We hear a lot of negatives about social media in the news. If the studies and experts are to be believed, Facebook is tearing at the very fabric of our society. It seems like every day in the news, there are stories of marriages breaking up, jobs being lost, and even murders which can be traced in some way back to Facebook. Although I do think social networking has the potential to be abused (and if you really think about it, what in life doesn't have the potential for abuse?), I also feel the need to defend Facebook against the media's near constant allegations of evil because my experience has been almost universally positive.
I can't even tell you for sure how long I've been on Facebook. Maybe there's something, somewhere in my account settings, that tells me I've been a "member since" but I don't know where it is and I haven't been motivated to look for it. What I can tell you is that last year, a group of us planned our 20th high school class reunion and we did so for the most part over Facebook. If you had asked me five years ago if I would attend my 20th class reunion, I would have said no. Instead I wound up not only attending, but on the planning committee. Facebook put me in touch with former friends and classmates I'd never expected to see again. Rather than building up my reunion as an anxiety-laced event at which all my weaknesses would be simultaneously exposed to my former classmates, I was able to put things in perspective. I read their statuses. We've all grown up, become more ourselves and none of our lives are perfect. Instead of feeling competitive and possibly inadequate, I felt a kinship with my classmates that allowed me to enjoy the reunion and relish our shared history.
To me, Facebook has been like having the party you've always wanted to have where you invite all your closest friends and they all get along great and it's the most awesome time anyone has ever had. Which is reality would never work. Everyone would stand around uncomfortably and stare at each other and you'd be frantically trying to decide what music you could play that everyone would like or think of a joke that would miraculously break the ice and get all of your best friends to see that they should all be best friends too and everyone would hang out all the time and it would be super fun. Yeah, that would never happen. But the funny thing about Facebook is that sometimes it does. Sometimes my friends friend my other friends and they become friends and everything is super fun. Would those relationships carry over into real life? Who knows? But the one thing I do know is that without Facebook, that would most likely have been a moot question in the first place.
Last year I moved out on my own for the first time after a lifetime of living with other people. Not only did I move out, I moved out into my very own house. Buying a house had been my Big Dream for a long time and was something I'd thought I'd never get to do on my own, so it was a Big Deal for me. And because I was essentially going through the process by myself, it was even more important to me that my Facebook friends were with me, every step of the way, cheering me on. I mean who can argue with round-the-clock, unconditional love and support from a few hundred friends? It was pretty great.
Since I got the house, some not-so-great things have happened. A good friend of mine died too young in December, and most recently I lost my job of the last 12 years. There have been some good things too. I quit smoking and haven't had a cigarette since December 6, 2010. Each of these things has been made more bearable (and sometimes more celebratory), with the encouragement of several hundred friends, scattered all over the world. I don't know if my Facebook friends realize how much they've impacted my life and so I try to do my bit to cheer them on as well. So to all of you who laugh at my jokes, send virtual hugs when things are tough, donate to my causes, tell me how to unclog my bathroom drain, share my outrage over injustice and take the time to make me feel important... thank you. I hope I'm living up to my side of the bargain!