Over the weekend I finally set up a Facebook account, about 2 to 4 years behind nearly everyone else that I know. And behind about half a billion people worldwide, which by any definition makes me a late adopter.
Now I'm trying to figure out: What do I do with it?
That's a serious question, by the way, not an attempt at humor, sarcasm or facetiousness. I'm genuinely unsure of what utility this program is going to have for me, which I suppose is why it took so long for me to join. I wasn't sure -- and still am not sure -- that the observations I might post about my life are interesting to anyone else, or vice versa.
The main rationale for finally signing up is just so I can experience something that is becoming so integral to the modern communication world, and so I have the ability to "like" and follow some group pages that I feel I ought to be following (such as several associated with Fisher). But where Facebook is going to integrate into MY communication world is something I still haven't figured out.
Now, I'm not exactly a social media Luddite. I've been on Linked-In for years, on Twitter for a little over a year, and maintain/occasionally contribute to a couple of other blogs besides this one. I see value in all of these things, especially Twitter, which I use as a surveillance device to keep track of some people whose ideas I find illuminating. I like knowing what they are thinking about and writing about (in their own tweets and blogs, primarily).
But Facebook doesn't seem geared to that sort of instrumental communication. One of the first things to appear on my wall was a posting from my daughter musing about what sort of take-out food to order. Unlike information I might get from other sources, this makes no sort of difference to my life, even if it has consequence for her. Whether I know this about her, or not, has no impact on our relationship. The types of news that would be important for me to know about her life, for good or for ill, I hope would come to me through some venue other than Facebook. In the meantime, whether or what she orders for dinner is of no consequence to me.
In a similar vein, my own first posting was an observation about the incredibly banal topic of the weather, which I made mostly out of a feeling that I had to post something. That posting did draw a comment from a cousin who now lives in New Orleans and whom I've seen maybe once in the past 30 years. The fact that Facebook helped us reconnect after all that time is a source of some value, I must admit. And on his page I saw posts from a couple of his sisters (also my cousins, of course) to whom I could reach out and "friend" so that we also could reconnect.
But even if I manage to connect with people such as my southern cousins, or co-workers from long ago (a couple of whom have sent me friend requests), I'm still not sure what being a part of Facebook is going to add to my communication mix, or what difference it's going to make to my life. Maybe it's just too early to tell. I was sort of a late adopter of Twitter, also. I finally joined last summer after the annual AEJMC convention, mostly to "follow" several good friends from other colleges who were talking it up when I saw them at the conference. And I have found Twitter to be very worthwhile since then, following them and many other smart people whose tweeted insights are interesting and valuable to me. Maybe eventually Facebook will find a similar niche.
I also guess that like so many other things in life you also get out of a social network what you put into it. As soon as I figure out what that ought to be.