People have this view of Facebook where they think it somehow isn’t substantial, that it doesn’t “count”, that it isn’t “real life”. I think they are almost entirely wrong.
When I write anything on FTSOS, Facebook, or elsewhere online, I make it a point to not type a single word I wouldn’t also be willing to say to someone in person. Doing otherwise betrays a false bravado and that isn’t the sort of person I ever want to be. However, not everyone feels this way. Or, at least, they don’t act this way. For instance, I have had a number of people get into heated debates with me over Facebook and then, upon seeing me in person, they try to cool things off, occasionally even apologizing. My response is to consistently say that I don’t care that they were speaking harshly or that they were being rude or whatever. My view is that the reason they said those things is because they believe them. If anything, I’m happy they spoke what they think is true. I may think their beliefs are erroneous, even stupid, but I would rather read what they really think than read what they think is the nice thing to say.
There is an unfortunate reason why people change their tone (and not just with me) so quickly when they see their ‘opponent’ in person. The Internet amounts to a comfortable buffer which insulates people from many feelings of awkwardness, distress, etc. This causes people to place less value on the words they are willing to type versus the ones they are willing to speak. In other words, people believe, as I so often hear and read, that ‘Facebook isn’t real life!’ They think there is a fundamental difference between in-person interaction and online interaction. I think they’re wrong.
I’m not about to deny that there is a clear difference in dynamics between so-called ‘real life’ interaction and online interaction. There is. But that is the only difference in non-anonymous situations and it is not fundamental (due to the lack of anonymity). What a person says on Facebook and other online places still impacts the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and mood of a person sitting at the end of another connection. Right now, I mean right now, anyone reading this post is considering what I am saying; anyone reading this post is computing in their minds what they think and how they feel about my argument. Is that not real life? Is that somehow fake? Is everyone who sees this just pretending to exist?
None of this is to say that online interaction is better than in-person interaction. I think in-person interaction has many advantages over online interaction, including a wider array of dynamics. On the flip side, I think online interaction has its advantages, including the ability to formulate detailed points and stories and arguments. However, I think the people who scream that Facebook and other online media platforms aren’t ‘real life’ would be the same people decrying the ‘realness’ of telephone conversations back when they were still a new thing. They have a ridiculous argument – ridiculousness that is just as real whether it is said over a cup of coffee or on a status update.