1/20/2012

Is Facebook worth it?

Over the time I've had a Facebook account I've often wondered whether the whole "social media" circus was worth the trouble and strife it causes. A couple years ago I even deleted my Facebook account and started a whole new one because over time I'd picked up dozens of people who did little but get on my nerves. I vowed that I would not make that mistake again and would limit myself to people I knew in the real world.

But here's the funny thing. A lot of the people I know in the real world cause a lot of grief. There's one person I was very close to and with whom I enjoyed spending time in the real world. Then, through Facebook, I saw a mean and ugly side of her. Racist rants against Hispanics and immigrants, rants against access to affordable healthcare, rants against "liberals" and Democrats, etc. I had a lot of trouble fitting that with how I had always viewed her. I found that I couldn't share in her Facebook experience because each time she posted those things (which was several times a day) I found myself grieving because I never expected such ugliness. I also found I couldn't look at her the same way in person. We drifted apart. I stopped planning days out, she stopped inviting us to dinners. Soon, there were no more shared meals, no more shopping days, no more movie marathons, no more shared holidays. We're still "nominally" friends on Facebook but I know that my posts are hidden on her feed as hers are hidden on mine. Rarely, now will we cross in a short comment on someone's profile we both know.

There's another friend I used to work with some years ago. We had a great time together. We sort of knew that we had different politics so following the old Southern rule of never discussing politics or religion we steered clear of the subject(s). We enjoyed our work time and developed a nice working friendship. Since I moved to Arizona we kept up a sporadic communication through email - sharing family news, commiserating over getting older and how her business was doing. Then we reconnected on Facebook and all that changed. Now politics and religion came into play because with the click of a button you can "share" things you normally wouldn't discuss in regular company. Sure enough, we began to drift apart. She posted photoshopped pictures of President Obama saying he wasn't a "real American." When I pointed out the photos were fakes she became upset with me. Now, we don't have a lot to say.

Some time ago, I reconnected on Facebook with an acquaintance from my high school days. He was an unusual character back then - think a blond Judd Nelson from The Breakfast Club. Yeah, there was a little bit of a crush thing going on for my part. Anyway, we connected and come to find out he's joined a very conservative religious group and is now a minister. OK, we could deal with that, right? Just keep it light, reminisce and have fun. It worked fine for about a month. When he asked about my home life I was honest and told him I was gay and happily partnered for many years. Then he realized I was an atheist. We suddenly went from reminiscing to him sending me long messages and posts more or less demanding I account for myself and my philosophy. At first I tried to be polite and explain things to him but it quickly became apparent I was some type of project. The messages became long lists of loaded questions. Finally, I had to tell him I didn't owe him anything - we'd known each other 20+ years ago and that was it. It was a very disconcerting experience. Would he have been that way in person if we'd met at a reunion? I don't know, but I can't help but think not.

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