A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.
Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.
The other day, I received an e-mail from an old friend and I realized that Facebook is muddling up my concept of friendship. She said she hadn’t heard from me in a while and wondered what was going on. I was confused. Hadn’t she seen the photos from our recent 25th anniversary vacation? Didn’t she know that we missed our son but he was doing well on the West Coast or that our daughter was enjoying being in the performing arts in her school? Of course not – my friend isn’t on Facebook. That’s when it hit me - lately I’ve been spending more time with my Facebook friends than my real friends. Sigh.
As you may know, I am a proponent of “social networking.” I think that despite their flaws, Facebook and Twitter are not the devils in disguise. Sure, they’re not perfect, but they have their good points.
For instance, our son lives 3,000 miles away. We’re not big phone talkers in our family. In fact, I generally dislike talking on the phone for long periods of time. We prefer passive communication. Thanks to Facebook, I feel at least semi-connected to my son and his daily activities. I know a little about how he interacts with his friends and how he keeps busy in his spare time. I like that.
And thanks to Twitter, I was able to spend a grand total of 5 minutes hearing about and then dismissing the media blitz surrounding “Balloon Boy.” As I’ve also mentioned in the past, I don’t like to watch television news. I do like to hear about so-called major stories, but I detest the rehashing of events ad nauseum. (Maybe that’s why I like the printed newspaper. I can read the story and then turn the page.) Anyway, on that overhyped day, I signed on to Twitter and saw several anxious “tweets” about the boy and the balloon. I was quickly able to figure out what happened and then move on. CNN rarely lets you do that. Thanks, Twitter.
I’ll be honest, Facebook IS addicting…but it’s also fairly benign. I generally check in every morning after I read the newspaper. I like to see responses to my own “posts” or new comments and links that others have posted. It’s a pleasant diversion, but I’m realizing that I need to devote equal attention to the “analog world.” I need to reconnect with my offline friends lest they feel ignored.
Don't get me wrong, the people I've met on Facebook and Twitter are nice...really nice! I've even found some old friends via these sites. But I realized that I'm getting lazy and not spending enough time with people that have known me my entire life.
So I’m making a conscious effort to get my head out of the laptop and interact one-on-one with friends and family. For a self-described impatient and passive communicator, this will be a challenge. I’ll have to spend some time on the phone or maybe sit down in person with people. Hope they don’t figure out that I’m not nearly as interesting in person as I am on Facebook!