Back when we were kids in the dark ages, our worlds were smaller. Our lives were encapsulated by our location (our children now live in a ‘bigger’ world, thanks to the internet). If you wanted to learn something, or learn about something, you had to pray that the encyclopedias you had at home were up to date, or that your library carried new information. We have access to everything now. Everything. Yes, good and bad, but that really goes without saying. With any kind of progress there will be bad things to worry about. With anything there is good and bad. But I’m focusing on the good.
People complain that because of the internet and social media sites like FaceBook that we don’t communicate anymore. I don’t believe that is totally true. No, virtual communication will never, ever, be able to replace real face time, but it allows us to never fully be isolated and to keep in touch no matter what we have going on in our lives that may have otherwise kept us apart. It allows us to share; our thoughts and feelings, little trivial bits of our lives that make for good memories later. It allows us to support each other or to just make each other smile. What is better than that?
· It provides affirmations.
The power of making anyone laugh, or even smile for a moment. I couldn’t believe it when I heard there had been a number of large studies on the effects of positive FaceBook posts and people’s moods. Apparently, reading positive posts makes people feel more positive.
–I’m sorry, but can I say, “DUH!”? I actually thought that was a given, and I couldn’t believe that money was spent on that. (Wish I’d thought of it!) Wasn’t that already covered in all of the studies about advertising and ‘mental programming’ and brainwashing? Whatever is repeated is learned, yada, yada, yada…
Anyway, that is still good. We are bombarded with bad news regularly. Many of us have stopped watching televised news. Isn’t it nice to have a place to share a smile or laugh that often? Enough to ‘program’ ourselves to think more positively? Better than television.
· It provides acknowledgment.
Hi. Here’s a Hug. Thinking of you. Hope you are doing well. Miss you. I know what you are going through. I Love you. Thank you. (‘nuff said.)
Birthdays and Holidays. A couple of years ago one of my friends who was new to FB at the time had said to me, “I don’t use FB too much, but I have to say that if it’s good for anything, it’s birthdays. I loved all the birthday wishes I got!
· It’s a virtual scrapbook.
The scrapbook we never have time to work on. I used to be a scrapper. Now, I’m a wanna-be. Don’t have the time or the room for it. But the timeline on FB gives us a virtual scrapbook (and if I ever do have the time, I can single out items from FB—no in-home storage needed—and print them out! Do you know that you can go on friend’s page and click on “see friendship” and see only posts and pictures of you and that friend?)
· It’s open 24 hours.
I am a night owl. I went from working nights in bars after 14 years to working days in an office when I became a single mother. Nobody I worked with stayed up late at all, or would consider going out after 8 (it got worse when I started driving a school bus—damn, those bus drivers go to bed early!). And I would be home, the kids would be in bed and I’d be wide awake. Facebook gave me social time, without me having to get a babysitter and leave the house. It was the same when I was working out of state; I could still ‘visit’ with my friends.
· It allows you to make and keep connections.
There is a safe feeling in the anonymity we feel when hiding behind a computer screen. For some, it does give them the opportunity to put on a false front for causing trouble—but we aren’t focusing on them right now. We can drop our masks and be fearless and say what we want. And sometimes, that can lead to some real friendships when conversations turn deep. I’ve made some wonderful friends that I treasure this way, and we’ve even gone out of our ways to meet each other in person.
· It can encourage spontaneity.
Not doing anything? Want to? See what your friends are doing, where they are going. And just go. Friend surprises are nice (just don’t interrupt anniversary plans or anything like that!) J
· It’s good for reunions.
Any kind. How nice it is to find someone again that at one time had a big part in your daily life. Not just find them, but be able to be in constant communication with them. No more thinking, “I wonder what happened to…” Social media even affects school reunions. More people are able to be contacted. And it’s nice that with even only the barest of online communication, when you see each other face to face there is still enough recent contact that the ice is already broken. No more, “Oh my God! It’s SO nice to see you again…” and then both are staring at each other with smiles plastered on their faces, not knowing what to say, until someone just walks away! There will be enough recent information for conversation!
And then there are other types of reunions.
…reunited and it feels so good… (sorry! song break!)
· It offers free advertisement and promotion.
While the Home Plate restaurant in Taunton may not know Kathy-O, I’m sure they were well aware of an increase in sales of Rocket Pop Martini’s after her first picture was posted!
Our friends are writing books and making music and art. We can find out when they’re performing, or when their product comes out. Groups of friends can follow another friend’s band.
· It encourages us to go out and get together.
(See previous paragraph). We create groups on Facebook and do things together. We create artistic masterpieces and abandon them randomly for whoever is lucky enough to find them. We give each other ideas of things to do. We try new recipes (or, in my case, find someone to cook for us) and we share them. We have more meals together because of this. We see our friends going to a certain bar or family establishment and we decide to go because of what they had to say about it.
· It promotes sharing.
(See previous paragraph). Ideas, information…even things. “Hey, I have this item and I don’t need it anymore…”
A friend’s mother passed recently. My friend lives out of state. But I was able to go to the wake because I heard about it on FB, and it was held here near me. I hadn’t seen her mother since we were in high school. I hadn’t seen my friend since our high school reunion, and before that not since high school. But when we were kids I went on a number of their family trips with them. They were the ones that got me liking the clam cakes at Rocky Point Park. Even without having had new time to have spent with them, I would have been sad if I hadn’t found out about it and been able to pay my last respects to a woman who included me in her family for a period of our lives.
We are given the opportunities to share memories with shared friends. We can remember together, and laugh and cry together.
· We can talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Conversations don’t have to wait until someone is near a phone—or even awake, for that matter. Even when time is an issue (or time zones), you can have an ongoing conversation with anyone. Yes, it may take longer than a call or face-to-face, but when life gets busy this is a little sunshine. And, it even encourages more face time.
When I worked in an office I was able to just turn to my co-worker if I wanted to take a moment’s break and just talk. I work at home now, in my bedroom. There are no co-workers to hear me, even if I yell. I’m already on the computer, so I just click the mouse and can have a quick chat or laugh with someone and just as quickly go back to work.
· It adds to travel plans.
Driving somewhere? How many friends are on that route? How many let you know that you are welcome to stop by and visit? Flying anywhere? Who lives near where you will be? Wouldn’t it be nice to see them?
And now for the “What ifs”:
What if the global climate has changed so much 100 years from now that our pictures of sunsets, the sky and the moon mean something to someone who doesn’t have the same sky to look at? What if cooking is so different then that someone finds a picture of a meal or recipe that was posted and relearns food? Or makes an actual scientific discovery about something because of something, anything, that showed up in one of our pictures? What if something we did now just made someone smile later?
Or, you could look at it this way:
We are the record keepers. One day years from now someone will be looking back and find something we left. I remember how cool it was, when I worked in a law office and we found a will that was handwritten from the early 1900’s. Or when I was working in the bar (established 1924) and found some really old bar tools, coins and handwritten receipts and tabs. With the exception of those who created time capsules, most of us aren’t looking to really ‘leave’ anything for posterity; we just go about our lives. What a record we, those of us born to baby-boomers and just after, are leaving about this whole historical period of technology? We who were getting into the job markets as they were changing so drastically? Those of us who got “introductory” computer classes in school without a computer in the room? All the changes made and being made in schooling? How many incarnations of television and home video (video games?) have we seen? Or the cell phone?
How much easier would researching our genealogy be if they had then what we have now?
Maybe later someone will find something we wrote or posted and say, “Wow look how they did that!” or “Even that long ago people felt this way!”
Or, they may just say, “Wow. They were fucking idiots back then!”
(Either way, they’ll have enough proof to write a book about it.)
FaceBook and other social media sites do not replace real time with real people, but they don’t kill real communication, either. We do that on our own. It all comes down to us.