Thursday, January 12, 2012

Social Utilities, Social Grace, and Shut-Ins

Today one of my sons posted a status on his Facebook wall saying he was tired of reading complaints, and song lyrics and that he didn't want to be friends with folks who do that. I am not trying to point out this particular son tonight, as I have read about 43,567,676 similar complaints since joining Facebook. (That was forty-three million, five hundred-and-sixty seven-thousand, six-hundred and seventy-six complaints for those of you who thought I randomly hit some keys).

There are lots of people who complain about Facebook and other social utilities. And granted they can be both a good and a bad thing at different times. Here's the thing though- they're not all bad. And to be really honest, it shows how difficult it can really be for some people to start a simple conversation with others. Not everyone seems to have a whole lot of social grace. You know, that ability to say interesting or witty things on a moments notice, to know their place and also know others in the pecking order in life.They don't seem to know how to 'do it' correctly, so instead they blurt out something stupid or foolish or silly, and everyone that hears it, behaves accordingly. Only a few people I meet in the world are fascinating and the rest, well they're OK too- but you may just have to work a bit harder to get to know them. And of course that work is generally worthwhile. 

In fact, I don't find Facebook must different than I find the real world. Some people are engaging, some people are not, some people have foul mouths, and some people do not, some people have strong political ideas, and some people do not,and some people complain- allll the way hommmmme!
( did you see the little piggy reference coming? me neither.)

In any case, my 'friend' list appropriately reflects all that. I have taught my boys that they can stay connected to friends on Facebook, but not to replace real life interaction with it whenever possible. I actually enjoy some aspects of Facebook and wish it would carry over to the 'real world' (as if people chatting on line are suddenly not real? hmmmm? still trying to figure that one out?) Can you for instance imagine:

  • being at a party and having  a relative you know is embarrassing walk up and be able to simply 'hide' them? 
  • How'd you like to get rid of a nuisance person in your real life by simply 'unfriending them'
  • If only I had the 'delete post' option for some tedious conversations I have been forced to sit through in my day!
  • For those of you out there who are also 'vocally challenged' (I cannot sing a lick), isn't it nice to post the lyrics to a song or the video and have people actually THANK YOU for sharing it? 

That last one could never happen in my 'real world'. Is it a time waster? Can be. Do you sometimes hear more than you'd like? uh-huh. Can you be so silly that you get lost in it and think over what someone else says way too much- yes- but that happens in 'real life' too. We all bring our own troubles to the game and that affects the way we play it.

*UPDATED* After initial publication, my wonderful and significantly more thoughtful cousin Monica pointed out that for many teenagers today cyber-bullying is a problem. As a homeschooling family we haven't really encountered that aspect so far, and so it wasn't really 'on the radar' as I wrote. I am glad she pointed out that in certain cases the above behaviors such as 'unfriending'' people can be abused and cause real damage. I don't know all that much about cyber bullying, but I've heard a few horror stories and can imagine how painful it might be. Thanks Monica for the heads-up!  

 Has it the potential to also keep you connected to fun, vibrant, people with different ideas- many times with people who are miles and miles away? Yes! I can think of a million ways having a few friends connected to you on a social utility might be simply terrific, and is. 

 Lastly, when I was a little girl I had an Aunt Betty and Uncle Charlie who were 'shut-ins'.( little prayer here for their souls- thanks) That's a strange phrase isn't it? They weren't reclusive but because of ill health, became shut-in to their own home. My Mom would make us go visit my Aunt Betty a few times every year and she would always make comments like "Poor Betty, she doesn't see anyone except a few times a year and she was always so social."

That always made me so sad to think of. She wanted to get out and engage the world, but simply could not. As I grew older I realized there was a whole army of shut-ins as I heard the term in every parish. There are always good souls who go and visit the shut-ins and keep them connected to life. While I don't imagine we could get all those elderly shut-ins to start using Facebook, I do think we have the ability to keep this younger generation from ever being totally shut-in. The 'world' has been at their fingertips since they were born, and  that can be a good thing.

 So, I'll leave you with one last thought, and to do so I'll use a few lyrics that in the 'real world' I could never sing for you, or even find on an iPod before the moment had passed, but through the magic of technology I am able to send to all of you- my friends- on Facebook and elsewhere in our little fake world. ( you'll thank me later!).

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