Last night I went to the KaneCo Book Club where we discussed The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick. It was a good discussion that covered many aspects of Facebook and the influences the major social network has on society and business. The book was a good one (and I recommend to those that only saw the movie to read the book as well). But rather than review the book in its entirety, I’d like to concentrate on one topic that stuck in my mind last night. The notion of how “social” we’ve become online; how we want to be a part of everything (at least in the online space).

Does being social online make it harder to participate in real life?

I’ve grappled with this notion of our lack of in-person communication many times. And what I can’t figure out is whether I’m valid in my thinking or if I’m just a crabby Gen-Xer who grew up with instilled values of hand-written thank-you notes, phone calls and quiet time.

A recurring theme in the book was Mark Zuckerberg’s idea that, if everyone is participating freely and transparently on Facebook, it will make us more accountable for our actions; to think twice about what we do before doing it.

Sorry I didn’t get back to you, I’m swamped (never mind that I just posted a status update 5 minutes ago and solicited friends for my Farmville needs).

If Facebook is designed to make us more transparent online and to make us think before taking (and tagging) those drunk pictures at a bar, among other things, it’s also helpful in outing your friends. The little white lies of why you didn’t return a phone call or why you couldn’t make it to my party aren’t going to hold up when I see you’re sitting on Facebook half the night. And if, when we get together, all we do is talk about the latest gossip we read on Facebook, what’s the point?

So when I get a thank-you note in the form of a Facebook message for a thoughtful gift I sent or I get a series of three text messages to talk about a problem someone is having, I’m annoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Facebook as much as the next voyeur, but I also enjoy human interaction.

Have we turned into a society of robots?

I’m mildly afraid that one day we’ll be taken over by robots. Actually, if I think about it too long, it freaks the heck out of me. So I’d like to keep the friends I have in human form as long as possible. I’d love it if I did receive thank-you notes in the mail (thanks Mom, I know you’re always good for those). I’d love it if my husband could go an entire day (heck, I’d take half a day) without checking out his phone in the middle of our conversations. And I would be super stoked if any one of my Facebook friends opted to give me a random phone call to say what’s up instead of posting a comment on my wall.

Maybe I’m one of the few who think the way I do, and that’s OK. It just may take me awhile (if ever) to accept the new norms in communication that are all around me. But I’m telling you, I still get excited when I get packages and hand-written letters in the mail; excitement that is much more than any Facebook message will ever deliver.

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