All the stuff they say about Facebook is true.

Facebook wastes my time, invades my privacy, informs me of trivia I could have lived my entire life without, spreads false rumors, tries to sell me things I don’t need, and inundates me with cute cat videos. I love Facebook.

There are lots of people who don’t like Facebook.

There are people who wisely don’t spend enough time on a computer to bother with Facebook and don’t miss it. They may not even have e-mail. I totally respect these people. I envy their computer-free days and computer-free lifestyle— even if I have no intention of trying it.

There are people who don’t like Facebook because they used to love Facebook too much. They post so frequently there appears to be no time left for real life. Suddenly, they will announce that they are taking a Facebook sabbatical. They have to make an announcement because, if they went for two hours without a post, close friends would call in paramedics to see if they were still breathing.

Then there are people like my friend Andy who think Facebook is too invasive. Andy thinks that supermarkets are also too invasive and will only pay in cash to prevent them from tracking his purchases. I figure if someone wants to monitor what I am consuming and, based on my buying history, give me a coupon for soy milk, so much the better. Andy considers this a gross violation of his privacy. He gets the willies just knowing that there is a record of his vegetable consumption out there on a server somewhere. (He’d probably be annoyed to know I was writing about him right now. Oh well.)

But I love Facebook. I like seeing what people are up to. I like the photos, I like the clips of programs I would never see, the editorials that I would never otherwise read. I like the cute cat videos. And I like Facebook because it presents me with a lot of different opinions.

The fact is, I spend most of my time with people who see the world in very much the way I do. But my Facebook friends include cousins and high school friends, nieces and nephews. There are a fair number of people among my Facebook friends who do not see eye-to-eye with me, and Facebook gives me some practice in dealing with this phenomenon.

Facebook is not real life— but it is a lot like real life in a lot of important ways. Trying to prove that someone is wrong in the hope that I will change their mind is just about as effective on Facebook as it would be in real life— in other words, not at all.

When I read about a new conspiracy theory or support for some legislation that I find abhorrent, I feel this immediate compulsion to get my ducks in a line for a vigorous debate. But, after a few protracted arguments, I have realized the obvious: I am never going to change anyone’s mind. My job is not to be a teacher, but a friend— a Facebook friend and, more importantly, a real one.

It is only when I respect someone enough to be their friend that I will be able to really listen to them and understand their point of view. Maybe then we might find some places where our values intersect. I like to think that, on its best day, Facebook can lead to a little more civil discourse.

That, and the cat videos, make it worth my time.

Till next time,


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