Sunday, September 30, 2012

Facebook: One Giant Sociology Project

I often wonder if young Mr. Zuckerberg is aware of what he's created and started, with this Facebook thing in which so many of us participate these days.

Someday...or maybe it's happening now, who knows...some smart sociologist is going to team up with some psychologists and whichever other "____ists" would be interested, and start doing some studies on how the Facebook phenomenon has influenced human interaction.

It has brought on several new verbs, as in "Do you facebook?", and "Can I friend you?".  It has most definitely sped up the rate at which relationships are both formed (for better or worse), and fall apart.

Some folks use Facebook as their diary, posting anything and everything about their daily lives, and saying "the heck with you" to anyone who objects.

There are those who firmly believe that Facebook should only be used to positive thoughts and happy news. 

The ability to "unfriend" and "block" someone, between one breath and the next, based only on the words seen on a computer screen, can make one's head spin. 

And at the same time, I myself have benefited greatly from Facebook, in that it has allowed me and many others in the Prader-Willi Syndrome community to connect with each other.  Without Facebook, there is little or no chance I would have linked up with PWS families around the world.  Eight years ago, my husband and I knew no-one whose child had been diagnosed with PWS.  Now, because of the internet and Facebook, I am linked to 700+ parents/grandparents/caregivers to individuals with PWS, and to several individuals-with-PWS themselves.  It is an amazing thing.  It is a good thing.  I'm thankful for it.  I'm sure there are other special-needs and rare-disease communities who have had the same experience.

So, I'll be honest and say that over the past 3 years since I joined Facebook, there have been plenty of days when I have been truly blessed and uplifted by the support provided by friends, family, and acquaintances.  At the same time, there have also been plenty of days when the dynamics that happen there have been stressful, and hurtful, and have really made me want to cancel my entire account.  I mean, how much can we really know about that person typing those words which appear within seconds right in front of me?  Can they be trusted?  Who knows....and for the most part, probably not.  I've gotten better at trusting my gut-instinct about people who I know only through Facebook; but that takes at least a year of reading their posts.  So, even on Facebook, where getting a response from someone can happen so blessedly fast - it takes time before you can really get a sense of even a small part of someone's character.

It will be intertesting to read what the sociologists start telling us, in about 10 years.