It’s all over the media that Facebook is falling out of favour with teenagers and young people. Instead they are moving on to Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, Twitter and many of the other social media sites that are available, but I am not a teenager anymore, and I like Facebook. This is why…
Opening my Facebook page on a random day in January, I look at the posts listed on my wall. There are (in order) comments from friends in Sweden, Manila, New Zealand, England, China, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Canada, USA (PA), USA (TX), France (Paris), Scotland, Indonesia and Australia. It’s not an extraordinary day, just a random sample of people I know who just happen to live all over the world.
I can see that I’m probably not a typical Facebook user, but for someone who has lived in five different countries in the last fifteen years and befriended people from all over the world, this a fantastic way to stay in touch.
Living in international communities for so long, I have met people from many diverse nationalities, many of who were also living in unfamiliar environments. Under these circumstances, unique bonds are formed from the shared experience of coping in a foreign land. But, there is a high turnover of members in these groups, and in such a fluid community it is all too easy to lose touch with people as either you or they move on to a new posting. It’s difficult either way; being thrown into the middle of an already established group of people, or leaving behind a group of friends and moving forward into uncharted territory, but Facebook allows both a means of staying in touch with the old life, and a way of settling into the new one.
It isn’t about having lot’s of ‘Acquaintances’. Anthropological researchers have theorized that we can only usefully engage with around 150 friends, (the Dunbar Number). This reflects the size of ancient villages in prehistory, and interestingly seems to hold true in the average number of friends that people have on Facebook. No, my ‘friends’ are all actually my friends. They may be spread all over the world now, but at some point in our lives, our paths crossed, and I can honestly say that I have had coffee and a good old chat with each and every one of them.
It’s good to stay in touch with people, to follow up on how things turned out after their move to a new country, how they settled back into life at home, to be able to congratulate them on significant occasions, and to commiserate when things don’t go so well, to see photos of their kids growing up, their family holidays or just to say ‘Hi’ now and again.
So I like Facebook, for making it easy to stay in touch with my friends, and allowing us to continue to share our friendship, even though we may live on opposite sides of the world.