I’ve been active on Facebook for a couple of years. It’s taken about that long to figure out what it’s good for and what it’s not (for me). Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ve been pretty active on FB; something she considers an almost utter waste of time. She uses it primarily to see what the “kids” are up to, including our own and our friends’. In fairness though, in order to really understand FB, you have to be very active on it for at least a couple of years in order to discover its real strengths and weaknesses. Here’s my assessment of these:
- The most significant is the daily news feed from sites I’ve “Liked”. These include news sources such as The Economist, The Lancet, The New Republic, Slate, etc., as well as hobby related sites such as Gear Patrol, TED Talks, The Daily Meal, etc. Working at my desk most of the day as I do, it’s pretty easy to check the FB feed with a flick of the finger on my Mac desktop. I immediately see the latest news and interest posts from sites that I have selected as relevant. In essence, FB becomes a fully customizable personalized news feed that updates constantly. Brilliant.
- The second wonderful use of FB is keeping up with kids and friends. I’ve never felt that it replaces personal contact via phone or in person, rather, it enhances these by making them more meaningful if you already know what they’ve been up to and can ask more salient questions when ear-to-ear or face-to-face.
I’ve frequently been engaged in lengthy discussions about a variety of topics, some superficial, and others much more profound. FB works OK for the former, but very badly for the latter, where body language, tone of voice, etc., are all absent and can easily lead to misunderstandings. Also, the presence of “trolls” who enter the conversation with personal insults, makes the entire experience unpleasant. Plus you can spend a whole lot of time and not really arrive at any conclusions or change of position on either side of the debate. This time element can be very significant.
I will continue using FB for its strengths and maybe even the occasional casual discussion. I will no longer engage in lengthy debates that really don’t serve much purpose, bring out the trolls and waste time. Overall though, I must say I like FB, especially when used appropriately and to its strengths.