The same morning I posted my blog about Facebook, I chatted with a good friend at the pool. We were having one of those 'half-conversations' where you chat with one side of your face whilst you turn the other towards the baby pool to make sure your toddler isn't clobbering a 5-yr old with a large bucket.
I think the conversation was steering towards our individual struggles with *certain* of our kids, and I offered " yeah, I posted a blog today, about why I'm on Facebook so much," intending to expand that to where I get advice/encouragement/input on the odd behaviors of my kids. "Eh. I'm pretty bored of Facebook" was her response - and before I could say, but no, wait, here's why YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE!!! - one of our kids needed something, and the half-conversation was left hanging.
But it got me thinking. This friend doesn't need Facebook. She is one the most socially skilled people I know. I watch her as she navigates Poolside Life - she stops and chats in a genuinely interested way with almost every person sitting there. It takes her 20 minutes to get from her chair to the locker room for a shower because there is always someone to catch up with on her way. She is able to get a daily run in because her network of friends is always willing to keep an eye on her kids, and in her daily routine of swim team/swim lessons/sports practices/birthday parties/work(!), she manages, because she is so connected with her community, with the people around her.
Check out this link for just a tiny glimpse of what passes for a day in Betsy's summer life. And this one for her take on her 'village' and the support they offer.
Get this: SHE'S A LIVING BREATHING FACEBOOK PAGE. It's true. Betsy is living - in real time, in face-to-face contact - a life that models how Facebook's creators wanted us to connect. She shares a book recommendation. She checks in with this friend, fills them in on an event of mutual interest, and then redirects a small child to a parent who's moved to the other side of the pool. She doles lunch out with one hand whilst tracking down Kid #4's blue goggles with the other. She never hesitates to pick up the phone to fill me in on some small detail that she thought I might miss (you know, some minor point like "didja know school's canceled today??")
Well. Before she gets uncomfortable with my unofficial Fan Page here, my point is this. She has a gift: a gift of connecting with people in a genuine, meaningful way that makes you glad you saw her that day. As I watch her, I learn a great deal, and I admire what she does.
Now, anyone who's been friends with me for any length of time knows how poorly I keep up. I never call, I never write. It's true. So here's how Facebook has changed my life: it lets me do that. I am able to fire off a quick message to a friend in Germany whose address I can never find. It lets me congratulate a friend on a new baby, so that those good wishes aren't waiting on my organizational skills and the USPS. I can even keep track of my own husband's random thoughts and ideas - with long hours commuting, he and I don't get to share as much as we'd like to in a face to face conversation.
Now lament all of this 'postmodern' media as much as you want: I'm certainly not suggesting that Facebook replace a real conversation or that a hand-written letter will EVER go unappreciated. I'm merely saying that if it helps me find my community, if it gives me the tools to even be half the social creature that Betsy is, it is no bad thing.
My friends are dear to my heart, far flung, and so diverse. I'm delighted to have a way to keep track of them. One more vote in the 'yay!'column for Facebook.