Living in a Facebook world is a strange thing. While I’ve appreciated how Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with people from different times and places throughout my life, being this “connected” may not be a good thing.
A status update is not a handwritten letter, a phone call or even an email. Knowing “sort of” what people are up to makes “really” catching up seem unnecessary. I don’t need to call Erin to see what she’s doing this month because I already know she’s in a play and teaching a sewing class. I may not know how Erin really feels about these things, what’s going on in her head as she makes decisions in her life, but it has made me feel “connected” enough that I suspend that call for another week, another month, or two. The six weeks or so between phone calls has stretched to six months, or more.
Plus, there’s something disheartening about learning important personal information through Facebook. It makes me feel more disconnected than not knowing at all. I’ve found out about multiple pregnancies and engagements and even marriages through Facebook. For faraway Facebook friends that I’m not particularly close with, I’ve found out about their pregnancies when they posted photos of themselves 7 or 8 months in. For a couple of closer friends, I’ve found out when they announced the sex of the baby. “It’s a girl. My mother will have a namesake!” I didn’t even know they were pregnant, and finding out on Facebook made me feel detached from my friends and their lives.
Unfortunately, I’m guilty of this myself. When my friend Amy passed away in June, I made a Facebook status update about how much she will be missed. At least two of my friends, acquaintances of Amy’s, found out about her death from my post. Although they weren’t close personal friends with Amy, I realize that’s a pretty shitty way to find out.
Three weeks ago my friend Chris called and left a voicemail saying he had news he wanted to share. Chris is a good friend from college, but he lives in another state and we don’t call each other often. Since I knew the news was likely the fact that he and his wife were expecting, the personalized reveal of his news was spoiled by his message. Still, when we were finally able to connect, there was something powerful about hearing the story directly from him, about hearing the excitement in his voice. I’m sure there will be many friends who find out their good news via Facebook, and I’m certain Facebook will be the way I’ll learn about many more life-changing events, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be conscious of how I handle such news and remember that this feeling connected is as limited as a 420-character status update.