Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Will you be my friend...again?

When someone asks me what I gave up for Lent, I tell them I gave up Facebook.  I am over the withdrawal of walking away from the most popular social networking site ever.  I no longer automatically type Fac....after checking my email waiting for my computer to automatically fill in the ....ebook for me.  I don’t miss the random, meaningless updates from people that are not part of my immediate life.  How is knowing that Sally is going grocery shopping going to impact my life?  I  most certainly do not miss the controversy that seems to just ooze from certain topics and certain people.  I think that the topics which we grew up learning that are not good for social debate: religion, politics, and I would add homeschooling, should likewise not be debated on Facebook.  We spend so much time teaching our children not to type what they would not say in person, but do we follow our own guidelines?  Do we use Facebook to bully others into agreeing with our viewpoints?  I have been caught up in those types of debates.  I have been left with a pit in my stomach knowing that I have strayed from how I want to live my life.  The last time this happened, the idea popped into my head to just walk away and I did.  
However, there are things about Facebook that I miss.  I miss the thought provoking articles that get posted by my friends.  I have found valuable information on nutrition, education, and other topics that I am interested in.  Videos that help me shape my viewpoints, like some from the TED talks, would not have been viewed had I not been tagged or included through my “friends”.  I miss the apps site that clued me in to the best educational apps for my daughters to use on their itouch or the ipad.  The thing that I miss the most is the networking that I did to enhance my daughter’s education.
All the museums, nature centers, and businesses that we enjoy, such as hiking at the Audubon, Lilah’s cooking classes, Creative Arts Workshop, Neighborhood Music School, Hands on Pottery, and more, all have Facebook sites.  It is through those sites that I learned about the amazing winter survival hike we took this winter.  It is how I found about about free Friday concerts at Grace’s music school in New Haven.  The effort to do this on my own is substantial.  Facebook condenses all the places in which we find pleasure, enrichment, and education.
Blogging is not really a solitary activity.  I blog for many reasons but mostly because I find enjoyment in discussing our life and the way we have chose to live it with others who are making similar choices. Through reading blogs of families who have been homeschooling for years, or making healthy living choices like we are, or raising children with strong passions like I am, I have learned many things.  I have found incredible curriculum, like the online quizzes my girls take for history and the online class they took last week.  We have discovered new authors and read fascinating books.  I have been inspired to help others more often.  All my favorite bloggers have Facebook sites that alert me to new blog posts and other things that I may or may not want to explore at a later date.  I had a Facebook site as well.  It was not hugely popular by any means.  Yet, when I cancelled my account my daily readership decreased by half.  I am not blogging to sell advertising and my numbers don’t drive how I blog, but I wonder how many missed opportunities I had to connect with other homeschooling families thus further enhancing our family’s experience.
As Easter approaches and the Lenten season ends, I am contemplating a return to Facebook.  Like before, I will not seek to have 400 friends, or post any mundane details of my ordinary life....   If I return I pledge to myself never to become sucked into the negative side of Facebook.  I know that I can walk away and return when the conversation has either died down or switched to something positive.  Because I did not suspend my account, but deleted it entirely, I will have to rebuild, inviting those who I wish to converse with and share part of my life with.  I am not convinced that a return to Facebook is in my future, but I have learned over the past month that we are living in a Facebook age.  There is no denying the impact that it has in our daily lives.  I don’t think it is going anywhere, unless a newer, cooler, site comes along and bumps it aside.  But even then, we will, like lemmings, move aside with it, continuing to adapt to the ever growing technological age in which we live and in which our children are immersed.  

Don’t be surprised it you find a friend request from me.  I do not consider this Facebook-free trial a failure.  Anyone can be Facebook-free.  One click is all it takes.  But then there are hundreds more clicks that must be done to do the work that Facebook does for you.   This has been an interesting time of reflection and personal growth.  If/when I choose to return I will do it in a different way, carefully choosing what I share and what I keep private, carefully choosing which posts I will reply to and which I will stay silent on.  
My children have learned a valuable lesson as well.  They have watched me walk away from something that tempts them.  Their friends have accounts.  They have asked and have been denied accounts.  Their childhood is so different from mine.  We can try to keep life simple but there is no denying that they are growing up in a world that is more connected, faster, and in some ways safer, but in others, more dangerous.  Cool is not having the latest phone (they have watched me wait for well over a year for an iphone), or the most apps, or the newest ipad, or the most updated laptop, or the most friends on Facebook.  When they are 13, they will ask again and we will have to make the parental decision to allow it or not.  
I will continue to reflect on this and eventually come to a decision on whether or not to create a new account.  I know which way I am leaning........


Jen @ Forever, For Always... said...

There are many things I miss about FB too. I think if I were to join again, I wouldn't use my maiden name or any of my school information. Some of the silliest things I read about were from HS friends. I already did hs and I don't want to do it again!! Good luck with your decision.

musicalmary said...

Jessica, I admire your giving up FB for Lent... I gave up Coke Zero -- it was/iis HARD. Seriously, though -- I have learned to not use my personal FB account much. The things I learn through my Homegrown Learners FB page are wonderful, and devoid of controversy. I am learning to use my online time wisely as well. I always enjoy your posts and your thoughts!

karisma said...

I have to admit I am not a great fan of facebook, I am however on there. I am one of those who does not play games, or copy and paste a gazillion random status's, or send apps back and forth. Its really not in my time frame. I do however check in and comment occasionally. But I don't check out everybody's pages etc as I don't have time. So if I happen to be on there (which is usually from my phone in bed at night) I check the first couple of pages that come up and then turn it off. LOL.

But by all means, add me...Karisma Fine...(I use my blog name there too) ... I do answer if directly spoken too. And like I said, if I see the status' when I am checking in. Its a nice way to say hi, but I still prefer blogging.

Ritsumei said...

Interesting that you consider discussing politics one of FB's downsides; that's one of the reasons I keep it around, lol! My husband & I are very conservative, but discussions - on FB - with liberal friends have *often* been the catalysts for really examining how I think, why I think it, and what principles I need to study & think harder about. It's often difficult conversations, but I really like the FB format for that very reason: I can type, walk away, re-read, edit, look up sources, and really THINK before I speak.

We have the Federalist (& Anti-Federalist) Papers because they used the newspaper in a manner similar way. Due to the word limits on letters to the editor, I don't know that the papers could be used that way anymore. FB, for me, fills that space somewhat. Obviously not on so grand a scale, but something similar.

Good luck figuring out what role FB will play for you!

Jessica said...

Jenn ~ I like the idea of using your married name only......

Mary ~ when I signed off I was using my Teachable Moments page more frequently than my personal one. I felt like many of my friends probably did not want to know that we had a hike at the nature center, and I did not want to offend my friends who have children in school by flaunting that we were swimming, hiking, playing, and ice skating all winter long...... I never though I was flaunting it but I always worried how it would be interpreted.

Karisma ~ I will be back on in two weeks and I will get in touch with you!

Ritsumei ~ You have given me food for thought this morning. I never thought of comparing it to the Federalist Papers. Have you had an instance where either your belief of that of a liberal friend was actually changed as the result of a FB thread? I am just curious...

Thank you for all your comments. The topic of social networking and its value is fascinating to me!

Jen @ Forever, For Always... said...

Jessica~I would love to know how you set up your blog onto facebook, I originally had mine networked, way back when I was on FB, but it didn't have its own page the way many bloggers do. I would be more interested in connecting with more homeschoolers than past friends.

Ritsumei said...

I don't know that I am aware of anybody changing their opinion as a result of those threads, but I do know that my opinions have developed considerably because of questions raised by my liberal friends. I also have observed that people who are not certain what they think of it tend to stay out of the discussion, and lurk more than participate. I'm OK with that: comments I've had from people IRL make me believe that it's making them think too, and I think that's all to the good.

That's not to say that it's not difficult. My friend S.H. is a very liberal man, and I am extremely conservative. We have had some disagreements in our time, our friendship has been strained sometimes (though not solely for the political discussions), and we have both backed way off the politics at least once because we were pondering how to disagree agreeably and with Christian kindness. It's hard. I've said things that I had to apologize for, and I've removed posts from my wall when my friends get too intense.

For myself, I don't post news articles unless I think they are good illustrations of some principle that I find important. For instance, I recently posted an article about Chicago schools *requiring* children to eat school lunch: no sack lunches allowed (except for allergies). I feel this violates a parents' unalienable right to raise their children, and is a part of a pattern of violating that right, so I posted the article and a quote from a US Federal Judge that says when you drop your kids off at school you check your rights at the door. It was an interesting conversation. My cousin (liberal) said that she's all for better nutrition. I said better nutrition is great, but they're violating rights here, and I thought that was more important. In the end, we mostly agreed: rights are important, and better nutrition is good, as long as it doesn't violate those rights.

My friend S.H. is a lawyer, and when the Supreme Court struck down part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, we had a fascinating discussion. He mentored me through reading my first Supreme Court decision. (OH MY, that stuff is dense!!) It was a very valuable discussion, and since then I've had a look at a couple other court decisions. I'm not nearly so intimidated by them, and I'm much better informed for it. It's a conversation that took place over the space of about a week as I read a few lines here and a paragraph there, and posted about what it meant. I ended up feeling like the Democrat position that it would possibly allow foreign corporations greater influence in our elections was a legitimate one, but that the greater ability to exercise the unalienable right to speech was more important. I doubt that I would have done that without FB: I would not have had the conversation that challenged me to the point that I needed the information from reading the decision itself.

I just don't have that sort of conversation with my friends, face-to-face. Perhaps because so many of them I see primarily at church, and our church is carefully neutral, and politics are not generally a topic discussed at church... which is where I see the bulk of my friends. FB gives us another forum to discuss things that are best left alone elsewhere.

Ritsumei said...

Here's another thought for you, which I just had and will likely develop into a post on my Baby Steps blog:

Freedom of speech is actually in the Constitution twice: once for the People (1st Amendment), and once for the Legislature (Article I). Legislative freedom of speech was a long-standing English tradition, considered necessary so that Parliament could fully debate the law without fear of reprisal. In our system, where We The People are sovereign, we needed freedom of speech so that we could fully discuss & debate the law without fear of reprisal so that we could participate in the political process. When we allow ourselves to be silenced by the strong social norm of not discussing politics, we cut ourselves off from the political process. Imagine what would have happened if John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, et al, had refrained from discussion in order to avoid ruffling feathers!

And, I love the idea of a page for my blog, for exactly the reasons you mention: I feel awkward posting too much about our homeschool activities. I also don't put my maiden name up, and I actually don't use my kids' real names either.

Karen said...

I had noticed you weren't on FB. I have a love/hate relationship with it too.

Yes, I will be your friend if you come back. :)

Stephanie said...

You wrote: "...we are living in a Facebook age. There is no denying the impact that it has in our daily lives. "

This is so true! I wanted to not like Facebook at first, but I have since discovered that it is almost essential for keeping up with loved ones, staying on top of news, and hearing about local events.

I started being a bit ambivalent about FB...perhaps even leaning toward not liking it. Now, however, I appreciate it for its power - to learn, to share knowledge, and to build relationships.

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