2016-09-23

Facebook - the first month

Today I'm celebrating the start of the second month of my life as a Facebooknik, a user of Facebook or a potential patient of Facebookitis. Exactly a month ago, or two days after our wedding on 2016-08-18 in Jerusalem, I decided to start experimenting with this popular social network I had stayed away from first and foremost as a convenient way to keep my parents in Yurihonjo, my sister and her husband in Tokyo, and my wife's mother in Moscow updated about our new married life.

I also told myself that this could be a good opportunity to observe from inside as a participant this platform for computer-mediated communication sociolinguistically. The following are some of my observations about Facebook in my first month. I also write them down here for the record as my opinion about it may change over time for better or worse. Being a pessimistic optimist, I'd like to start with disadvantages of Facebook as I see them as of now, whether expected or unexpected, and then finish with its advantages, again whether expected or unexpected.

My first observation is also my single greatest fear of starting to use Facebook that it's time-consuming, or to be more precise, time-stealing, and can be addictive. This fear of mine has turned out to be undeniably true, ironically because I'm a perfectionist, coupled with the fact that I'm still on vacation, so have less opportunities to socialize and argue with others offline. I think (and hope) that the moment the new academic year starts (at the beginning of November), I'll become too busy with my teaching and other professional obligations even to say that I'm busy, and I'll find myself spending far less time with Facebook, if at all.

The second observation concerns neither pro nor con of Facebook but rather its very nature as a platform for online communication. From my own experience of using email for the same purpose I've verified the validity of the so-called Dunbar's number, which can be summarized as follows: one can maintain relationships and keep up with only around 150 people at once. The number of people I remain in touch with privately by email has never exceeded 150. I've been trimming my email address book for this reason. And this will probably remain the same with Facebook if I decide to keep using it. Even if the number of my "friends" should exceed Dunbar's number, I wouldn't be able to follow the posts of all of them. Even now I can allow myself to constantly check the posts of only less than 30 people, including my wife, my mother, my sister and her husband, and my wife's mother, who are naturally the most important of all for me, for whom I started using Facebook in the first place. SO I simply can't help wondering what the so-called "power users" of Facebook with, let's say, more than 1,000 "friends", cope with such a number unless checking Facebook is the only thing they do in their life. ;-)

And the third, so far the last important, observation is an unexpected advantage for which I have to thank Facebook. It has enabled me to find and reconnect myself with quite a few long lost friends and acquaintances in the four corners of the world in Hebrew, Yiddish, Esperanto, Russian, Japanese, and even English ;-), and get acquainted with new interesting fellow Facebookniks I couldn't have met otherwise.

I'd like to summarize this reflection-shmeflection of mine on Facebook as a means of computer-mediated communication in my first month of its use by saying that after everything is said and done, it seems to do more good than harm, at least to me, but on condition that I limit my use of Facebook to the required minimum. Of course, this condition is easier said than done for a person who has already started to show the sign of Facebookitis. ;-) But with the help of my highly self-disciplined ;-) wife I'll get over this potential problem, too.

PS: The address of my Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/tscyberia.