The Good Side of Facebook

December 31, 2019 at 11:37 am (By Amba) (, )

I’ve been focusing on its insidious and evil aspects, which are real, to get myself off it. Now that that’s settled (with the proviso you’ll find at the end of this post), I’m strolling around there feeling nostalgic, getting a good look at what I’ll be missing. Anticipated distance has already given me perspective.

In an age when we are so scattered physically, it’s how we have community. It might be disembodied community, but it isn’t illusory, the word I was first going to use. Unlike the one-to-one, spoke-and-hub communications by which we otherwise maintain our long-distance connections, FB is a collective virtual space where we can have a shadow of that comfy tribal feeling we evolved with, the solidarity of many bodies nearby, sitting around the fire.

And—this may be crucial—we can have it without the inconvenience and conflict that unavoidably comes with the presence of actual people, in their bodies, with their moods, needs, neuroses . . . we can have it stripped of most of that, even stripped of a lot of its “otherness” and turned into our own mental content. (The immune system comes to mind, with its snuggling up to everything “self” and suspicious bristling at “other.”) As incorrigible humans, we still manage to get into hurts and fights on FB, we still need to work at maintaining and repairing the relationships we care about, but it’s all carried so much more lightly, those “surly bonds” are more easily slipped. We can withdraw, unfriend, or just tune out. We can “turn on” presence like a TV show when we’re in the mood for it and not have to deal with it when we’re not. It’s less substantial, but more controllable.

This is the part that’s scary to me. Some commentators have worried that our animal instincts for relating directly to others will atrophy and our cultural skills for doing so will be lost. I’m not very experienced or good at relating to people on a day-to-day basis (I started out shy and unconfident and then, for almost 40 years, for all practical purposes, related to only one), and so it’s too easy to retreat into a solitary real life populated with a virtual community where I can vamp in my avatar of words, definitely my best foot forward. Yet the things I want and need most to do (if I’m not to die feeling I haven’t lived) are the things I’m not good at and am awkward and afraid of: real writing, Feldenkrais, intimacy. If I’m getting enough pseudo-hits on FB I may never get around to risking them. (I’ve got another post in the works on “the comfort zone,” how it is a needed nest to rest in but can become a comfortable coffin to dream in.)

But this was supposed to be a post on what’s GOOD about Facebook. It’s a hive mind, where we all fetch and cross-share bits of information and wit with a rapidity and richness that is impossible alone or one-to-one. This may be the wave of the future. Participating in such a hive mind, with such good other minds as you guys, is a privilege, a chance to make a small, often unsigned contribution to creating the world and the future. To retreat into 19th-century “Individuality” and try to create alone, with a byline, feels regressive and vain. It may call on my capacities more deeply, which will be privately satisfying, like a good workout, but the results are also likely to lie uselessly off to the side of the real conversation.

All that considered, I’ve decided to deactivate my FB account—for a contractual year—before I decide whether to delete it. Maybe after a year in solitary I’ll be fit for a better balance. I love you guys. Hope to see some of you in “the real world.”


  1. Kathy Wexler said,

    I love this, Annie! You completely captured/expressed brilliantly my thoughts about FaceBook and intimacy. I also live alone, and have some struggles “relating” in real time face to face. Social media connections can be managed, curated and titrated. And it’s all visual. The other senses can sleep. That’s both restful and dangerous. I’m thinking that commenting back and forth on a blog has similar potential to be addictive/protective, but I’m enjoying it so far! Let’s keep every part of us alive in 2020! Warmly, Kathy Wexler

  2. amba12 said,

    Thank you, Kathy. That’s so good to hear–it’s not just me.

    Here’s what I hope the difference between writing and commenting on a blog and on Facebook will be: slower, more thoughtful, more focused for the moments you’re there, because there won’t be a million other notifications clamoring to jerk your attention off in another direction. (Of course, FOMO—fear of missing out—is the downside of that.) Also, to me one of the worst things about Facebook is that it’s always there to fill a void if you’ve got a void to fill. If nothing interesting is presenting itself on your feed, you can go find things. A blog is a place you visit only when there’s something to see. It’s a much more sparing activity both to write and to read, and so maybe less exhausting and shredding.

  3. Kathy Wexler said,

    So I have a question about blog etiquette, since I’ve never “followed” anyone, nor blogged myself. On FB, the polite move would be to “like” your reply to my comment. Maybe even “love” it or decorate with emoticons. Just letting the comment sit there would be the equivalent of snubbing or ignoring you. But those “yes, I saw you, I appreciate you” replies can also be a time suck. Unless you reply otherwise, I’m going to assume that you can see that I read your reply, even if I don’t reply back. I’ll only “say” something in return if it’s substantive. One more question: do our comments and replies appear to others who are subscribed? So far I only see our communication, but I see on FB that others have also subscribed to this. BTW, I’m digging the opportunity to be thoughtful about this process…Warmly, Kathy

  4. lacheraqui said,

    Well-considered, as always, dear Annie.

    Kathy, I see your replies.

    That is all…now, I must go deal with my friends on the Facebook.

  5. amba12 said,

    It’s a funny thing: I’m given the opportunity to “like” comments backstage, as it were, but that doesn’t seem to show up publicly. You are correct: there is not the obligation to acknowledge and react visibly here. Of course someone could comment with as little as a punctuation mark or emoji if they wanted to, but I will not feel ignored if they don’t.

  6. amba12 said,

    Yes, comments and replies will be visible and “interoperable,” that is, you can respond to each other! As far as I can tell you’re the only person who’s commented on this post so far . . . but that’s about to change. (I have to “moderate” new commenters and then it may take a little time for that to sink in.)

  7. amba12 said,

    As you start commenting, a check box appears at the bottom that says “Notify me of new comments via email,” so if a conversation develops, you can stay up with it.

  8. Polly said,

    I can’t say what I think on facebook, so for me it is not a place to socialize. I liked seeing your posts, but if I wanted to reply I had to send you a private message.

    I use facebook as a way to get notified about certain events. And to find out if anything important happens to anyone I know.

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