What’s on your mind?

There are a few “Facebook vs. Twitter” links being passed around. I’ll link them here and wait while you read them.

Yesterday I went to a library with my sister and, as I do, took some pictures I thought might be funny, tagged the location, checked in to the library on Facebook, and updated my profile.

Then we went to Wendy’s. (We were hungry and it was on the same side of the street.)

“I’m going to check us into Wendy’s on Facebook.” I told her.

“Don’t do that!” she replied.

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want people knowing that we went to Wendy’s.”

“…I feel like we aren’t being honest if we check-in at the library and NOT at Wendy’s.”

Nobody is their real-self on Facebook. We only represent the Ideal Self, which is defined by who’s watching us and who we want them to think we are.

I didn’t check-in. I ate a square hamburger.

Every few months I go through a “why am I on Facebook” phase. My latest position is that Facebook is here to stay, you may as well get used to it. I know that’s not a good enough argument.

The “real names vs. user names” stance exposes the underlying “old web vs. new web” point in this. You, me, and everyone who remembers the days of old web—IRC, newsgroups, BBS—gets the idea of online handles and other old-web-world nomenclature. To me it seems the “real names vs. user names” stance hints at “the web was more fun before people from Real Life™ were on it.” Before non-nerds.

But I have mixed feelings. We should welcome the non-nerds and Facebook is the closest we’ve gotten to doing that. I think that Facebook has done something that nobody else in tech has done. As Garrett Murray has pointed out, look beyond the attention-seeking, fishing-for-compliments statuses (you know…ones like “OH, how am I EVER going to find the time to do X?!” followed by “Can’t wait for tonight’s Walking Dead!) and the LIKE button that discourages critical-thinking, and you begin to see that Facebook is RSS for non-nerds. You and me may use Google Reader to keep track of our favorite websites and writers through really simple syndication, but in practice it’s MUCH simpler to hit a subscribe button on a Facebook page and have it show up in your News Feed.

I suppose the reason I haven’t cut Facebook is because I have a love/hate relationship with it. At its best, Facebook re-unites me with people from my past that I’ve lost touch with. Facebook enables me to retain ties with people I’ve just met in Real Life™. Facebook aids me in creating new friendships.

But it also makes it harder to shed them. It’s harder to change who you are with all your past baggage in tow.

At its worse, Facebook destroys the desire to learn more about someone beyond status updates and spend time with them. It teaches us that people aren’t complex, that they’re simple and boring, at least when constantly asked “What’s on your mind?”

Most of the time we don’t have mind-blowing thoughts and if we do we keep them to ourselves. What a horrible thing it would be…having a difference of opinion among friends.

At its worse it’s a contest, because it’s so easy to forget about “what are you thinking?” and instead think “what are THEY thinking…about me?” — a game in which you’re constantly on the lookout for acceptance through how many blue thumbs you’ve been awarded.

You can begin to feel like you’re not just playing the game. You ARE the game and you’re being played.