Monday, April 28, 2008

Facebook? MySpace? Second Life? If I Choose Not to Participate, Does That Make Me Uncool?

The other day, a friend of mine emailed me and asked, "When are you going to get on Facebook?" My reply back went something like this:

Facebook. Ugh. I already spend way too much time on the Internets and the computer right now. Sounds like you’re enjoying it, though!

While "too much time on the computer" is the primary reason, I've largely resisted joining any of these virtual social networking sites because I believe in good old face-to-face interaction. That's not to say I believe I can't meet or make friends with people I meet online. The opposite is, in fact, true.

Cases in point: My friends, the Scary Feminists from Hell. We met when we were all in grad school and participated in an email list group of Mormon graduate students called LDS Grads. Had it not been for this august group of tribal members in academia spread all over the globe, my circle of friends would be significantly smaller and I never would have participated in Sunstone, enjoyed the Columbia River Gorge, had Thanksgiving in Reno, gone to an art opening in Manhattan, been a groomsperson in a wedding on the hottest day on record in Pasadena, included the insights of a friend in my master's thesis, or been a part of a host of other fun stuff and significant events over the years with this fabulous group of women.

My friends and acquaintances I've met and made through blogging, like Sister Mary Lisa or Sideon or Alice or the Gunfighter or Suzanne or Phoebe or Abgue or Cele. I've enjoyed reading about their lives and, when occasions have permitted, actually meeting them in person and sharing a meal and conversation that leaves me feeling enlightened and uplifted.

Or the YahooGroups I've participated in over the years that have brought me into contact with people who have become dear friends, like Bishop Aitch or the women who contributed to a collection of essays I assembled about Mormon women's faith and sexuality or the Great Women's Dinner group--a group of women I currently get together with every few months for dinner and laughs.

The Internets have certainly enriched my life and resulted in deep, lasting relationships I cherish, friendships I enjoy, and the acquaintance of smart, fun people.

But, I'm not 100% convinced that Facebook or MySpace or Second Life will do for me what I've already managed to achieve through group lists and blogging. In fact, all of these virtual social networking sites feel clique-ish, juvenile, and awkward--for lack of a better word. Having not enjoyed periods in my life, like high school, for exactly those reasons, I am, to quote Captain Barbossa, "Disinclined to acquiesce to your request. Means, 'no'."

More than that, these sites seem like places to hide in the safety of virtual--i.e. unreal--relationships that do little to encourage actual--i.e. real--social, face-to-face interaction. While I've been okay participating in group lists and blogging, I haven't made them my only social outlet, if that makes sense. I get out and among people regularly and I enjoy meeting the people I'm familiar with online. In fact, when I travel, I let people know where I'm going so if anyone in my known circle wants to get together, we can. The idea of traveling to California and not seeing Sideon, or Switzerland and not visiting The Swizzies or Dr. Lala, or Salt Lake and not meeting Abgue or Lolatini, or Pennsylvania and not hooking up with my cousin-xx-times-removed-or-something (we haven't figured it out yet, but we're pretty darn sure my great-grandmother and her grandfather were siblings) Holly seem like opportunities missed and wasted .

And then there are the people whose blogs I enjoy and whom it might be fun to meet one day if all the stars aligned properly. (I won't list them here. I'd hate to creep them out. Besides, while I might think it would be great to meet them, they might not feel the same. And who wants to be in that awkward social situation? I like this kind of stuff to happen naturally.)

So, am I missing something? I am totally unhip or uncool? Should I get on the Facebook bandwagon? Personally, I'm perfectly happy where I am, but if my next job hinges on whether I'm hip to Facebook, I'm screwed.


Anonymous said...

Tewkes, you're such a curmudgeon, you crack me up! The social sites are just another way to waste time and make little connections with friends. No big whoop. ;-)

I'm still glad for LDS-G too!!

- Di

Mme. Meow said...

Honestly, I just think it's different-- mostly because FB (and realize I'm a FB-aholic) provides you with silly interactions AND it provides you with a window to the past in a parallel dimension.

Real life this is not, by any means.

Anonymous said...

Once I signed up with MySpace because a friend told me I should be checking up on my daughter's MySpace page. But then somebody named "Psychoneedles" asked to be my friend, and I immediately lost interest in that. Never had the interest since then. I agree it seems to me a place for Millenials to hang out -- not me. In fact, a Millenial at work got so sloppy about her FaceBook page that it came to her boss's attention how much she hated her job, her boss, and her "constant demands." She's gone now. I just rambled. Sorry.

You can ring me up if you ever come to Colorado -- would love to meet you in real life. If you want to.


Anonymous said...

Well said.

The internets have a funny way of isolating people in some cases, and I think sometimes these so-called social groups are nothing more than a Lonely Hearts club - a shared angst of unspoken/unwritten/undefined desires.

I'm still grumbling about not meeting you in March. I AM thinking something crazy, which is getting a job back with the company that's based in Fairfax - I could work remotely - and the travel benefits (and frequent flier miles) would be a good thing. IF I did this, we'd be doing Rice at least quarterly!

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Di: I'm a total curmudgeon! I think I have been since birth, though. Before there was Stewie, I was Stewie! (I love Stewie, by the way.) I'm glad for LDS-G, too.

Mme. Meow: I think you're probably right. I'm not sure I made an apples to oranges comparison here, but I think blogging and social networking sites are just unique enough to be appealing for different reasons. I think I just haven't found the appeal for me.

Phoebe: I hear you. I think as I get older, I find that have lots and lots of friends isn't as seemingly vital as it once was and FB and MS just feel overwhelming in that area. And yes, of course, if I'm ever in Colorado, I'm looking you up! No way I'll ever go to Denver again and not try to get together!

Sid: The Internets are definitely a fine line, aren't they? I'm trying not to let them take over my life, but that's sometimes easier hope for than actually achieved. As for the job thing, we have to talk. I'm confused about your current employment status... I'll call you and we'll talk amongst ourselves!

Merujo said...

I have a MySpace account and a Facebook account, but I log on so infrequently, I can't remember the passwords. I can't find enough time (or energy) in the day to do laundry, I swear, so the social networking thang is not at the top of my list.

ME said...

LDS Grads brought some cool people together. So glad for that!

I have a barely informative/functional MySpace page and keep getting random invites from people I don't know. I have a couple of friends with seriously elaborate MS pages. I can only imagine what kind of time went into cataloging their obscure talents and esoteric musical libraries. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

I do like Linked In and have connected with some people I actually want to be in touch with again. I guess the challenge is choosing one's Internet time sucks wisely. :)

LG said...

I have MySpace and Facebook accounts, mostly because my previous job working with social networking required me to so I knew what the hell was going on.

I don't love it. I think they're kind of lame in a lot of regards, but I do love the fact that several of my older nieces and nephews have found me on FB, and they are now my posse. :)

Cele said...

I'm a follower and I thought that getting a Myspace page would help me pick up more writing jobs. Strangely it has introduced me to more indy musicians. But that's kewl.

I prefer the community of bloggers that unite because of commonality, their writing, and topic. It's another blogger's writing that draws me to them, has created some wonderful friendships (thank you Tewkes,) and caused me introspection that has caused me to grow, evolve, and proceed forward. Myspace is there, but it doesn't draw me like the blogging communities have. I'll take a deep/whimsical/ranting/open blog anyday of the week.

Phoenix Touch said...


Okay... so I was gonna write here a big, long ole blog comment. Then, Cele, in her infinite wisdom, assigned this week's Talk Thursday Topic: "My Place on the Internet" so I decided to delete the whole thing and use it as my post for Thursday!!! LOL


Anonymous said...

I have a Myspace account, which I check very very infrequently. I have links on there to some family members (who are only slightly more MySpace active than I am) and some make-believe friends from a lawyer board I've been participating on for almost 10 years.

I've gotten three invites to Facebook, but haven't signed up yet. I'm almost tempted to do so just to link those three very different people (my younger sister, a friend from growing up, and a friend from NYC who works in TV news).

j.m. tewkesbury said...

Merujo: Oddly, I think I signed up for FB, but like you, I can't remember my password and I'm not interested enough to backtrack and sign in.

ME: Amen on LDS-G! And I think you've hit on what makes me resistant to FB and MS: the amount of time spent dolling it all up. As I said, I already spend WAY too much time online as it is. FB and/or MS = less time for other, more beneficial activities. As for LinkedIn, I'm with you there. Now I just need to find my username and password for that one again and I'm good to go.

LG: See, that's my worry. Is FB and MS something I should be more attuned to as it's the medium most young people are using these days to communicate. Will I be less of an asset to an employer because I'm not clued into these other forms of media outreach? And yet, I can't bring myself to spend any time in them because I don't see the value for me or for a potential employer. (Unless I was working for a company like the one you were with.)

Cele: What you said about the community of bloggers! Spot on. Hear, hear! And amen!

Abgue: Can't wait to read that comment-as-entry!

JA: Hm. Perhaps, if more of my family members (immediate and extended) were on FB or MS, I might be more inclined to participate as a way of staying in touch. Otherwise, meh.

Anonymous said...

My daughter named her Beta fish "Stewie."

Brain -- hey, Brian -- look at me ... look, Brian. Hey Brian, I'm a fish; I'm a menacing fish, Brain. See? I'm poofing out my cheeks!

- Phoebe

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Pheebs: You crack me up, friend! :-D

I think I'd have better luck with a fish than I'd have maintaining a FB or MS site.