facebook is weird.

It is. It just is. I’m on it a lot, I maintain an account for the kids’ school, as well as my personal account. I rely on it to keep in touch with my family on a near daily basis. If I couldn’t see pictures or videos of my baby nieces and nearly grown nephews, or learn about the various successes or observations of my brother and sister regularly, if I couldn’t easily show my parents how quickly our children are growing… if I suddenly didn’t have facebook, I’d feel weakened.

I like to share things I’ve read with my facebook connections. I rely on lists to manage all this, because I know not everybody wants to read everything I read, I know that not everybody thinks the way I think. There are very few things, actually, that I share with all my “friends.” Those things need to be universally appealing, apolitical… things about the kids, or safety, or food. I’ve learned this lesson, a couple of times.

That’s because I understand, even better now thanks to this article by Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal, that Facebook is not the place to change a friend’s opinion or core belief. Or even a stranger’s. Facebook is, very simply, a place for all of us to connect with whom we want to connect with, and while we’re doing that, our every move can be monitored and used in order to improve corporate marketing efforts, online and elsewhere. And yet,

According to soon-to-be-published research from professors at Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh, browsing Facebook lowers our self control. The effect is most pronounced with people whose Facebook networks were made up of close friends, the researchers say.

Exerting self-control, learning not to engage. It’s hard. I have a surprising number of thoughtless friends on facebook. (These include, I should add, people on both sides of the political spectrum.) It’s weird, that we’re connected. But these were people I said hi to in the hallways of my high school. Or they are people who know me now, who are nice to my children. Or they are people I have a little bit in common with thanks to a mutual friend–like somebody I’d meet at a cocktail party.

To watch, observe, keep my hands still and refrain from typing and hitting “return…” it takes a tremendous amount of self-control. We all need to sit on our hands a bit more. For one, it seems more… dignified. (That’s the reason I choose to use.) For another… we are accountable for our actions, good and bad.

 

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