Facebook, my Porch

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Facebook is the new porch, the place where you relax and communicate with friends who drop by. It’s the club for people who don’t “do” clubs, it’s the Social Hour organizations try to set up, it’s the place to mingle. Not all of my friends are “friends, and not all of my “friends” are friends. But what I like is seeing aspects of people I hadn’t previously seen, and feeling connected to them, at least potentially.

Some of my “friends” are from my past – old friends, former students, distant early web users also interested in teaching using the web, out-of-contact relatives whom I’m delighted to hear about and from, – and some are current friends and acquaintances. A delightful, interesting mix!

This one has many enthusiastic interests; that one only occasionally adds a link. Some are multi-daily posters; some rarely post. Some that I know face-to-face, on Facebook carefully hide aspects of themselves they share when mingling in person; some are amazingly open and wake me up to possibilities and sometimes fears. I vacillate between openness and hiddenness: see that photo – it tells you where I’ve been, but not why; read that link, it might be something I feel strongly about. Some make their political views clear by their links; I think mine are pretty obvious, and I enjoy speaking out, presenting myself to be known. Sometimes someone posts something that makes me see them in a whole new light, and I feel closer to them, more respectful and sometimes more empathetic. Sadly, sometimes the opposite.

There are the ones I watch warily, with a combination of amusement and judgementalism. The one who announces her boasts, but never, never comments or “likes” on any of our mutual “friends’” posts. I suspect she never reads Facebook posts; that she simply uses it as her own publicity tool. Then there’s the one, not my “friend” but we have mutual “friends” and I see his “comments” which sometimes sound malicious and taunting. And, of course, the silent ones, invisibly ignoring or observing me.

I don’t comment often, but I like the new more nuanced “Like” buttons that let me register amusement, surprise, sadness, and anger, as well as the “I’m-paying-attention” “like”. I like reading any “Comments” on my posts and I look at just who responds, not in an intense way, but just as a kind of “audience awareness” observation.

In this multidimensional conversation, what connects? Who do I want to engage with, and who quietly steer away from? What’s polite in this new social environment? It’s fascinating to watch as we develop memes and mores, and hear about how different groupings are developing different ones. I confess I enjoy my Facebook time.

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