I used to live in and run around exploring this wonderful little universe (actually, not-so-little, but my galaxy was relatively small) called the blogosphere. I wrote posts at least every other day and went off visiting others to get to know them and to see what I could learn from them. We had wonderful, thoughtful discussions. We introduced each other to great books, great music, great movies. We talked about revolutionizing the world through blogs. We laughed together. We even cried together. We enjoyed a sort of intimacy I don’t often find offline. Always, we supported each other.
This universe wasn’t always easy, especially for us Natural Born Luddites. I had trouble for a while figuring out how to introduce people to each other (a.k.a. “linking”). Learning how to share photos made me wonder if I just might not be the stupidest person in the world after all. But I had wonderful friends like Mandarine who patiently guided me (from across the Atlantic no less) through the ins-and-outs of doing such things as posting pencasts. I’m actually still learning (don’t ask me how to embed a YouTube video into a Blogger post), and I still want to learn more.
It seems those were already the good old days, though. They were the days when I’d check my email, eagerly awaiting the encouraging and insightful comments my friends left on my most recent posts. The days when I couldn’t wait to see if my friends had new posts. The days when I’d leave comments of my own that I hoped lived up to their brilliant posts and inspired them to keep up their fantastic writing, so I could keep reading them.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, Becky invited me to join her in a new universe, sending me an email message asking me to be her friend on Facebook. I accepted but not exactly with a “gung-ho” heart. I’m pretty sure my thoughts went something like this at the time, “Oh God. Blogging is enough of a challenge – and time sink. I just can’t face trying something else.” That must have been way back in 2007. Try it, I did, but I pretty much dropped it in favor of blogging. I even forgot which email login I’d used and my password.
Fast forward to 2008. Ian gets all involved in Facebook and writes a blog post on it. He drops not-so-subtle hints (like, “Emily, get on Facebook!") that he’d like to find me there. Courtney (one of my most loyal and dearest blogging buddies) concurs. I still pretty much ignore them (after all, I’ve forgotten my login and password), despite the fact that Ian was the first one in our family to blog, and I should have learned by now to listen to him (but no, I’m still stuck in the “older-sister-ignore-younger-brother” habit). Then summer rolls around, and Fem comes to visit. She went to seminary with Bob, and through her, I discover that almost all of our seminary friends are keeping up with each other via Facebook. She invites me to be her friend, and I finally begin to realize there’s an answer to the question, “What’s all the fuss about Facebook?” Unfortunately, people like Becky have disappeared. That's okay, though. Ian is here. My sister and nieces are here. Courtney is here. And, of course, all our friends from seminary. I visit occasionally, growing more and more infatuated, and then head back home to the blogosphere.
But then, IT happened. People began to find me. And they weren’t always people I wanted to find me. I mean, there’s a reason we lose touch with some of the people we do during a lifetime. Chances are, if someone annoyed the hell out of you in 9th grade, and you think you’ve escaped her, she will show up through a friend of a friend on Facebook and be just as annoying as ever. She will send you invitation after invitation to be her friend. Eventually, just like in 9th grade when you finally agreed to sit with her at lunch (a move you came to regret for the next 3 years), you will click on that “confirm” button and then remember, way too late, that you had planned to stop being someone who can never say “no,” that you were going to learn to be someone who can say, “Leave me alone. I don’t want to be your friend.”
However, you have now discovered that Ms. Annoying Woman has 522 friends. You have a grand total of twelve. How can that be? Are you so much more of a loser than Ms. Annoying Woman that she’s got many, many more friends than you do? Did she suddenly blossom into Ms. Non-Annoying Woman, the way Ms. Dumpy blossomed into Ms. Glamorous Model during the ten years between graduation and your reunion? You suspect, as she starts to bombard you with all kinds of weird virtual bumper stickers and requests to join “tattoo-my-tongue” groups, that the answer to that question is “no.”
Trying to keep her from thinking that you have spent the last 25 years as a hermit, you desperately start searching Facebook for your cousin’s cousin’s best friend’s brother-in-law whom you met at a wedding 18 years ago. Then it hits you, and you find yourself thinking, “What the hell am I doing? I don’t want that person reading that it’s Friday night at 10:05 p.m., and all my update says is, 'Emily is headed for bed after a cup of tea and the crossword puzzle.’” What also hits you is this question, “Am I someone else’s ‘Ms. Annoying Woman?’” Maybe there’s a reason those ten high school “friends” you’ve just sent invitations have lost touch with you during a lifetime.
What I do want to do, on the other hand, is to see if friends I loved and wish had not slipped out of my life are here. I also want to see if friends who have not slipped out of my life, but who no longer live close enough for lunch and dinner dates are here. And you know what? They are (including Becky, who came back)! And that, unfortunately, is why I am now spending more time in Facebookosphere than the blogosphere. I’m enjoying reconnecting with long-lost friends and keeping in touch with other friends. I'm ignoring my "no computer after 8:00 p.m. rule," and staying up late "chatting." Worse yet, I'm "climbing the Pathwords ladder." (Warning: if you happen to love the game Boggle, do not click on that Pathwords link. You will find yourself in the throws of one of the worst addictions ever, because you know, now you can play alone...as much as you like...and no one will ever know...)
So, now, instead of reading blogs and pondering new ideas and looking for comments, I’m checking to see who’s posted new photos and discovering that “So-and-So is watching My College beat Enemy for the 100th time.”My guess, given the booming silence in the blogosphere for some months now, though, is that many, many others are doing the same.
Thus, I am here to say today that I really don’t like it. Sure, it’s fun. Sure, I am very happy to be back in touch with old elementary school friends, high school buddies, even old babysitters. But it’s not the same as blogging. In the blogosphere, I’ve made new friends (while also staying in touch with real life friends). In the blogosphere, we have real conversations, not mere sound bites. The blogosphere is an extension of publishing (a new form of publishing, if you will), a place where ideas and knowledge are shared, a place where authors can get and give immediate feedback. Facebook is a cocktail party full of small talk, and you know, I’ve never been a real fan of that.
Those of you who are reading this, let’s take back the blogosphere. Let’s refuse to spend more time cruising Facebook than writing thought-provoking posts. Facebook has its place (just as the cocktail party does), but let’s not get so drunk we can’t find our way back home, which is here, on our blogs, making each other think and taking the written word to new levels (oh yes, and debating what that means).