A quick 250 words I whizzed together for a Guardian ‘people’s panel’: what do you think? Is Facebook good for you?
Ask me in the pub, and I’ll probably tell you that Facebook has been good for me. I have bits of friendships and bits of heart scattered across the globe, and if I could get my 87 year old Italian Nonna to join Facebook or – gasp – embrace video-chat, then I would. There is only so much love you can put into a badly formatted SMS, and global warming feeds my guilt every time I step onto a luridly orange plane. But ask me at work – with my social network analysis ‘expert’ hat on – and I’ll tell you that I do not know.
As part of a balanced, calorie-controlled social diet, social networking is great. I watched a friend I trapezed with as she debuted in a Chilean soap; I see my friends’ kids from Sud-Tirol to Santiago; and those kids will grow up knowing there is a hell of a world out there. But people relying on the internet for social support do badly: like relying on desserts and chips for all your nutritional needs. The internet is not as democratic as it’s painted: twitter obeys power-laws, and you see the full extent of the twisted rabbit-holes that people’s minds sometimes fall into.
We have a maximum amount of people we can be close to: too many friends can be as harmful as none at all. If Facebook is the cherry on top, you’re probably doing fine. If it’s you main meal, you need to get offline.