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The Case for Facebook

Whatever you feel about Facebook, we all pretty much agree the great thing about it is birthdays - the long line of well wishes posted by people from all corners of your life both close and far. It's an unadulterated love bomb, and most write how happily overwhelmed they are to be on the receiving end.

Yesterday I realized that Facebook also becomes a place to share and process our shock and grief. And in doing so brings us all closer and makes it so much easier to bear.

I woke early to the first five posts in my feed saying words my bleary fog hadn't cleared enough to grok: RIP David Bowie. It might be because I have a lot of friends in music and the arts, but as the world woke up, my entire feed became full of Bowie posts - an outpouring of disbelief from people feeling just like me.

That turned to a linear process across the board: surprising stories of personal interactions and his influence, to posting his songs and photos, to reflections on our own lives, how we are spending our time and what contributions we are -  or need to begin -  making. As people further reflected in the comments to those posts, it created more insight, and so on. And it's not the first time.

I was incredulous when 80% of my news feed turned to supporting and then mourning the quick, catastrophic illness and passing of my dear pal of almost 40 years, guitarist Adam Roth. It was nothing short of stunning to have that illustration of how far his reach went - which multiplied even further via Facebook, i.e.: those who didn't know him of my 906 friends spread all across the country and around the globe were also affected by Adam's journey through what I, as their friend, shared as well as others' comments on my posts.

The same thing happened with Prince - and on and on. So Facebook has become a profoundly impactful way we all come together to process grief, as a village, a community. So many images of how this happens in indigenous cultures and even the animal world come to mind, i.e.: elephants circling a fallen member, all touching it with their trunks. It helps us all to express ourselves, it helps us to read comments to those expressions, it helps to see photos and read other's stories and appreciate how other people put into words what we might be feeling too.

And I noticed what happened is the same as what happens as we collectively share and digest terrorist attacks, big weather events, another mass shooting. Many times the news hits Facebook (and Twitter) first - and in a personal,direct way that's not what we get on the news.

It's such a comfort when Friends check in on FB to report when a tornado, hurricane or blizzard is going through their area, often when they are unable to be reached any other way. I've shared everything from breaking news re; election results, a lost child found and verdicts, to Red Carpet commentary live and felt CONNECTED.

And that process of sharing leads to Friending people we haven't known before and making new friendships blossom out of that, even if we've never met in person. I am now close with two people in North Dakota - chatting on IM with them when in the hospital before and after their surgeries, when their kids reach a milestone, and during the holidays etc.. Now I've got plans to visit. Why is that so strange when pen pals from across the miles have existed for centuries? This is just the new form, and while I sorely miss the days you could open your mailbox to more than bills and fliers (as my boxes of stationery, stamps and sealing wax gather dust), Facebook's instant delivery makes cultivating communications and connection just that much easier.

I've found people I thought I'd lost in life, or they me, through Facebook and have fully resumed our friendship - something that would not likely happen (or certainly not with as many) otherwise. By scrolling around every day, which I do because I do social media for work and have FB virtually open all the time on my computer, we all touch base with each other daily - far more than I could cover even with a weekly call. And I could never call or write each person with any quality anyway.

I can still call, email, write letters, text, and visit everyone. Having lived in 7 major cities and traveled the world, Facebook becomes one of the easiest ways to connect to them all, at no cost, and zero hassle.  I remember being distressed when people stopped emailing me, choosing to FB IM me instead. Now, I'm more used to it -and when I still try to collect people's email for my records, they say, oh, I never email anymore. I wish people would text me rather than use FB IM but it's further proof of just how many are on it, and how often.

As to seeing the little things that people get razzed about - like photos of your dinner, cat antics, or the new scrape on your car: I beg to remind you that bearing witness to those little moments is what made unbreakable bonds with your college classmates, your roommates and the people you work beside every day. And after we were all scalded by the divisive year in politics, I smile to read post after post wishing to return to the inanity of those recipes and animal videos once scorned.

Yes there are downsides. But I think there are more that are up.

It is NOT a disconnect to use social media, as long as you are present when in live company. Go ahead and take and post your pictures of dinner  - but don't let it get cold before you meet the eyes of who you're with, clink their glass and devour the meal, complete with good old fashioned conversation, non-virtual laughs, the best part - actual hugs (Don't forget to get a selfie of that, heh).

Carpe Diem!


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