Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

The Importance of Facebook

by Eric Stewart on Jun.12, 2009, under SCUBA, Technology, The Internet

So every once in a while I look at my Facebook and see in my “recommended” section new people.  Every once in a while it suggests to me someone that has no apparently connection to me (as far as I can tell).  I get fascinated by this when, not only do I have no idea who the person is, but we apparently don’t even have a friend in common.

I have blogged previously about the potential mental dilemmas of making someone a Facebook Friend (to which I will only add that more and more I’m seeing folks from work that I may have only heard the name in passing, or folks from high school that I can only faintly recall).  In fact, in that post I did more complaining about Friends on Facebook, and failed to expound upon the potential virtues of Facebook.

So, as I am wont to do (only slightly more often than I employ long parenthetical statements), an explanatory tangent:

If you are aware of me, it would be hard for you not to be aware of my passion for SCUBA diving.  Every New Years from 2003 through to 2008, I took a trip on a SCUBA liveaboard for at least a week, usually with the same core group of divers I had met (either through my sister or through the D2D message board, which I’ve since abandoned as a place I visit regularly on the web).  These people, though I would usually only see them for that one week a year, are very important to me – some of them I would consider closer to me than people I see every day.  Ironically, I would usually only hear about or talk to these people during lead up to, while on, and for a short time after, the New Years trips.  Not all of these folks are the most technical of people – their use of the Internet was as varied as their geographic locations (which, while mainly included the US, included many states from Florida, up to New York, and over to California, and also included folks from England, Guam, and Kenya).

And let’s talk about email for a moment:

Email is a great and wonderful tool.  I sometimes find it more useful than a phone call.  The funny thing is, for me (and I suspect a lot of people), it’s actually not that great a utility for keeping in touch with distant friends.  To do so, it requires only slightly less diligence than writing an actual snail-mail letter does.  But all it can take is one too many “I need to drop that person a line”s or “I’ll send them an email tomorrow”s or the worst: “I’ll respond to their email later”s before you’ve fallen out of touch with even your emotionally closest but geographically distant friends.

Here’s where Facebook hits its stride.

You can contact all of your friends in one convenient place (providing, of course, they are on Facebook … I hate “spamming” even my closest friends with invatory emails as I don’t want to pressure them into signing up for something they may not be interested in or have no time for, as I can understand and empathize with someone who may not have the same opinion of Facebook as I would, so the only Facebook invitation I’ve sent out was an accident).  Providing your friends log in and update their statuses at least semi-regularly, you can see what their up to and even send little notes back and forth: private, much like email if you want, or in such a way that all of your friends can see the discussion and chime in.

Now, to tie it all in:

All of a sudden one of those suggestions from Facebook was a friend from the SCUBA trips that, as far as I can tell, neither one of us had managed to find the other on Facebook yet, and neither one of us had existing friends that the other one had.  I was tickled that Facebook suggested them (obviously so! it moved me enough to write this unusually praising blog post), did the standard “Who do they have as friends that I know?” search, and got at least 7 additional friends right off the bat (and hopefully a few more as the days go on).  Of course, I immediately felt bad that I hadn’t contacted these folks earlier, and hopefully all of the Friends I’m trying to add will allow me to do so!  Those that do … well, now there’s more of a chance that I’ll be able to keep in touch with them.

Just in case any of you make it here: I apologize for not making more of an effort to keep in touch.  I of course could make some (possibly clever or self deprecating) excuse, but hopefully I’ll be able to keep in touch with you now that I’ve found you on Facebook!

So, yes, I’m a Facebook user.  Is it for everyone?  Oh no, I’d never go that far.  If you’ve got someone who doesn’t touch a computer but maybe once a month, they might have more important things to do than muck with Facebook (or they might be unable to understand things enough to enjoy using Facebook).  But if you have someone who gets a couple of hours a week (or day) of free computer time, and they have even just a friends that might be even just slightly geographically disperse, get them all on Facebook, if you can.  You might find it useful in facilitating communication.

Or, to use not so big words: It might help you keep in touch with those closest to you that you don’t (or can’t) see as often as you’d like.

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