As the Facebook phenomenom continues to grip the world and I spend my spare minutes at home correlating information for the Master Plan, I have taken time to reflect on the ramifications of social networking on the human phsyche.
For those of us who have spent a good part of our lives without online computer social networking, including the thousands of years of humanity that lived prior to Al Gore's magnificant invention, life was a story with many characters involved in your own personal plotline. Some were major characters with whom you invest time and interest in and are important to the overall arch of the story. Other characters are minor, there to turn plot points, provide comic relief or add a small subplot. This is not to demean them as people, for they have their own starring roles and you were probably a minor character for them as well. In the end, minor characters come and go from your life and eventually become smiles on your face and a warm memory of a moment in time.
Which comes to my quandry about Facebook. Is it good for the human phsyche to keep all your minor characters online and in-tow? Isn't our limited brain powers better spent focusing on the people in front of us at this moment in time verses re-establishing yourself with the woman who once was the girl who sat across from you in 7th grade English class and was the primary reason for you discovering boobs? Isn't she better off being that pretty young girl in your thoughts verses the middle-aged divorcee with two kids and crow's feet you see now?
This whole FB phenom seems to be breaking the system of how life should work.
I try to look at this from the perspective of people who grew up in one place and decided to stay and settle there. Now those people do have a more continous relationship with minor life characters than those of us who had decided to go abroad from our hometowns. These people are proof that life-long social networking works but, then again, they have a constant connection to these people. For those like me, Facebook has been an instant flood of past memories and it's a bit jarring. This fact has been tough to deal with, especially since I pride myself on being open-minded to new ideas and technology.
Not that this situation has been all bad, I have reconnected with a few people from the past who really should never have walked off the stage of my life. It has also been a nice reminder (actually a revelation), that a lot of my attitudes and humor are still regional and youthful experience-based. Facebook Friend "BK", who now lives in North Carolina and hasn't lived in our shared hometown (same part of town, same catholic schooling) for the same amount of time as me (16 years) has the exact same "personality quirks" as I do. Besides feeling bad for his spouse, it's been pretty cool chatting with him and only Facebook provided that venue.
Despite those few exceptions, I think I am finally showing my age and realizing the what the new generation gap is going to be about. Based on going back to school recently and interacting regularly with young adults technically old enough to be my kids, I do believe that there is a real shift in humanity's ability to deal with ramifications of online social networking to the point where there are no ramifications. Much like the ability to read long passages of text on a computer monitor verses on hard copy (which I prefer), you are seeing the rise of a new human being, one who see no difference between friend and online friend. Who they went to kindergarten with will be a continuable acquaintance of theirs even if they move to Nepal and raise sheep on the side of a mountain or just move to San Ramon with a new job...
Basically, those of us in our 30's and 40's are stuck in a transitional generation. We, along with said genius Al Gore, may have invented the internet and all it's possibilities, but we are the last generation to actually remember living our lives without it.
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