What do you gain from Facebook?

Published 12:07am Sunday, June 24, 2012

With each passing day it becomes clearer that I’m fast becoming an old man.

A few months back, a quick glance at the day’s mail should have been a giant red flag, but instead I laughed it off as a fluke.

Forty-year-olds aren’t supposed to get membership forms from AARP. The group is supposed to focus only on those 50 years and older. Clearly they think I’m either mentally or physically in that camp.

Either way the arrival of my official membership offer only gave me a chuckle at the time. Looking back on it, I should have immediately signed up.

Increasingly things in life that other people think are all the rage just don’t make much sense to me.

Perhaps the thing that most illustrates this might be the amount of time others spend on Facebook, and by contrast, my utter lack of interest in the same.

It probably says something bad about me.

On the surface, Facebook is supposed to be about openness and sharing. Everyone has “friends” and we’re all supposed to open up our lives to one another.

Clearly, I learned in kindergarten that sharing is important, but those lessons were rooted in sharing things that were really important. At the time that meant toys, crackers, Nilla wafers, etc.

But sharing today seems to include things that, well, just aren’t that important, really.

The majority of Facebook seems to include a never-ending stream of:

4 Photos of children doing the “cutest thing imaginable.”

4 Sayings by people trying to be funny or profound.

4 Photos of silly things such as what someone is about to each for lunch.

4 Images passed around that often include either funny subjects or sayings aimed at being funny.

Apparently, I’m just not a nice person, because I don’t want to share much.

I particularly don’t want to share the gory details of my life with people dubbed my “friends.”

Real friends and close family know the important stuff already and, I hope, they really don’t care much about what I had to eat for lunch.

All of it just seems to be tiring to me and of little to no interest.

Clearly I’m in the minority though as a staggering amount of Americans report having a Facebook account.

“It’s just harmless fun,” fans say.

Call me the old man, call me the party pooper, but I cannot help but wonder, “Just how much time is America wasting on such drivel?”

But beyond time wasting, something else about Facebook — and similar social media outlets — concerns me a bit.

Spending large amounts of time looking at how cool everyone else’s life is probably has a tendency to make a person question the “success” of their own lives.

“Bob’s got a new truck, why can’t I have one?” Such jealousy can also quickly dissolve a relationship, too.

A couple of years — and several million fewer Facebook users — ago an attorney association suggested more than three-quarters of all divorce cases included evidence derived from Facebook.

That doesn’t mean Facebook caused the splits, only that the site contained evidence that one side thought was damning of the others. Clearly some times sharing doesn’t result in good. If Facebook went away tomorrow, would your life be impacted?

I’d be just fine, but then again, I’m the 40-something that AARP is recruiting.

 

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

 

  • http://www.endtime.com Keith

    Kevin, Like you, I am in my 40′s. A few years back, besides getting recruiting letters from AARP in the mail, I was also getting letters from the Scooter Store. Still do from time to time!!!! Just Wait

  • Anonymous

    I’ve given this subject some serious thought and come to the conclusion that the younger generations engage in a form of narcissism that you and I can’t really comprehend.

  • Anonymous

    Facebook has been good for OldGrandMa’s business. I joined just to keep up with her and the kids and grandkids. Maybe it’s my choice of friends, but most of it seems to be girlie stuff. :)

  • Anonymous

    If you don’t want to get on FB, then don’t.  It means different things to different people.  Some people play out their lives on it.  If that is what they want to do, then so be it.  It is for some just another form of entertainment.    Our society is lacking a lot of different things and that is what you see reflected on FB. 

  • Anonymous

    What’s the problem with getting old??? LOL Come on jump in, it ‘ain,t’ all that bad. You’re just in the preparing stage. At fifty two I joined and have enjoyed all the info I’ve gleaned from the AARP program. I turned my face book off when one ‘friend’  told me to wait a minute, they had to stand up and scratch where they couldn’t while sitting and another told me to hold on while they went to the bathroom. Waaaayyyy too much sharing !!!!!   

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com Kevin Cooper

    I think you’re correct about probably 30 to 40 percent of the hardcore Facebook users. The rest just sort of watch what the narcissistic ones write. It’s really a very strange process to me.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com Kevin Cooper

    :-)

  • Anonymous

    Oh, you can use Facebook for a lot of things.  Don’t let the undirected social musings of youth, or the incessant notices about what our cats are doing that morning, fool you.  

    Some people use Facebook in creative ways, and do not just graze there.  One example is the Personhood fight.  Mississippi was in it’s same old mindless mood when that election question approached. Most citizens knew little of it.

    Facebook was the forum that provided activists enough contact to turn opinion on that around completely,  It was launched on Facebook, but didn’t stay there.  

    Facebook was an important part of the movement against the American Legislative Exchange Council — whereby our legislatures are hooked up with “dates” that will pay them money to sponsor industry written bills without proper scrutiny.  Public outrage has caused many corporations to abandon that effort, and Facebook has been a major education tool for that. 

    Your senator uses Facebook for opinion research, and in the process has made some pretty amazing reversals in position, to her credit.  There is no need to just spout opinion, one can immediately back up what they say with qualified sourcing, and eliminate the trite, mind-numbing opinionizing that usually accompanies Mississippi style issue debate.

    It’s a lot like a claw hammer and it’s use as a tool.  Some people use it to hang a picture, some people build houses with them, and some people use them very little.  Some personal credit for our visions would be in order to understand what a claw hammer is good for.  Same with Facebook.

    Honestly Kevin, you appear to be a picture hanger in your assessment of Facebook.

  • Anonymous

    I’m agreeing with you about youth in general.  Somebody has not been doing their parent work and youth, as always, is clueless about life.  But FB is a lot more than youth.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a good point.  Though I’ve found the “middle-aged” folks and above tend to post mostly exactly what Kevin states in the article.  He left off internet hoaxes, though.  That would probably come in at #6 right behind the guilt-o-grams at #5.

    It seems to be the youth, from my Facebook experience, that are the ones so keen on letting everyone know what they are doing and where they are doing it at any given time.  I do, however, get he occasional status update that says something to the effect of “Having dinner with my two best friends!”  Um, OK.

  • Anonymous

    Narcissists, voyeurs and jokers, oh my!  ;-)

  • vilou09

    Yep, we’re quite a generation!

    “I don’t think you’re ready for that…. But your kids are gonna love it!”
    ;)

  • Anonymous

    Very good article, Kevin, and one in which this old codger can relate!  In 2005, at the behest & cajoling of my 8 year old grand-daughter, I subscribed to Facebook so that she & I could keep in touch via the ‘newest craze’, as she lives out of state. After several months, we found that the telephone & e-mail worked just fine, as it had before; so I never logged into my Facebook account again. That is until last week….!!!  Similar articles to yours have been in the various media recently, so I logged in to to see just what was up with my account. In 7 years I had accumulated over 200 “friends”; 99% of them I have never known before in any capacity. The very few that I did know had posted just a photo and a short sentence or so. Why these unknown people would presume that I would have any interest in the minutiae of their lives is beyond my comprehension. Are there that many folks out there who are so needy for attention? ‘Twould appear so. After scrolling through the “friends list”, I immediately terminated my subscription. No Twitter or MySpace, either! For this 71 year old, the only social networking I welcome is e-mail, snail-mail, and the telephone. The youngsters can have the rest of it and be happy; whatever turns their cranks!