Written by Bob Rakow
Facebook is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The first question that comes to mind is if the popular social media site will be around 10 years from now to mark another milestone birthday.
I’ve seen numerous stories indicating that Facebook is past its prime. Anyone remember MySpace? People, especially the hip and trendy younger generation, have moved on, experts contend. Facebook has lost ground to Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and other apps, they say. Then again, Facebook has more than one billion users, so I doubt it’s going away anytime soon.
I’ve never used these other social media applications and really have no desire. I know, Grandpa Bob is behind the times. I do, however, spend time on Facebook practically every day. Most days I visit the site more than once. But rarely, if ever, do I post a status. Why? I don’t think most people care about what I think or have to say.
So why do I visit Facebook on a routine basis? Habit more than anything. There’s rarely anything life-changing or earth-shattering posted on my news feed. I have about 200 Facebook friends. Not a big number. Of those friends, only a handful post statuses routinely. Most of them, unfortunately, say very little.
Parents post endless updates about their children’s accomplishments. That’s fine to an extent. I proudly announced when my son won a college scholarship, my daughter got straight A’s on her first high school report card and posted pictures of the kids before school dances and graduations. But some people are of the mind that every cute thing their child says or does is adorable and interesting. It’s not.
I’m also not too interested in what you ate for dinner, nor do I need to see a picture of the meal no matter how appetizing it appears. If you shoveled the snow, good for you, so did I. And, yes, it sure is cold outside. You saw a good movie, attended a great concert, went on vacation—not that interested.
Jeff Vorva, my insightful editor, reminds me that time spent on Facebook is time wasted. He chides me for engaging in mindless debates on Facebook. I know he’s right, but I still get drawn into them from time to time. I like to have an opinion and defend it. Sadly, I’ve learned that Facebook isn’t about opinions or debating an issue. Rather, it’s about agreeing with those who post. Click the “like” icon or simply concur with your friends’ posts. To do otherwise, I’ve learned, is unwise.
For example, I recently opined that the Northern Illinois University football team did not belong in the Bowl Championship Series discussion because they are a mid-major school that does not play with the big boys in a major conference. I’m not alone in that thinking, and I don’t have anything against the Huskies. It’s just an opinion.
But the reaction from NIU apologists was fierce. One poster was kind enough to explain how the bowl selection process works. After all, I couldn’t possibly understand the process if I was opposed to NIU’s selection. The thing is, I didn’t need the explanation. Rather, I was hoping an NIU backer could defend their team’s inclusion in a major bowl. Make a case. Don’t attack me.
I once pointed out that Derrick Rose was wrong to sit out during the playoffs last year. He was well enough to play and by not doing so let his teammates down, I argued. Show me the hockey player who would do the same. I was personally attacked for that remark. I don’t recall the specific remark one person made, but he chose to rip me rather than defend Rose’s decision. I let him know it had gotten personal for him and the point wasn’t worth further argument.
I’ve even been called a “hater” on Facebook during a debate on a social issue. The poster doubled back to explain she wasn’t being serious when she deemed me a hater. Too late. I removed her from my list of friends that day. I know this person outside the Facebook world, but if personal attack is your only response to an opposing view, why should I bother?
Heck, I once was told to “shut up, Mr. Rakow” by a teenager who disagreed with me in some silly debate about hockey. That he disagreed was fine. The ease at which he could lob “shut up” at an adult was shocking. I guess it’s easy to disparage someone when standing behind the protection of Facebook. At least he remembered his manners and called me Mr. Rakow.
To be fair, there are some positives to Facebook. Groups created to promote a fundraiser or school reunion are extremely useful. I would not have reconnected with classmates from my elementary school was it not for a page dedicated to our graduating class and a potential reunion. More importantly, I marched on two occasions in the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk in support a classmate who bravely announced on Facebook that she had the disease.
Another small group of classmates gets together on Facebook during each Blackhawks game to cheer on the team, make good and bad comments, etc. I haven’t participated as much this year, but I can count on the group being there game in, game out.
Most newspaper reporters—myself included—post their stories on Facebook to promote them as well as our papers. It’s a great tool for putting stories in front of people who otherwise would not read them. I’ve even monitor various Facebook pages that are dedicated to crime in a community, for example, to keep up with what’s important to residents.
So despite my somewhat negative outlook on Facebook, it’s unlikely I’ll close my account any time soon. Don’t look for me to post very often. Instead, I’ll be in the background reading and disagreeing with your posts.