In the earley tymes, friends would catch up on a boat, over a beer and some fishing
After not using facebook for about 3 months, I now understand what things it is good for.
Business / blog / music promotion - get your friends to become a fan, then they get updated every time you post a new blog post or release a new product or post a new song. I tried to promote my blogs and guitar building venture with RSS (subscribe to my blog and stay updated!) and Twitter, but it is overwhelmingly apparent that only nerds use RSS (approx. 3 of my friends, all of whom are much smarter than all of my other friends) and many less people use Twitter than facebook (approx. 5 of my friends vs. ALL OF THEM). Facebook is clearly the best way to fly as far as commercial or non-commercial promotion.
Picture sharing - again, I use Picasa, lots of people use Flickr, some newbs use Photobucket, but none of these services are as good at photo sharing as facebook. Why? For one, everyone's on facebook, so whoever you're friends with on facebook is your pool and/or audience. For another, the "Follow Hunter's Picasa" or "Subscribe to Hunter's PhotoStream" (paraphrased) functions of the other big photo sites are all half baked compared to facebook's super integrated approach. I miss out on seeing my friends' cool pictures because I am not on facebook.
This last one kind of goes without saying, but staying up to date with what's going on with your friends / keeping your friends up to date with what's going on with you. I realized this when I moved recently. I moved from Northern VA to Central VA (where I was born and raised) and so I have a lot of friends in the area. I have slowly, little by little, been running into friends at the grocery store and such, and when they see me, they all look as though they've seen a ghost. Why? Because they had no idea I was back in Central VA. My thought, when leaving facebook was "If you don't know where I live or where I went to school, then hey, that's fine, because everyone who's actually really my friend knows where I live and where I went to school and other trivia. Well, I was wrong about that. My real friends don't know where I live.
I guess in the olden tymes, you would notify all your friends that you were moving, by letter or phone call or through the physical social network (parties, softball games, church). But these days, my friends aren't going to parties and church to find out what's going on with whom --- they go to facebook for that kind of info. The very human, social "see and be seen" compulsion is dying because you don't have to "be there" to catch all the juicy gossip and stay up on your friends anymore. It was shocking to me that one of my best friends of all time had no idea I was living 2 miles away from him. But it's my fault - I didn't call him or send him a letter. Any way you slice it, facebook has become the way the world stays in touch. I don't particularly like it, because I still like ye olde ways of going to church and going fishing with your buddies and going out to bars you know your friends will be at to stay in touch with each other. But nobody else is doing it that way, so I find myself fishing alone, sitting with just my family at church, and never running into anyone I know at the bar. That church/party/bar way of staying in touch only works if everyone is doing it. Well, they aren’t and so I’m not in touch with anyone.
I will not wax philosophical / ol' prospector with the standard "when I was your age, men kept in touch by shaking hands at the hunt club," because I believe that, in general, change over time is good. But I also believe in understanding the difference between change and progress. I don't think that facebook is progress, societally. Really, all I can do to fly that flag is to simply be me - go fishing with the guys, invite my buddies over to play music, send Christmas cards, go to church. I know that my idea of socialization is not consistent with the modern model, and I do not resent the change in the model. It's like when Jeep got rid of the Cherokee in favor of the Liberty. Whether or not the Cherokee was a better truck is subjective, but what is a fact, is that I like the Cherokee better, so that's what I'll stick with.