The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Balance Facebook with some face time

The fact that you’re reading this in a newspaper is unusual. You’re holding a piece of history, printed with CMYK process color right here in Eau Claire on the dried pulp of dead trees. What you’re holding here can’t be found anywhere else.

But maybe you go home, after class, and log onto The Spectator’s website (I hope you do), and upon firing up the Web browser, I’d venture a guess that Facebook is the first site you type into the URL.

It is (nearly) for me, too. A casual walk through McIntyre library reveals dozens of monitors with pop-up chats, friend requests and photos from drunken weekends. Sitting in geography class, even, sometimes a couple computers are logged onto Facebook for the entire lecture. I’m not here to scold anyone for using social networking sites. As a journalist, that would practically be heresy. But we need to be careful with our application of Facebook in everyday life.

Mel Layos, a freelance writer from California, reminded me to take a step back from the site last week when he published an essay at Yahoo News titled “Is Facebook creating a temptation generation?” His points were a bit familiar, but they’re well taken. It’s easier to log onto Facebook, send a few picture comments and friend requests and feel like we’re “keeping in touch” with loved ones than it is to pick up the phone or even send a personal letter over e-mail. According to the Nielsen Company, the gold standard for media research, almost twice as many text messages were sent than phone calls were made in 2008. Add more than 400 million registered Facebook users and more than 75 million Twitter accounts, and it’s a big, worldwide-webbed world.

Story continues below advertisement

I always thought Facebook had an air of sophistication. When I was a college freshman, the community college I attended in Minneapolis didn’t have access to Facebook. It seemed like an exclusive site for big, state schools, and while there were always rumors of men using it for malfeasance, it wasn’t smattered with pictures of scantily clad young women like MySpace.

There’s definitely a temptation to feed the beast, to answer Facebook’s proverbial question, “What’s on your mind?” several times each day, to post hundreds of personal photos and publish the status of relationships for all the world to see. Even an article in Friday’s New York Times scoffed at the idea of exposing too much information online, citing the case of Mark Brooks’ prolific online presence. Brooks is a 38-year old Web developer who, according to the Times, publishes his whereabouts on Foursquare, posts his travel plans on Dopplr, and so on. His rationale? Well, since he has nothing to hide, he hopes that pushing his persona and public identity as far forward as possible will result in increased business and connections with customers.

And there’s certainly some truth to that. I wouldn’t dream of downplaying social media’s impact on professional communication, but I don’t think all media is created equal.

It’s easy to think that a slurry of Facebook notifications and friend requests are telling indicators of personal success and a sign of one’s importance in the world. But no matter how active my Facebook page is, it will never reveal intricacies of the human experience like Walt Whitman’s poetry, or Virginia Woolf’s novels or Howard Zinn’s historical essays. Or, for that matter, a call home to your mother after an especially stressful day.

Self-worth isn’t measured in page views or comments, no matter how tempting it can be to obsess over those numbers. In the end, people need to spend time with other people, in the same room, for more than a fleeting moment. And while it’s amazing that I can share in the moment of my friends’ engagement, or see photos from friends in New York, it pales in contrast to attending their wedding or riding in crowded subway cars with them.

The Grind is a weekly column. Taintor, The Spectator’s editorial editor, can be reached at
[email protected]. He blogs at

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Balance Facebook with some face time