The social network offers tons of value in (re)connecting with people through status updates, photo tagging, and assorted viral applications, but unless you have a username and password to login into the site — and unless you are “Facebook friends” with another, there is limited information you can view.
In this sense, Facebook is like a shelter that everyone wants to enter.
Given this, is it any surprise that in a story in today’s Boston Globe Magazine, staff reporter Neil Swidey suggests Facebook represents a never-ending high school reunion?
One day, out of nowhere, you’ll hear from a high school classmate you haven’t even thought about in years. You’ll eagerly accept that person’s request to be added as a “friend” to your network. You’ll immediately engage in a blizzard of messages, as you each resurrect hilarious but long-forgotten hijinks from chemistry lab or detention hall. And then, well . . . nothing.
If this connection took place at a high school reunion, you could deal with the inevitable lull in the conversation by excusing yourself to get a drink. Before long, your reconnection would be put back into deep storage until the next reunion.
That’s not possible on Facebook. Because your old classmate is part of your friend network now, you’re permanently yoked to each other, receiving an electronic notice every time he shares a link to his friend’s gardening blog, or one of his co-workers posts a photo of him from a company outing, or he posts a musing about his favorite breakfast cereals and his vexing battle with lactose intolerance.
OK, so I don’t care about a former classmate’s battle with lactose intolerance either. But what’s wrong with sharing in the birth of Jane’s daughter through uploaded pictures from the hospital or rejoicing in Bill’s selection as Author of the Month?
Maybe you don’t care. That’s fine. But like your college alumni magazine where each class and each member has the choice to write a brief bio, is a Facebook status update any different?
Swidey’s article is targeted at those aged 35 to 54, representing one-fifth of the social network’s 120 million users. I’m 33 and a member of Generation X. While not referenced in his article, Swidey may have well written about me and my peers.
About 40 of us convened at the Turnpike Cafe last night for our 15-year reunion. Most of us knew about the event from Facebook. A few were not Facebook members and came through plain old word of mouth. Maybe a handful saw the announcement brief in the town paper. But most of us were already connected online — so the reunion was nothing short of a bunch of old friends, literally, getting together in a bar over drinks and wingdings.
I don’t think Facebook replaces a reunion. Walled garden or not, I know Facebook makes the reunion stronger. I don’t know if Facebook will be around in five years or if it will replaced by something else, but I’m sure we’ll continue to exchange updates and pictures about our lives.
What about you?
Photo credit: hawksanddoves @ Flickr
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