The Book of Face: Regional Variations in Approach

Facebook. Blargh.

It’s not an actual book of course, but it seems that a lot of people I know consult it more than real books. After all, nearly everyone is connected to it—if Facebook was a country it would be the third most populous in the world. While I was away over the past year-ish in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Missoula, Montana, I noticed some distinct differences in the way people used Facebook.

In Vancouver, my MPub classmates mostly used Facebook as a procrastination tool from studying. When we had a paper due, classmates would post their word counts as they worked (3578/5000!) or an interesting article from Maclean’s they wanted to share. Photos appeared only occasionally, usually the morning after our post-presentation receptions. At these receptions the alcohol was freely flowing, supplied by our department, which resulted in just a handful of silly photos. Since leaving Vancouver in April, I’ve barely heard a peep from my classmates through the site. We all scattered around the world and started enjoying the summer rather than being chained to our desks. After all, there are real faces out there, and real books. I’ve had some heartening email exchanges, snail mail, phone calls, and in-person visits with my classmates, but relatively little Facebook interaction.

In Missoula, the organization I interned at (Adventure Cycling Association) has a large following on Facebook and other social media sites, but individuals I worked with didn’t seem to use the site much outside of work, and only occasionally there. In fact, they spent most of their weekends exploring the outdoors and connecting with their actual friends in person, rather than from the other side of a smartphone. My thoughtful friend Sarah explains:

One thing I really like about living in Missoula is that we seem to be a little behind in terms of electronic communication. Most people I know don’t have smartphones, and I’d say a fair percentage of my friends don’t have Facebook accounts. It doesn’t make them harder to get in touch with, and it doesn’t make the time we spend together any less important. It just means that when I need to get in touch with someone I actually call him or her, and when I visit with someone I spend more time engaging with her and less time documenting the experience so others can view it.

And home. In Portland, Facebook is a significant topic of conversation at nearly every single get-together I have been at since returning in late September. Friends may talk about what so-and-so is up to, because they read it on Facebook. Or about that simply hi-larious cat video that has been going around. A simple happy hour invitation can’t happen without the site being involved. Photos are regularly taken at get-togethers and instantly posted online. Chatter happens behind the scenes of who has RSVPed to what, sometimes gauging for people whether or not they should go to an event. Groups of people appear cliquish to others when they make in-jokes with each other on Facebook about some trip they took together, or how excited they are for a trip they’re about to take together. Occasionally, someone will call out the obnoxious behavior that the rest of us are doing our best to ignore. The site regularly plays a role in interpersonal dramas. Yes—we are all apparently in seventh grade.

This kind of makes me ill—it’s oversaturation of a single web site in everyday life. Like Kramer from Seinfeld, the site seems to be “a loathsome, offensive brute, yet I can’t look away.” The New York Times recently covered a hip new trend—eschewing Facebook. Sadly, I can’t manage to abandon ship, but now and again I daydream about how much better life would be without it. If you are interested in hearing stories of people who quit Facebook with much good cheer and related success, check out Elly Blue’s site, How I Quit FB.

(Photo courtesy of depone on Flickr.)

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2 responses to “The Book of Face: Regional Variations in Approach

  1. I have to admit, upon reading this, and the links, I am even more certain that I don’t want to be involved with FB any longer. I routinely become enraged or depressed after visiting the site, and I have learned to despise some of my RL friends because of their behavior there. I am tired of having friends say, “OMG, you should have checked my FB. I don’t have time to send personal invitations to everyone.” Really? Then *why* are we friends, again?? If you are inviting 87 people to your “event,” I don’t think I want to attend, and I’m pretty certain I’m not one of the people you really wanted there in the first place.

    Blargh about sums it up, HA. Now I’m off to Share this on FB…..

    -Cat

  2. When Shawn and I first got an apartment together, we didn’t have internet, and I quickly got depressed because I felt so isolated. And part of it? Was that I couldn’t get on facebook. I had no idea when things were happening. Nobody ever calls on the phone anymore, really. So I just got left out.

    Shawn and I have had “discussions” on multiple occasions about the fact that he’s not on facebook. Enough of our mutual friends are, that 99% of social invitations/announcements are done there. People just don’t think to email Shawn separately, so if I’m not on the ball about telling him “Oh, we’ve been invited to such’n’such” he doesn’t know it’s happening. I think people just assume that if they invite me, they’ve invited both of us. It puts me in the role of being Shawn’s social secretary, which I find irritating.

    I like having that constant connection to everyone–it’s like sharing a huge room with almost everyone I know. But….I’m painfully extroverted.

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