Monday, October 21, 2013

Why I'm Thankful for Facebook

Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg.

I don't know what kind of mind it took to envision this virtual society we know as Facebook, but I know that for a virtually homebound person, it's a lifesaver. Well, maybe just a sanity saver.

Sure, if we let it, Facebook can turn into what has affectionately been called a "time suck." We sit down at the computer to pay a bill or check our bank balance. Once that's done, we decide to check in on Facebook and see what's happening. An hour or two later, our heads are spinning from conflicting political posts from our friends, we're wondering what happened to so-and-so who needs prayers, and we are tired of pictures of kittens and grumpy cats (or maybe not).

But when you spend a lot of time with companions who aren't much into adult conversation, like I do, it's a lifeline to the world.

If I pick up the phone and start talking, E1 can immediately tell she doesn't have my full attention and she'll either get into something, or more likely begin some urgent conversation with me that I cannot hear. If my phone conversation has no real point, then telling her it's rude to interrupt seems wrong somehow. Sure, if I'm trying to figure out some unrealistic charge on my credit card or book a doctor's appointment, I need to make the call while I'm thinking of it. If not, well, then she's probably more important than the phone call and I may well be the one being rude by ignoring the person in front of me for one miles away. Either way, it creates yet another conflict to be resolved.

On the other hand, with a smart phone I can be "visiting" with a lot of people, finding out what they are doing, giving my opinion, and sharing kitten images and mind-boggling political memes, without needing to fully engage myself. The Es don't know I'm not all in their world of puzzles, crayons, or racing around the yard pretending to be birds, and I can take a mental breath.

There are times when Facebook can get to be too much. In fact, rather than pursuing some outlandish number of friends, I've been weeding through my list on a daily basis. If people never tell me what they are doing or have a positive comment, well, why should they be allowed a window into my world? Or if all you ever do is post shares or copy/pastes, seriously, I've probably got other friends who will share the same thing, or if I agree with you I've already seen it. And yes, there are times I'm guilty of sharing a political post or silly picture. But it's because it speaks to me at some level. Feel free to delete me if I never "say" anything you want to hear.

Of course, there are also aggravating shares, which are the ones that require copying and pasting and declare that you will take those few seconds if you: love Jesus, love America, love Veterans, love your husband/sibling/children/parents/cousins, love animals, hate cancer, hate war, hate abuse of any kind, etc. Well, I don't know about other folks, but my mobile platforms don't enable me to do that and I really don't think that it proves anything. It's just annoying.

The ones that really get me are those that are total misinformation. How many dozen times have you seen the same ineffective privacy posts from your friends? Read the terms and conditions of your agreement to use Facebook. Yep. By and large what you share you give to them. It's not your diary or a letter to your closest friends. It's a social media platform and not only can the government and future employers look at it in as much detail as they choose, your friends can copy and paste, download and share anything you post. So be sure to trust your friends. Sometimes I care enough to check Snopes, but most of the time I just let it ride.

But I was talking about how I love Facebook, right?

I like that I can browse through my newsfeed and find out what a lot of my friends are doing. Their pictures and stories can brighten my day and may me feel as though, just for a moment, I was somewhere besides sitting at home arguing with a toddler who doesn't really want to lie still and take a nap. I can glean the most interesting news from local media, because if it has much interest someone will share it and since leaving journalism I pretty much boycott local news. Thanks to pages I like, I can look at a lot of information quickly and delve further with a click of my browser if I'm so inclined.

When the girls do something adorable, a click of my camera phone and a share can show their mom and dad at work, their other grandparents hours away, and extended family scattered around the country what they are doing. When something bad rocks my world, I can ask for prayer and feel the support of a network of friends that I may not talk to but a few times a year. When I want to share something funny, I can make roomfuls of people laugh or smile (come on, you know the stinkbug in the coffee made you smile). If I want to annoy a Conservative Republican friend (or maybe make them think), encourage "other" moms, share something that made me laugh, or even praise my Heavenly Father, I can share an image that someone or some site has shared with me.

Facebook has turned into one of the best methods for promoting and sharing my business, even without ever buying an ad. Friends can tell friends about what I'm doing and share a link to my page. Pictures of clients with tags to friends keep the number of "fans" growing, and although a lot of them will never set foot on the place, people all over the world occasionally read what I post, which is a neat feeling for a business owner and a writer.

Like anything, Facebook can be misused. But while they say don't blame the gun, blame the person, the same is true for Facebook. It's a tool with a lot of good uses. That people with bad intentions cause pain through its use isn't a good reason to blame the medium. Bad choices and an inability to disconnect are as more to blame than the medium.

Because no matter how much Facebook helps pass a day, it's important to remember that it is a virtual world, not the actual physical space we occupy. If we have a thousand Facebook friends, but no one we can really talk to, then we're still lonely. It's still more important that we interact with the world around us, watch the children playing in our own yards, feel the sun and wind on our faces, than it is to check in on what others are doing.

It's more important to live our lives than it is to share them, because if we fail to do one, we have nothing to contribute to the other.

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