I’ve been a big fan of facebook from almost the first day I signed up. I say almost, because it took me a bit to learn the ins and outs. I know that I didn’t accept a few friend requests because I didn’t know the people that well. One was a guy I knew in college and another was the husband of a friend.
Since then I’ve learned to accept people I don’t know that well. I’m friends with people in my family. I’m friends with friends I have in real life. I am friends with people I went to college, high school, and elementary school with (some I haven’t seen in 30 years). I am friends with former fellow teachers. I am friends with my friends from my Studio Guide days. I am friends with former students!
I am friends with fellow moms I met online. I am friends with fellow knitters I met on Ravelry. I am friends with knitting designers who contributed to my book. I am even friends with a few people who requested me simply because they liked my book – including some in other countries.
I’ve felt more connected to my family members via facebook. For awhile, I was really feeling closer to cousins that I didn’t know that well. See, being the oldest of 21 cousins, I was off to college before most of my cousins were even in jr. high. I was having a conversation with one of these cousins recently, and he compared the difference in his age and mine with that of his age and my own children. (For the record, I am 11 years older than he is, he is 21 years older than my oldest child.)
It made me wonder how they thought of me. It was a bit eye opening to hear that he (and possibly all the cousins his age and younger) believes me to be an entirely different generation.
When I was younger, I always felt pretty cool to be the oldest. Like it was some sort of honor. I was also only 5 years younger than my youngest uncle, so I felt closest to him and the only other cousin who was my age. When we were around 8 years old, she and I used to walk around my Granny’s neighborhood, pushing the younger kids around in strollers. Looking back, I think my aunts and uncles must have been on crack to let us have so much responsibility, but perhaps I’d do the same if I felt our world was a little safer these days.
Then, I got older, and the older I got the more removed I was from the family. I couldn’t always make the get-togethers, and the older I got the less I had in common with my younger cousins. I graduated college and got a job. I got married. I started having kids. Once my cousins got old enough to join me in that stage of life, we suddenly had more in common and the gap seemed to be closing a bit. Add to that some social networking where we all got to know more about each other and there’s a sense of closeness, real or imagined.
I suppose the real question is this – if we know someone on facebook, do we really know them? Do we show our whole selves, or just a portion? Do we really give our facebook family a slice of our true life, or just the parts we’re willing to share? I know some of my friends post more intimate details of their life than others. Some post the bare minimum, only sharing the good parts. (Of course, there’s my husband’s idea of facebook, which is to forget about facebook entirely until I point out that he needs to address all the birthday wishes people gave him, and then he has to remember what his log in information is so that he can go say thanks.)
Do you feel you really know your facebook or twitter friends? Do they know you? Or is it just the illusion that you’re more familiar because you “see” them every day. Is getting to see birthday and field trip photos the same as sitting down and having coffee and hearing the knitty gritty of their daily life? Does it have to be?
The older I get, the more I realize that family is truly important. Whether or not facebook – and the internet in general – has given me a false sense of familiarity, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to make connections I might not have made otherwise, and am glad that I at least feel that we all hold each other a little closer these days.
So, what’s your opinion? Is facebook really bringing people closer together, or is it all in our heads?