Facebook — the root of all evil?

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Much has been said about the dangers of Facebook. We’ll stop meeting people in person. We’ll loose our people skills. We’ll get cancer due to decrease in activity (an article in the Mail I read online just now when I googled ‘Facebook’!). Facebook will send us all to an early grave, so they say.

But I think it’s cool. I struggle to see that the time I spend on it is time I would otherwise have been meeting people in ‘real life’. I meet a lot of people in real life, a lot of time time… work, family, friends, church, various committees and suchlike… people people everywhere! And from what I can see from many of my friends on Facebook, they lead similar lives; teachers, vicars, youthworkers, publishers, students… none of these are staying in 24/7 to stare at the screen, immersing themselves with the oh-so-dangerous virtual world that is… Facebook.

Ah, now, I ought to ‘fess up’, now we’ve got onto the actual topic of ‘Facebook friends’. When I first signed up (or signed my life away, depending on your view) I laughed in the face of those who had 200 or even 300 and something friends (not that they could see or hear me laughing, such is the beauty of the system). That would never happen to me. MY Facebook account was to be for real friends; people I actually knew. Not just random anyones. Oh no.

But here’s the thing – I currently have… (just got to log in and check…) a grand total of 305 friends. That said, I can proclaim quite confidently that I know each and every one of them. Old school or church friends, current work and church friends, old work friends, my kids friends’ parents… you get the picture. The only exception to this is a small handful of teenage/student girls who read my books and then applied to be my friend… well, I don’t have many fans, so there’s no way I’m going to reject these discerning lasses!

Granted, some people may well spend their whole lives on Facebook, barely coming up for air, talking to random people, playing silly games, etc. But can’t the same be said for almost anything: computer games, reading, TV… there are many obsessions that aren’t exactly beneficial or healthy – we all know that. On the whole, the people (all 305 of them) that I see using Facebook are just happy to be keeping in touch with those they wouldn’t otherwise be in touch with. Likewise, they enjoy making comments on their work mates holiday snaps, or mate down the roads photos of their newborn baby. It’s personal. It’s accessible. It’s free!

For me, the best bit has been connecting with members of my wider family. We’re not really in touch via phone/email, on the whole. But now I’ve found some of my cousins on Facebook and some of my husband’s… there’s no stopping us! We’re suddenly more in touch than ever, which feels great. This morning, not only did I learn that my cousin’s daughter had got into Cardiff University (based on her A’Level results) I could view her celebratory photos AND I was able to congratulate her, instantly! If it weren’t for Facebook, I would never have known. A minor example, I guess, but it works for me.

The ability to put photos on my page, and let others see our holiday snaps, or day trips, or birthdays, etc, really is the highlight for me. Friends now say “Oh, I see you had a great time in…(wherever)” and I know that they’ve shared that part of my life with me. It would have been highly unlikely that I’d have brought photos into work and showed certain colleagues, but those on Facebook are now that much closer to ‘me’ and I like that. I can see that some wouldn’t, but then that’s why all those privacy bits are in place.

Yes, I’ve graduated from only going on Facebook when I had an email alerting me to a message or similar, to logging on most days, just to see what’s ‘going down’. So shoot me (seeing as I’m destined to die young due to my daily Facebook useage anyway). I’ve also recently sussed out how to organise my ‘friends’ and ‘hide’ certain people, so that on my ‘news feed’ I only read about those people I… errrr… am actually interested in. Which sounds mean, but it’s the only way I can see, at a glance, what’s going on in the lives of those I’m closest to.
And no one, but no one, is close to 305 people.

Any further, and preferably more ground-breaking, Facebook thoughts gratefully received.