Lessons learned

>> 1.05.2009

Subtitle: Things I've pondered during my ten months on Facebook.

Caveat: I originally joined Facebook for work purposes, so I could be an admin on my employer's site.

The benefits:

1. I communicate far more regularly (even daily) with my siblings. A quick wall post or comment is easier than an email at times, for all of us. When my mom gets concerned that she hasn't heard from my brother in a while, I can reassure her that he just posted a status update, so he is alive and probably well.

2. Along the same lines, within the past few months, several far-flung college friends have become Facebook regulars. By reading status updates and looking at posted photos and videos, I feel closer to their everyday lives without relying on Christmas letters and infrequent emails for updates.

3. After "friending" a few cousins on Facebook, I found that we could skip the banal conversation about work and family at Christmas because we knew what everyone had been up to. We had far more in-depth chats, such as about which meats we had given up and why (and discovered that we're following remarkably similar paths).

The drawbacks:

1. It can be addictive, and it takes time to follow and respond. Facebook is another thing to stay on top of, in addition to a LinkedIn profile, two blogs, and those old-fashioned email in-boxes. All five of them.

2. You lose one-on-one (private) communication with some people. Of course, if it's a wall post or nothing, I'll take a wall post to stay in touch.

3. You can unintentionally offend several friends (or relatives) at once, with a misinterpreted status update. Word them carefully.

Just a bit of advice: Even if "bracing for an onslaught of relatives" accurately reflects your feelings as you await the arrival of 22 in-laws to town for a week at Christmas, don't post it. Sensitive teenagers who call you "aunt" may take offense.

The "not sure yet":
1. Here's one I can't come to grips with: 80 members from my high school class (of about 300 people) have joined a "Class of 19xx" group for our high school. Everyone just found one another without any publicity. And we're quickly becoming "friends."

Here's the issue: I haven't stayed in touch with anyone from high school. I recognize several of the names (if I played soccer with you, I'll accept your friend request without hesitation), but others I looked up in the yearbook and would swear I've never met.

What is to be gained from these re-connections? Do I have anything in common with my classmates beyond a year of graduation? Why did I feel left out (high school flashback) when several of them met over Christmas break, near my house, and I only learned about it by seeing the photos posted to Facebook?

It's fun to "see" old friends and find out what they've been doing (five kids and living in Colorado) and who married whom. But what else is there, beyond pure curiosity?

I haven't come up with a good answer.


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