After spending some time connecting with people over Facebook I have reflected and made a some observations.
First of all I realized that in real life I have three levels of friends.
Level 1: people that I schedule time to be with,
Level 2: people I run into and greet e.g. co-workers, other parents in my child’s class
Level 3: former level one friends who now live someplace else. In the past I only interacted with them when we exchanged holiday cards or if we are in the same town we will get together for a meal.
Moving to Facebook the definition and interaction of friends have changed. I have seen that Facebook democratizes the type of interactions I have with these three levels of friends. I find that my Facebook interactions are minimal and sanitized view of my life. Way to superficial for my level 1 friends, about right for my level 2 friends, and more often then before for my level 3 friends.
What is most interesting about Facebook is that I have gained two new groups of "friends" which I call level 4 and level 5 friends. Level four friends are past level 1 friends that I have not socialized with in years. Level 5 friends are former level 2 friends I have not run into in years. For both level 4 and 5 friends I see the same routine play out. We hook up, then have the same three or four catching up e-mails. Then these people go into my Facebook ether. That is they are my “friend” and I am their “friend”. When I log onto Facebook I get to see their new posts, but I rarely if ever directly converse with them.
On Facebook I see that most adults post only superficial information on their life e.g. a picture of their dog, a photo of a vacation, a child's accomplishment, some mindless test or quiz they have taken. Facebook has given me a strange, superficial insight into the lives of many people I hardly know or have not known in years. They too have a strange, superficial insight into my life. I have not found that I have any more connection to these people then if I ran into them in a store or the airport. What is different is I now continually can find out the most superficial things about their lives.
Another observation about Facebook is that I find that it provides an insight into how people want to be viewed, or maybe what is important to them. My brother, who has two young children, only shows pictures and provides statistics on his cycling races. Other friends fill me in on the latest activity of their dogs or their score on some superficial online quiz they just took. I wonder if this is what is truly important to them or is their way of superficially connecting to a wide net of people while maintaining privacy. I wonder if these connections bring any new benefit into our lives or if they are just the latest distraction.