That is a totally unfair assessment of Facebook.
Sure, Facebook can be a time suck, and I've been known to waste hours of time perusing its pages. However, that very fact is both its blessing and its undoing.
My stepdaughter Valerie recently commented that "people are on Facebook pretty much 24/7," which is true. However, it's because people are on Facebook 24/7 that people are on Facebook 24/7.
Circular logic? Maybe, but stay with me here. Facebook has plenty of time-traps, like games, interactive programs, applications and more that keep us perusing. I can play with my stepdaughter Nicole's former cat, if I so desire. I can "post" and share pithy and humorous "buttons" that mark any and no occasion (and may even glorify Chuck Norris). I can farm, bead, raise livestock and more.
Those are the programs and applications developed specifically for Facebook. Now, how about the other aspects of this social medium? Other attributes of Facebook allow me to:
- peruse through the hundreds of photos my family took over the holidays.
- live-chat with Valerie and Nicole about nothing in particular.
- tutor my stepson Philip in Spanish using live-time chatting. (He passed, so a little of the credit can go to Facebook.)
- discover when my girls are sick, unhappy, thrilled and pensive with their status updates. (Philip isn't as conversational as his sisters.)
- watch Philip's concert videos.
- relive Valerie's wedding ceremony, where she married Jessie and gathered the entire family from across the country.
That's just using the services incorporated into the Facebook home page.
Now, let's blame the media. Yes, blame the media, which have discovered their audience spends 24/7 on Facebook and have a high profile on the social medium. Now, I:
- read four different newspapers and various magazine
- post articles from any source I find interesting
- read articles my friends and family share from numerous resources
- converse with my 75 "friends" (and their friends) about articles they shared
- read about Glee, Despicable Me, Criminal Minds, The Colbert Report, Shakira and more pop culture elements I have chosen
- read my favorite blogs that post on Facebook
Much of what I used to do off-Facebook has been incorporated into my Facebook time. Sure, I read the Post every day. I also notice articles in my home page feed I might not have caught on the Post website. The same goes for AP News and the New York Times. Additionally, I encounter Slate and NPR, which I would not usually read if not for encountering articles posted on their Facebook pages.
In other words, "everyone" is on Facebook, so I am on Facebook to find out what "everyone" is up to.
Now, there are drawbacks.
First of all, my home page gets filled up pretty quickly, and I have only 75 friends. My girls have literally 10 times that many. Each. How much can they really stay abreast of their friends when so much information is constantly streaming on their wall from literally hundreds of people? For example, I follow the local school district, but I rarely see their posts because other entries push it down, or off, the main page. If I think I've missed something, I may go to an individual's wall, but that defeats the purpose of being on Facebook: so people can see what you post.
Secondly, I know some who lament having "friended" people they haven't seen since high school whom they don't really care about — yet they don't want to alienate them by ignoring their "friend request." Thankfully, I haven't encountered that situation (which either reflects the intelligence of my friends or the fact that I'm not popular enough to be sought by long-lost friends). I have re-connected with some beloved friends I lost contact with along the way. However, I approach reconnecting with the past with great caution because I don't want to trip over the present by looking over my shoulder to see what I might have missed.
Finally, as much as I like to be "in the know," I can suffer sensory overload in today's din of immediacy. I admit: I am an older model with a somewhat antiquated operating system, and I have to decide how best to manage my interface. Today, everything is considered "urgent" and we expect instantaneous response at all times. Facebook joins Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, e-mail, instant messaging and texts as ports of entry into our lives. Some days the din is overwhelming, and I have to tune out, turn off and drop out.
In the end, Facebook sets itself up to have the potential to be successful. However, a tool is only as successful as the user perceives it to be. For me, it's a double-edged sword — successful, but only under controlled circumstances.
How does Facebook work for you?