And is it possible that the facebook world is more of the real world than the actual real world? And why is facebook noticeably less interesting on the weekend and during holidays?
Editor’s note: Keep in mind that with any of my posts, if you see something underlined, you can click on it to read another one my writings specifically about that phrase, or it may even lead you to a Wikipedia entry, which is equally as exciting.
Like most tricky open-ended questions I propose to world-wide audiences, it depends on the perspective and lifestyle of the person being asked. But since part of my job as a writer who strives to be unpredictably provocative is to choose a side and stick with it, I have a firm answer for this “there’s no wrong or right answer” kind of question. Often, the side I choose is the least expected one: I am typically wired to root for the underdog. So of course, anyone who reads my writings regularly should correctly assume that every time I will be defending the less popular answer.
Obviously, the overtly “correct” answer is that facebook takes away from the realness of life. It prevents us from actually going over to each other’s houses and playing Yahtzee like we should. It keeps us from calling our family members on the phone when we can just read their status update or look at their newest pictures. Facebook is single-handedly deconstructing what real relationships are all about. Facebook ironically eliminates actual face time with the people we are close to. Therefore, the people we are “close to” literally become distant from us.
And while I acknowledge the relative truth in the paragraph above, it’s not the school of thought I am compelled to believe as my own reality. In my version of reality, facebook actually makes life more real. If I really want to call a person, or invite myself to drive to their house, I will. Facebook doesn’t stop me from doing that. Maybe that makes me old-fashioned. But for me, facebook actually enhances the relationships in my life. I often actually have more to talk about with people on the phone or in real life, sometimes because of something that happened on facebook.
Admittedly, out of my nearly 800 facebook friends, it’s safe to say that I literally don’t know who a quarter of them are. The majority of my facebook friends are not people who know me well enough to have programmed my number into their cell phone number. But when I propose one of my deep questions like the title of this post, or “what makes a person normal?” it’s often these exact people who are the first to respond. Interestingly, the people who typically respond to my randomness are not the people I see on a regular basis or even within the past year or two. (And for the people who I actually do see and talk to on a regular basis, I’m asking these questions to their face and they are answering in person so there is no need to answer on facebook.)
So what does that say about how facebook enhances relationships? For me, I’d say it completely sustains the friendships which would have likely disintegrated if not for the opportunity to casually engage in a brief, random conversation topic without the commitment ever having to say “hello” or “goodbye”. But is there any possibility that facebook is actually more of a reality than actual reality? I say absolutely yes. It just depends on your definition of “reality”.
I have written before about how the time we spend at work is not the real world, but instead a necessary Avatar world or Matrix or lucid dream (reference to Vanilla Sky) that we enter in order to fund the actual real world. Therefore, the true real world is the “off the clock” reality where we spend time with friends and family, along pursuing our own interests and hobbies. With that being said, if the real world is largely defined by the people who are who are important to us outside of work (though obviously everyone has some “real friends” at work who supersede both realities), then I have to acknowledge that the interactions I am involved with on facebook are in a sense more “real” than most of the other hours spent each day.
To me, when I jokingly harass my arch nemesis/friend Ben Wilder via a wall comment, or I “like” someone’s picture of them embarrassing themselves, or I send a message to a friend about weekend plans, that’s more real than the four collected hours I spent talking to clients on the phone at work that day. It’s more real than the round-trip hour I spend in the car driving to and from work each weekday. For me, true reality is all about the people who mean something to me, whether those people are literally in the room there with me, or 700 miles away but on facebook.
The proof in the pudding for me is when I check out readership trends on this site, Scenic Route Snapshots. There are typically hundreds of more readers on normal weekdays, compared to weekends and holidays. That’s because people escape the fake real world (their work life) by playing on the Internet, therefore entering the actual real world. Ironically, this post was written and ready by Thanksgiving Day, but I had allow for the holiday fallout to settle before publishing it. Otherwise, it could have gone unnoticed.
Granted, I’m old-fashioned in that I still believe it’s rude to answer your phone or reply to a text message while in the physical presence of friends or family, especially during the middle of a conversation. It’s a matter of prioritizing your reality. Your top priority is those who are literally in the room with you. It bugs me so much when I am making an effort to physically be in the same room as a person but I am second rate to another person they are talking to via text message or smart phone, who is just as real as I am, but isn’t actually there like I am.
So despite making an argument that facebook enhances reality and is actually more real than reality in some cases, I still acknowledge that respect for physical presence should not be forsaken. Of course I completely understand who so many people feel that facebook takes away from real life, because honestly, the invention of the Internet and facebook is a lot like a modern rebuilding of the Tower of Babel- which is something I’ve noticed and written about before.
Ultimately, facebook is an enhancer of the life that already exists- like the way salt magnifies the flavor of food. If you are already a social person who has healthy relationships with people in real life, facebook probably adds to the quality of these relationships. If you are already a person who is not good at corresponding with people who are outside of your immediate circle, there’s a good chance you either ignore those “outsider” facebook friends even more or find them to be the most annoying (though you still haven’t gone through the trouble to delete them). And if you’re a person who loves Farmville… I’m amazed you broke away long enough from tending to your goats to read this.
Below, notice the typical drop in the number of views on Saturdays and Sundays, the major drop on Thanksgiving Day (November 26), and the overall drop during the entire week of Thanksgiving as compared to every other week. That’s why my catch phrase for this site is “a great way to get distracted from life”- because more people visit here when they want to be distracted, not when they are actually hanging with people in their true “real world”.
Daily Views on Scenic Route Snapshots