I love Facebook, I really do. It appeals to the extroverted part of me, which needs to connect, while accommodating the introverted part of me, which needs to keep just a little distance. Thanks to Facebook, I've made contact with people I care about but had lost touch with, I've reminisced with people who used to be very important in my life and I get to hear some of the details of the lives of people I am close to but don't interact with regularly. What's not to like?
My friend--who also likes Facebook--was saying the other day that it reminds him of the social interactions in the small Louisiana town he grew up in. You know how it works in small towns, right? You go to the grocery store and see ten people you know. Each one of them tells you what they've been up to and who they saw while they were up to it. If they went to Dairy Queen for lunch, they tell you about that and then they tell you about whether they got the ice cream sandwich or the Dilly bar for dessert and then they tell you who else was there and what they had for dessert. See, just like Facebook!
Seriously, I know that Facebook has its problems. Some of them are the new problems of the digital age: hacking and emotional isolation and social alienation and the lack of privacy. Some of them, though, are the same old problems that people in small towns or in close-knit urban neighborhoods have always known: how difficult it is to be confronted with the lives of other people who seem to be happier or healthier or otherwise better off than you are, the tendency to keep things superficial, to assume we know more about people than we do and then to judge and of course, the lack of privacy.
I'm sure there are academics somewhere studying all of this but I'm really intrigued by the social effects of Facebook and how the more things change, the more they stay the same.