Thursday, December 6, 2012

REPOST: A Highly Scientific Analysis of Facebook


Occasionally I will post a piece from my old blog on Well and Cheaply.   I thought I'd share as a blog post I wrote about an email exchange that I had with a friend almost exactly a year ago talking about the "rules of the internet," because I think it might start a fun discussion.

This friend is someone who's never really cared about the internet that much, and just signed up for a Facebook account.   After being on Facebook for a little while he sent me a message telling me how when he first signed up for Facebook about a dozen people from earlier phases of his life reached out to him. Most people sent a 2-4 sentence email or posted something on his wall.  He responded with a four or five paragraph email briefing them on the past ten years of his life and asking questions about what had been going on with them.  And not one single person responded to those emails.  He was feeling kind of down about it all and said:
I signed up for Facebook so I could reconnect with people.  So far, this has not really happened for me, at least not in a meaningful or fulfilling way.  I cannot help but take it personally.
He asked me if his long emails might be off putting to people, and this was my response:

I'm responding through email because the facebook mail format makes me want to rip my brain out of my head. Why the little tiny box?  WHY???

I have to say that I am shocked that no one responded.  Even if just to give you a shorter response than you gave them.  However my guess is that they thought about giving you a long response when they had the time and then never got around to it and just forgot about it completely.  I really don't think that they read your detailed email and were like- whoa didn't need to hear all that!  They were probably really happy to get it.  I know I'm always happy when someone sends me a long email.  Long emails are more and more rare in my life these days and I think it has to do with the way we use technology now.  Most people answer emails on their phones and use facebook on their phones.  I know tons of people who don't even talk on the phone anymore and just text.  I've fallen prey to this a little but not as much as I think most people I know have.  Almost all of my friends have a smart phone and I still don't. (Update: I do now! haha)

From what I can tell, technology doesn't play the kind of role in your life like it does in most peoples these days.  It's funny because in a way you're using technology more, by spending the time to write a long email, but people might not really be used to that on facebook...I'm not sure, even the tiny little text box makes it seem like facebook isn't meant for the long email.  While I kind of hate facebook and think it is so stupid and boring, for me, the best way to feel like I'm keeping in touch with people is to post status updates a lot- like everyday and to read through my friend's status's and comment on them. Look at photos and comment on them, upload your own pics.  I think if you uploaded a bunch of pictures you might get comments on them from those people who never emailed you back.  It can be easier to do the very simple/casual updates on facebook. A long email is almost as formal as writing a letter at this point.

So to answer your questions, I don't think in any way that you are being offensive or off putting in the way you communicate, but maybe you'll start to meaningfully connect with people if you do it how they are- like a status, upload and article you found interesting, tag yourself in some photos etc.  I know it's all so stupid, but kind of interesting to sit down and really think about the nature of facebook.  I think it's endearing that you do not use the internet like, at all- but I have told you before that I find it frustrating too- I think we'd be in better touch if you had more of an online presence.  Like, you have gmail but you're never on chat!  Gchat is a great way to have short conversations frequently with people you never ever see- it makes it feel more like a real relationship where you talk about the little everyday things.

Also know that people are reading it and just responding in their heads (I know, annoying) but I post my blog posts to fb and know that people click on them but a lot of those people never comment on what I post.  Whenever I do get a comment it makes my day, and while I think everyone feels this way, it's easy to forget it.  It's a lot easier to read a meaningful blog post and think "that was good" in your head and then not take the time to write a witty positive response in the comments.  I don't know, I feel like I've been rambling, and that I could also talk about this all day!   Let me know if any of this makes sense or if you agree!  Actually I feel like the entire topic of this email could turn into a blog post!  So thanks for the inspiration! 

I'd love to hear your thoughts, readers.  Do you agree with my highly scientific Facebook analysis?  Have you ever had the same or similar experience with Facebook as my friend did?  And although I talk about the importance of updating statuses, I kind of never do it! So I'm a little bit of a victim of "practice what you preach" there.  Tell me you thoughts on The Facebook in the comments!


  1. I honestly always forget to respond to Facebook messages, especially when they're long and in-depth and I feel like I owe a well thought out response, so I put it off til later, when I have time, and then it just never happens. Then three months later, I remember all about it and feel like the biggest jerk.

    ugh, Facebook.

  2. I think Im a lot like your friend. I too write long emails, but I used to love to write letters. lol Ive reconnected with a few old friends on fb for which Im glad. I check my page every day but I rarely post statuses. I do share articles Ive read, things I like my friends post.