Saturday, July 31, 2010

Things I Love and Hate about Facebook

Let's face it - Facebook (FB) is sweeping the world. I actually joined FB almost two years ago at the urging of some of the youth in our Ward. At the time, I didn't understand what the point was and definitely didn't foresee the unbelievable exploding growth. I spent and still spend very little time on the site. Unfortunately, I do get FB alerts on my cell phone and I end up spending more time than I would like on FB. There are things that I really love about it, and there are things that I absolutely can't stand about it. I am sure you will be able to identify with some of my comments.

"Friends" - I love that I am able to connect with old friends through FB. I have connected with old high school friends, old work buddies, college friends, old missionary companions, long lost family and friends from far far away in Uruguay where I served my mission. (As I write this post, I just got friended by an old work colleague that I couldn't stand) I would guess that 95% of the people that I have connected with on FB are people that I otherwise never would have found. I currently have 271 friends on FB - an unusually small total for somebody who has been on FB for as long as I have. For example, a 15 year-old actual friend of mine has over 1,100 friends to date.

The part about FB that I hate is that I think it gives people a false sense of their own popularity. Although, generally I feel I am a pretty likeable guy, I don't think for a second that all 271 of my "friends" are really my friends. I always hear people talking about how many friends they have on FB, "I just hit 400 friends . . . I just hit my first 500 friends . . . I have 1,000 friends!!!" Blah, blah, blah . . . Like it is some type of status symbol - as if the more friends on FB you have, the more important you are. I used to accept anybody and everybody as a friend on FB; I don't anymore - in fact, I just ignored the invite from the annoying work colleague. So, word to the wise, if part of your self-worth is determined by how many friends on FB you have, you are an FB loser and need to reevaluate your life.

THE WALL - I like that you can write on your wall for all the world to see and tell your "friends" about important things that are going on in your life. For example, my 15-year old friend with 1,100 "friends" used his wall last week to tell his "friends" about an exciting contest that he had won and a competition that he was in that was very important to him and his family. I must admit, I followed his wall through that exciting event just to check in and see how he did and it was a quick, easy way to find out how he had done. This is a Wall-worthy post.

However, for the most part, I hate the Wall. I don't understand why people feel the need to tell the entire world about every detail of their day. "I had wheat toast for breakfast, it was yumms . . . I worked out this morning and I loved it!!! . . . I had a dentist's appointment this afternoon and it was no fun . . . I hate my kids right now and I am ready to go to bed!" These are all actual posts from my "friends". First, where do these people find the time to get on the computer or cell phone and post these things? 'Oh, my toast was really yummy, I better dial up the cell and tell all of my "friends"'. And second, why do these people feel like these events are Wall-worthy? Maybe it's just me, but if I have one Wall-worthy event per month, I feel like I am doing pretty good. Bottom line, if you are posting to your Wall on a daily basis, you might be an FB loser.

Another thing I love is the part on FB that allows you to comment on absolutely anything. "What a cute picture that is of your daughter . . . I am sorry you had a bad day at the dentist . . . Have you gained a few pounds?" These are comments that I have made or have thought about making on FB in the last couple of weeks. This is a worthy FB activity.

The part about commenting that I hate is that it usually brings out the worst in me. I am a slightly sarcastic guy. And by slightly, I mean slightly more than annoying. When I read something that I find stupid, offensive or just plain dumb, it is almost impossible for me not to make a comment. When I see a funny picture, I have to comment. When I feel that someone is sharing too much, I occasionally have to comment and let them know that they need to think before they post. So, if you can't control your commenting, especially when you have nothing nice to say, you most likely are an FB loser. (Guilty as charged)

Finally, I love that I can "communicate" with anyone of my 271 "friends" in the blink of an eye. I don't have to wait for them to answer their cell phone or return a letter in the mail. I can just shoot off a quick note and tell them what I need to tell them. This is a fabulous time-saver.

This instant form of communication is also what I hate most about Facebook . . . and texting and tweeting and all other forms of instant communication. With all the texting and emailing and tweeting that is going on, our young people are not learning how to actually talk to one another. I remember when I was growing up, I used to get in trouble at night for talking on the phone with friends for too long - an activity that doesn't even exist anymore. Kids text or tweet or FB each other. No actual speaking is involved. I used to call the youth from our Ward on their cell phones to ask them a question and they wouldn't answer . . . but they would text me back immediately, a practice that infuriated me. I once watched an entire conversation between two young women in our ward who were sitting right next to each other - and neither of them ever uttered a word. They texted their whole conversation. This is unbelievable to me.

What will these kids do when they grow up and they have to give a talk in Church? Last time I checked, you can't tweet your Church talks. What will they do when they have to give an oral presentation in an English class? You can't text an oral presentation. What will happen when they have a job interview with an actual human being and they can't answer "IDK, OMG, LOL!!" And finally, when they actually go on a date with another living, breathing human, how will they be able to have a thoughtful, intelligent conversation if they have never actually had one before - with their mouths and their voiceboxes.

In summary, Facebook is a very fun and useful internet tool. However, if you check how many "friends" you have on a daily basis and are concerned that your number isn't growing fast enough, you are probably a loser. If you "friend" total strangers just to get your number higher, you are definitely a loser. If you post your daily schedule to your Wall every single day, you might be a loser. If you post something to your Wall that only your husband or wife should know, you are definitely a loser and might need Facebook therapy. And finally and most importantly, if you spend more than 10 minutes (20 minutes if you are under the age of 21) on FB daily, you are just plain wasting time. Wise up.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lessons Learned from Being Alone

During the summer when it is scorching hot here in the AZ Desert, our family enjoys trips to the mountains, namely Pinetop and the Hazar Cabin. We enjoy this ritual several times a year, but mostly during the Summer to escape the heat and remember why it is that we choose to live in Arizona. I play golf with family, we go on long walks (and sometimes, nature walks) in the pines and we enjoy cooking and eating and spending time with family. One week annually, Michelle and the kids stay in Pinetop for a week instead of the traditional weekend that we normally stay. I stay home and try to work. For the last two years, I have secretly looked forward to these "mini-stay-cations" at home by myself. This year, I spent almost 4 days at home by myself and I learned 3 very valuable lessons. (By the way, I have inserted several of my favorite pictures of the family from the last couple of weeks - they really have nothing to do with what I learned and are in no particular order.) The first lesson that I learned is that it is better to have a dirty home than an empty one. I am kind of a stickler about keeping our home clean - I wouldn't say that I am a neat freak, but I do like order in my home. I have written about this before. I am kind of strict about kids picking up after themselves and all in all, keeping an orderly home. Michelle humors me and puts up with me and does her very best in keeping our home as orderly as possible while trying to wrestle 4 active kids and keep up with her busy schedule. When I have a free moment, I generally am cleaning something up, doing some laundry, cleaning the dishes (if there are any, which usually there aren't) or doing something to make our home more orderly. This week, alone in my home, I went to town on cleaning. I hand-cleaned all of our tile floors with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, which is hard work, about 4 hours total, because that is the only thing that gets them clean enough for my taste. I cleaned out the fridge, washed all the dishes, did all the laundry, cleaned all the windows, dusted, vacuumed more than once and de-haired the couches where Carmen sleeps. At the end of the day, the house was immaculate. There was nothing out of order, it smelled good and looked fantastic. However, it was empty. There was no one to dirty it up, no one to leave their toys out to be tripped over, no one to leave dishes out to be cleaned, no one to leave fingerprints on windows and mirrors and no one to create any dirty laundry. It was very sad - I came to the reality that I can have the cleanest, most orderly home in the world, but if it's empty, it's just not worth it. The second lesson I learned is that when I turn the TV off and it is quiet, that is when Heavenly Father speaks to me and answers my prayers. This is a lesson that I have learned before and have taught in Church lessons and on my mission. There is big difference between intuitively knowing this fact and putting it into practice in my life. It's hard to turn off the TV when I am all alone and do the things that I know I should do like read spiritual things, pray and listen for answers. Wednesday night of this week, after doing visits with the Bishopric to members of our ward and then playing basketball with my friends at Church for two hours, I was at home alone in a very very clean house, desperately searching for entertainment. I have a difficult time winding down after playing basketball late at night and so I generally look for something to entertain me on television or play a video game. I couldn't find anything remotely interesting to watch and I didn't feel like playing a game. Luckily, I had brought my laptop home from work that day and was prompted to watch a few General Conference talks. After watching these Conference talks (one was Elder Holland and the other was Elder Bednar), I turned off the computer and just laid in bed and was relaxing (it was 1AM). Although I was lonely and missed my family, I received comfort from Heavenly Father who assured me that my family was OK and they would be protected. I also received comfort and assurance about other concerns that I have been praying about for weeks. I relearned that the Spirit speaks softly and that if I am not actively listening for answers, I will most likely miss them.Finally, I relearned that the family, namely a father and a mother and children, is the divine unit of the Gospel. I have been taught this truth and have taught this truth to others ever since I was a little kid. A husband and a wife, working together as one to raise righteous children in the Gospel is the way that it's supposed to be. Michelle is the most wonderful wife and the kindest mother to our children that I could have ever hoped for. However, towards the end of last week, when she had been husbandless for over 3 days, she called me on the phone and was struggling with the kids and not having me there. (I know, go figure) I mentioned to her that she had help because her mother was there and Tyler and Julia are always very helpful. I realized as I spoke to her, and it hit me again like a ton of bricks, that even though she had help from her Mom with the kids, it's just not the same as having your husband there. There is something that is divinely correct about a man and a woman who love each other and love their children and who spend every waking moment trying to make a happy life for themselves and their children. There is something about a husband and a wife working together in love that is different from any daycare or school facility or any other kind of substitute for the family. I am grateful for this time that I had alone and for the lessons that I relearned. And, I am extremely grateful that my family is home where they should be. (By the way, notice how unhappy my family looks as they are away from me - truly sad)