Defenders of Facebook? Slaggers of Facebook? Please Respond!

My students and I were discussing the relative merits of Facebook last night in class. We're reading Fahrenheit 451, and examining the vision of how technology interferes with society that Bradbury put forth in that novel, specifically how technology aids and abets in the comprehensive distration of the society from the war and other social ills, and how technology disconnects us not only from the larger world but from each other.

Many of my students are parents of teenagers, and some of those view FB as the equivalent of talking on the phone for hours like they did as teens. Others see a real reduction in the level of in-depth or quality communication skills possessed by their teens, who have been trained to interact in fragmented spurts, using few or non-words and looking at no one.

So, does FB increase communication skills by sheer volume, or reduce communication skills by lowering the bar of interaction to the lowest level possible? Does FB make our worlds more complete and integrated by keeping us connected to friends and loved ones, or does it give a false sense of connectedness enabled by technology? Does FB lead to more face time with those we care about, or is it an insidious replacement for person to person shared experience and conversation?