Sometimes I find myself defending Facebook to those who haven't tried it. Invariably these people tell me it's a waste of time and they don't care if their friend is making baked chicken and rice pilaf for dinner. I understand their sentiments; I felt the same way a year ago. But that was before I joined the 70 billion other people on Facebook.
My Facebook habit started like most habits do. I 'only' signed up because I was trying to find a particular person, Wendy, who had been in Spain with me in the early 80's. I was hoping to organize a reunion for the seven or eight of us who shared that seminal time. The reunion never came to pass but I did find Wendy who now lives in Mexico married to the very boy she was dating all those years ago. I was delighted to reconnect with her if only in this little way.
As soon as I signed up I felt the heady rush of popularity as 'friend requests' poured in. All these people I know want to be my friend? Little old me? Of course now I realize that Facebook is set up so cleverly that people might be asking you to be their friend almost by accident. It combs email addresses and school affiliated lists to show you names of people you might know and might want to friend. Then, if you just twitch your finger near the enter button it shoots invitations out to them all.
But I didn't know that. I was flattered to be asked to be a friend. Yes! I will be your friend, I responded and so I jumped in. I didn't want to get "hooked" on Facebook of course, so I set up a policy for myself, 'I will only friend people on Facebook if they ask me first.' This is a little like saying, 'I will only eat the folded potato chips' to limit calories. It is a false and useless control system.
For a while I coasted by with that, only visiting Facebook if someone spoke to me directly (these messages come in to your email). Then I saw Richard B.'s name on someone else's friend list and I broke my first rule. Richard! I loved Richard! He was an old high school/band buddy who I'd completely lost touch with and I would love to know where he was and what he was up to. I friended him.
Now the floodgates were open. What happened to that woman whose wedding we went to in the eighties but had abruptly stopped getting Christmas cards from in the 90s? Want to know? Friend her! I started dreaming about people from my past. The neighbors we lived next door to for only one year in 1968. What were their names? There were seven kids and I played with Annette and my brother played with Ricky. Wonder what they're doing now? Look for them on Facebook! And Patti H. I was her BFF for one month in 1977 when we traveled to Spain with the Spanish club. She was from Pittsburgh; I from Detroit but we were pen pals for years. Whatever happened to her? Facebook her!
And so, like so many other people I am a bit of a fan of Facebook. After making fun of social media like the old cranky person I am, I am now a convert. I am not alone. According to Facebook the majority of their users are over 50 and that does not surprise me a bit. How else can you accumulate several dozen friends over the years unless you've lived several decades? And it is great for keeping in touch with all those people with whom you once had relationships in your storied past--from a co-worker at your first job to the kid you back-packed through Europe with--maybe you don't keep in touch by mail or phone but that doesn't mean they are forgotten.
That's the great thing about Facebook--just like email keeps us in touch in ways we would never have thought possible (my 10-year-old emails her 94-year-old Great Grandma) so does Facebook.
So yes, you nay-sayers, it is a bit of a time waster but I do indeed want to know that Wendy had fabulous salsa last week and Cher is thankful for the sunny day and Barb made a memorial rock garden for her sister this weekend.
In this tiny way I get to stay connected to all the people who were ever dear to me on a weekly basis not just through the dreary custom of Christmas cards (oh holiday letters, that's an entirely different blog). And in a world that moves ever faster I find that immensely comforting.
By the way, in case you were wondering, I'm making baked chicken and rice pilaf for dinner.