Sept. 19, 2011 -- If it weren't for the high number of letters I receive on this subject daily, I might continue to try and ignore the major impact I suspect Facebook is having on my life, and on the lives of the people around me.
For starters, we may want to look at the actual amount of time some of us spend perusing, innocently viewing, reading, watching or somehow otherwise engaging on Facebook each day. You know, the time of which so many of us have so little?
Let's start there. How much time do you spend on Facebook? Just how easy is it for you to get sucked into that online world of voyeuristic pleasure? How fascinating is it to look into the lives of people you know, people you once knew, people they know and people you wish you knew, or are glad you don't?
There is something so accessible yet troublingly unnatural about the bizarre process. And few of us have taken a big enough step back to be able to see it clearly.
My high school-aged daughter came to me recently and confessed that if she continues to have a Facebook page she is sure her grades are going to drop.
"I just can't stop myself," she said.
From the mouths of babes. Facebook is taking up too much of her time!
But I won't attempt to tackle the impact Facebook is having on children my daughter's age, Facebook's first generation of young people.
I'm going to stick to the impact I see in the first generation of adults…us.
One woman wrote to tell me that she is trying to broaden her reach of people as she looks for connection in her life.
She said she read about a concert in a music store near her home, where a band she loves would be playing. She made a commitment to herself to go.
The night arrived, but she just couldn't bring herself to go. Instead, she spent that night on Facebook looking up people, chatting, posting and reading about other people's lives.
She felt strangely depressed that night knowing that had she gone out into the world and experienced real connections with live people, it would have soothed and filled her with what she is craving.
She admitted that she is in a rut, using Facebook as her new "village."
If Facebook and other online communities are the modern-day answer to the American sense of "community" or "village," we are in deep trouble.
None of us can afford to imagine that computer communication can replace connection. It's just not possible.
As much as we gain in reconnecting with old friends online, we may not realize that taking the expectation any further can, and very well may be right now, perpetuating the loneliness and disconnect we may feel in our lives.
The most recent information slowly making its way onto the public radar is the fact that Facebook has become one of the top three reasons cited for ending marriages in this country. Looking up old high school and college sweethearts has led some American families down a road of destruction.
Gone forever are the days of, "I wonder whatever happened to so and so." All we have to do is "Facebook" or "Google" them and, boom, there they are.
Good or bad, right or wrong, this is our reality. What we should consider doing then, is learning how to manage the online world in ways that are beneficial to our lives.
We need to keep our technological expectations in check.
We need to remember just what we get from online relationships, and realize that it will never replace the good old-fashioned phone call, the sound of someone's voice or the sight of someone laughing.
A laugh is far from reading "LOL." This is the kind of stuff that lands inside us the way we know and want. It's the stuff that fills us up, in ways we can't explain.
As long as we always keep hold of that, and understand it can never be interchanged, we can manage and navigate the online space in ways that won't disappoint and destruct.
So, keep your eye on our ever-changing society and your idea of community. Make the choices you can to feed your life what it needs and what it wants to make, and keep, you happy.