Saturday, March 8, 2008

Socially networked out

I'm exhausted from all my socializing, most of which I do from this very spot. Face to face with a 17" screen, I chat, play, work, sing (yes-I have sung to my computer and with the wonders of Logic Pro I can make myself sound like Celine Dion on steroids with a mere tap of a key), laugh and even sometimes, cry. I heard yesterday that about 10% of Americans are addicted to the internet and I understand why. The web has it going on.

Rather than talk about what's wrong with that (and there is much), I'm going to talk about the upside. Being connected is a fundamental human need. Being without a community is a bad for your health as giving up smoking is good (Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam--great book). Two days ago a far away friend mentioned how discomforting it had been to be 2 weeks without home internet when his system threw a wobbly. He felt like he'd been missing a friend, he said. Another friend in a far place asked me today if I had figured out what the point of Facebook might be. I had to think, because it wasn't immediately apparent. I have LinkedIn for serious work networking, I have YouTube for a laugh and to keep track of my musically prolific son, Plaxo Pluse for keeping in touch with old friends, and I have for the weird side of me that still believes in fairies. So what is Facebook for? It must be good for something. Sheryl Sandberg, Google's (ex) VP of global online sales defected to Facebook to become COO this week. I pondered my recent experience with it. Why, just in the last three days I was poked by two people I have never met, sent a leprechaun by someone I care a great deal about but rarely see, and turned into a vampire by one of the smartest and successful people I know, who should know better. Oh, and I threw some beads at a couple of folks as part of a bizarre on-line Mardi Gras party that seems to go on forever. Add to that the two games of Scrabble I'm currently playing with remote friends, it seems like Facebook might just be for plain fun.

All of these sites allow me to feel like I am part of the Universe as it moves along in time. I am part of the ebb and flow of my friends' lives in an unobtrusive but slightly voyeuristic way. It feels good to be connected, although I can't fully rationalize the value in a purely logical way. One thing I realized in all my pondering: Facebook does have a purpose. It is to remind us not to take life and ourselves so seriously, that there is no shame is getting of the perch of progress and regressing occasionally. So go on. Sign in and throw a few beads. You'll feel better for it, and so will those that receive.
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