A few years ago when Facebook was beginning to become popular, a colleague in the UK office I used to work in, disparaged it on a daily basis. “I refuse to join Facebook,” he said, proud to be different from the masses that had. “My wife spent three hours on it yesterday, creating a virtual garden. Why waste your time?”
I didn’t say it at the time but I considered the almost dramatic display a sign of limited thinking not unlike that of a grumpy old man with a distrust of new technology. After all, the mere act of signing up to Facebook does not create addictive or procrastinating tendencies. Facebook or not, these tendencies could manifest elsewhere. There is huge potential to waste your time on Facebook and many do, but it is also be a valuable social tool. There is a pro-activism involved in the use of it.
A friend connection could lead to an opportunity or spotting a piece of news on the feed, could lead to the discovery of a good story idea (if you’re a journalist), like this example. It is also obviously a place to cultivate many forms of friendship.
Does the act of adding people as Facebook friends provoke addictive behaviour? Some add people they have only known for a few minutes in a bid to drum up as many “friends” as they can. Others are more select and only click that confirm tab if they REALLY mean it.
In the U.S. it is much more common, to use it as a professional tool, as well as a personal one. Then there are those people with whom you are reconnecting with after many years. Is it easier to add someone you may have fallen out with rather than truly re-engage and inject new life into the lost friendship in other ways? Or is it a positive way to bury the hatchet, but from a distance without having to deal with the messiness of past problems? Does it create more distance or closeness to add someone as a Facebook friend?
The answer is up for grabs depending on the person adding. Like deciding whether to spend hours creating virtual gardens or not, I hope we can also be proactive about which friendships to invest in outside of the Facebook forum to create closeness if we desire it.