Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Facebook users




News about Facebook has been appearing on and off over the internet and newspapers since Facebook was launched. But this news  has not  reflected my observations about Facebook’s users and hence this article.

I  admit that my observations are based on very few(about 50) people, belonging to one narrow group (mostly young and middle aged Indians in south India and USA) and these observations do not describe all or even a sizable fraction of Facebook users.

Facebook is one place where you can lie even when you are saying the truth! How can yo do this? This is done by putting on Facebook only certain and NOT ALL information. For me, revealing only a part of your life on Facebook and concealing significant parts equals lying. ("....Tell  the whole truth...; Telling some facts and ommitting some gives a false picture and so this partial truth actually equals a lie)

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The Facebook users I know are pretty secretive and selective about what they put on Facebook!
The most common secret not put on Facebook  is the love life of the Facebook user, especially those dating(i.e. not married).  'The love of his life is  definitely one of the  girls who are his  Facebook-friends  but it's virtually  impossible to   divine which girl  among the 50  is his love' !
The married ones of course do not face this problem!

While taking photoes  together is a current favorite  of  people in love, there are few or no photoes  of lovers on  Facebook....even if  hundreds of  such photoes exist!
There is no way of knowing, by Facebook updates alone, as to  who is truly playing a major role in the person's life. I know of at least three dating couples(whose families do not know they are dating) who chat a lot on Facebook, with friends; but  there is virtually no Facebook conversation with the person he or she is dating!
 Ergo, going only by what is put on Facebook, one can draw several erroneous conclusions about a person.

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I have noticed that some Facebook users have a lot of friends on Facebook. However, I know them to be quite shy, reserved and having few friends in real life or is it real time?  Some users have lots of friends on Facebook but when I spoke to them, they expressed loneliness and revealed  they do not have any friends they can hang out with or ‘depend on’. This is a really sad state of affairs.
 I would rather have a few real friends I can hang out with, relate to, share interests and seek help from when needed….than have hundreds of friends on Facebook, whom I barely know and rarely meet. When I asked they why they have so many friends on Facebook when they have difficulty finding friends, they said they had Facebook friends because they were asked to be a friend and did not want to say no, they wanted to keep in touch, that they were on Facebook because 'everyone is' and they did not want to be left out, and gave me many such 'half-lame' reasons. (Half-lame is my term for  reasons which are  not fully lame and not totally valid either!)

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Some people are pretty active in real life either with hobbies, their work and engagements with people. Some of them update their experiences on Facebook but some do not. This  misleads readers to drawing erroneous conclusions. The ones who update appear pretty active and give the impression of leading full and or interesting lives which may or may not be true. I have also come across  people who are busy or are   doing exciting things but  they do not  update their lives on Facebook....and this may mislead their friends, especially who tend to make inferences based on missing information ! 
The human mind constantly makes (a)comparisions and  makes(b) assumptions based on available information; The absence of information about people  who do not upload when contrasted with people who constantly upload, leads us to make wrong inferences about both of them.

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People want their friends to have a certain image of them and so they only put such information which builds that image on Facebook. I know a guy who is suffering from depression and severe alcohol abuse but looking at him on Facebook, one gets the impression of a successful high-flying dude! I fully understand and empathize with his ‘lying’ ….. I am sure if I were in his shoes, I too would cover up my drinking & depression. After all, who would want to burden 150 Facebook friends with his problems !
But going by the image he projects on Facebook, no one suspects what he is suffering from and those 'close' friends who would have helped him,' had they known the truth', are not helping as they are currently clueless.
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One more interesting behaviour I noticed on Facebok  is that Indian youth, when dating secretly (i.e. their parents and extended families do not know) do not Facebook-friend with cousins (same age) to whom they are/were close ! This is probably due to the fear that the cousin will leak information about the ‘dating’ to his/her parents!
I have seen my friends and family easily befriend on Facebook a person they do not know well …..but are very wary and hesitant about befriending someone they know well especially relatives! They would rather a stranger know their doings on Facebook than their extended family or family! God forbid that your cousin see your boy-friend on Facebook and unwittingly tells his dad who will tell your mother who will raise hell with you !
Censure about  their lifestyles such as their dressing, visiting pubs, chatting with boys, etc   is yet another reason girls (Young Indian) do not like to have relatives or 'older' relatives as Facebook friends ....if these conservatives  happen to be  Facebook friends, then the gals do not put  their photoes on Facebook(simply blocking access to photos is not entirely successful as these 'relatives can get their young relatives to show them the blocked photos!)

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 There are also a lot of eager but clueless beavers like me who want to put up several photos of trips and other exciting stuff on Facebook  but  lack the computer and camera skills to do it ! I am now fed up of asking my husband to update my facebook with photoes and stick to simple writing.
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 The need to share the information 'with some but not with all' also prevents me from putting stuff on Facebook.
Sheer lethargy or tiredness on some days also prevents some exciting information from going on Facebook. And later, it is too late to go on facebook. 
 All these above mentioned facts add up to the fact that   the information on Facebook  lopsided and not at all well balanced.
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There is a lot of news out there about breakups on Facebook and so I will not write much about it.

 I do know of a person who is recently divorced and is unsure about taking off the wedding photos on Facebook (and thereby hurt the other person) or keep the photos on.
Whether to defriend or not the ex on Facebook is a huge dilemma for many. Many people who break up do not want to hurt the feelings of the other party by defriending but also want privacy…i.e. do not want the ex to know what they are up to now.
Whether to defriend all the friends and family of the ex (who are actually quite friendly with this person) or keep them as friends on Facebook is another dilemma many face. Even if they do not really want to defriend the friends & family of the ex, they realize that they cannot have privacy from the ex unless they defriend all links!
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My grouse against Facebook is the amount of time my husband wastes on it! He goes to Facebook at least 15-20 times when at home and this drives me crazy! What riles me up is that we share a computer and he hogs it more than me....besides that,  he spends a lot of time  on Facebook doing nothing useful! I would not mind if he used the computer for  his office work or working on his photoes or did something active with the computer but his spending time on Facebook passively reading others uploads drives me nuts! Why does he need to spend hours on reading what his dozen cousins and scores of friends are doing today…everyday?

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But I have also found a few upsides to Facebook. I have enjoyed following the lives of people who are leading more exciting lives than me ! I have one friend, God bless her, who works for the UN, in one or the other African nations. She lives in  dangerous places and  her work is very challenging. I know it is unlikely that  I will meet her any time soon and , it is a vicarious thrill for me, to read her updates.

I enjoy looking at the photos and the several funny u-tube videos put on by people.

Since I am morbidly curious and love to know about others, I can follow up on some of my friends……but as I already said, most are careful about what they put on Facebook and so ultimately there is not much ‘gossip-worthy’ stuff on Facebook !
My conclusion is that as far as the my friends and relatives on Facebook are concerned, there is no ‘dirt’ on anyone’s Facebook; If you want to know who went on a trip, who bought what car, who passed in exams, who got married, etc, etc, etc then go to Facebook.
However, if you are dying to know juicy exciting red-blooded stuff such as who is in love with whom, who broke up with whom, who had a fight with whom, then the regular grape-vine is the place to go!

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