are likely to talk to people. This could be at school, work or maybe at soccer practise. Because it is very difficult to care about someone and to become vested in their interests when you are only communicating online, Facebook doesn’t offer the personal touch that friendship requires.
Though this essay is focused on relationships, it should be noted that Facebook does provide a voice to the general public. While Facebook isn’t personal enough to establish meaningful friendships, the medium does facilitate the quick spread of word and groups can form quite quickly. Protests and other forms of social awareness, such as the spread of information about the severity of cruelty towards animals, is made possible in part by Facebook and other social networking sites.
Through my experience with Facebook, I have found I’ve stayed aware of various clubs that I am interested in. For example, I learned about a soccer club through a friend of mine, and now I am able to go to games without the need for my friend to invite me. I just check out the posts each week for the meeting time. This provides an opportunity for me to meet new people. But when it comes to Niedzviecki’s strategy, which is to invite all of his Facebook friends to a party, no one comes (Niedzviecki, 2). I think this is because none of those people had a real interest in the event he was organizing, which was just a get together with strangers at a bar. If he had an actual interest that people would want to participate in, then I am sure there would be many who would come to his event.
Overall, technology such as Facebook has likely decreased the amount of time I socialize with friends. But mainly I think it is other addictions of the Internet, such as YouTube, that draws me closer to my computer and further away from friends and family. However, I think computer technology is helping create a more aware culture. The amount of information is certainly more substantial, but the quality may have gone down. As long as we are able to sift through what is important, as opposed to the latest gossip about the Kardashians, which sadly I didn’t need to look up to know how to spell, I think the computer is nothing but a more efficient encyclopedia.
To summarize, my personal experience with Facebook has given me three benefits, two of which link directly to relationships: first, I am able to see how old friends are doing, even if I have no intention of rekindling the friendship; second, I am able to play soccer now because I am a member of a soccer group that meets twice per week; third, and this doesn’t have to do with friendship, I am able to stay tuned with the political climate and this helps build my awareness. But I agree with Niedzviecki in that quality friendships could be dwindling because of the onset of Facebook (Niedzviecki, 2).