Friday 17 June 2011

Thought Picnic: The genius of Facebook

Facing the past happily

I was chatting to a friend I last saw over two decades ago, he was one of my best friends when we were in secondary school.

The fact is for all the keenness of my memory about so many events of my past one aspect gives me concern, that of names. I have had too many instances where I have mismatched surnames and cannot for all the familiarity I had with the same people remember that essential piece of information.

Obviously, when the name showed up as a Facebook invitation, there was instant recognition with the mental slap on the head as how I could ever forgotten ever.

Everyone is a friend or a fan

However, for all the negative uses of Facebook, when I got chatting to my friend he highlighted something about the Facebook service that should have us in gratitude to whoever thought us the idea and implemented it.

Now, I have many friends on Facebook because the basic concept of interaction is Friendship and that is between people, when dealing with an organisation, institution or some personality as a public figure their profiles offer a different mode of interaction which allows you to click on the Like button.

In essence, you befriend people you know or seek to establish some relationship with and like things, objects or people you are fans of.

This is the air travel of interaction

Before Facebook there were few services that offered the means for re-establishing contact with long lost friends, you wondered where they were, what they did, how they have changed and so on; they were memories – sometimes keen, sometimes faint but we were in terms helpless and just let time run its course.

I am on many networks and have registered on alumni management sites but none have come close to the kind of social interaction that Facebook offers to rediscover and reacquaint yourself with your past; memorably nice or downright rotten.

You do have to filter your reconnections; I refuse to allow my curiosity to know to drive me back into the arms of the dreadful nightmares of the past, they are best left latent maybe even forgotten and never rekindled, no, not for a second.

Facing a broader spectrum of your history

So, as I have written before, Facebook has brought me in contact with family and relations, some so extended and the first time I met then was on Facebook. In my 40s I am making new contact with people I went to school with in the 70s and early 80s, it is surreal.

Such opportunities never existed except at alumni reunions but with the world being an ever smaller place and people travelling even further afield than before the opportunities for live meetings are more diminished.

You make a friend on Facebook and literally all the gaps get filled at an instant depending on the information shared and people share as much information to what is primarily their circle of current and close circle of friends which gets cascaded out to others who are acquaintances and long lost contacts who have become Facebook friends.

So, what Facebook has done for the rekindling of relationships is phenomenal despite the misgivings of many, it brings you back into the broad spectrum of all the people, issues and circumstances that have defined your experiences and history; crowding them into your present and forging and future that would be interesting to control, if you can.

Facebook is no joke

Looking beyond the technology and vehicle of social networking there is something greater at play; what you choose to do with those re-established relationships is left to you and how you handle those you have never had but now have to opportunity to tend, grow and foster might well define who you might become.

For all the figures, ratings and daily interactions that range from trivia to downright serious, Facebook in its concept is a work of genius and its ultimate uses have probably not yet been imagined by those who started this amazing experiment.

If there is anything you can take from this realisation, it is that Facebook is no joke, you constantly have to ask yourself about what you share, what is private, who you are willing to meet, what you are ready to relive, if you should curb your enthusiasm and whether you really can handle what Facebook brings back to you.

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