Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Problem with Facebook

I agree with Alex Golub's stance in his IHE piece on Facebook. As he argues, the lack of granularity in friend settings creates a situation where you either cloister yourself or you don't. It's a very different world than the one we actually live in, where you have people that you work with and would go out to dinner with and people that you work with but wouldn't. In other words, Facebook forces you to draw clear lines when there aren't any. I've had a Facebook account since 2004, and I've had this blog that long and I twitter and generally put myself out there all the time, so I'm not squeamish about having a public persona. I think most people have gotten past fear of Facebook, and thanks to some highly publicized incidents, most students have figured out that posting risque pictures is a bad for future job prospects. As Facebook goes more and more mainstream, however, things are getting kind of weird.

For example, most of my high school classmates have now found me on Facebook. The first person to find me a couple of years ago was my best friend (we'd already found each other's blogs), and that was cool. It was a great way to stay in touch and it faciliated the ability for us to visit each other. But then the peripheral friends started friending me and I wasn't sure what to do about that. So I friended them and that was okay, but now all my current real friends are mixed in with former students, former classmates from high school, college and grad school and it's getting pretty messy. I unsuccessfully tried to use Facebook to arrange a gathering while I was in my home town over the holidays, and that failed miserably (I totally felt like I was in high school again), not because of Facebook, per se, but now I'm wondering why I have those people in my friend list anyway if I can't even contact them to have lunch because I'm not entirely sure I want them to know about my day-to-day activities. And likely vice versa.

Over the weekend, I friended the mom of one of my daughter's friends. This, too, strikes me as odd. I actually wrote her a note when I friended her just to say that I was surprised to find another mom on FB. I did it mainly to keep in touch with the mom circuit. She works full time, but also seems involved in a lot of local mom-related activities.

So, I think Facebook makes me feel like George Costanza--my worlds collide.