Let me say upfront that I have some gripes about Facebook. Just when this old dog is comfortable with functions and features, some so-called upgrade happens and she has to learn new tricks. I resent that Wordscraper players I know have gotten debilitating viruses. I seethe when a dialog box pops up with some new offering, such as linking my personal profile to some public doohickey and gives me only two choices, “Now” or “Later.”
Those grievances aside, I think Facebook is the coolest thing to come along in, oh I don’t know, maybe ever.
I happen to have a lot of friends and I cherish every one. It has taken a lot of effort over the years to maintain these friendships, but it’s been well worth the investment. If I look at my life as a quilt, each square, stitch and wad of batting represents laughs shared, bread broken, hard times endured or secrets kept.
Before I make my point, I have a confession. I really don’t like the telephone. If there’s someone I haven’t seen or spoken with in a long time, it’s not only difficult but hugely frustrating to try and catch up on life over the phone. You have to remember the high points, funny stories, details that might be of narrow interest. Phone calls happen in real time. Real time isn’t always practical. Please don’t get me wrong. If a friend in need called me, I’d spring into action. And I’d never turn down or resent a call from a loved one.
Facebook gives us the opportunity to share the little things that connect us day by day and give our lives texture. It brings us together during a blizzard when we might otherwise be feeling isolated. It allows us to make each other laugh, rally around a cause or share our love of books, movies and music.
Facebook has been criticized for providing an outlet for drooling out useless minutia. Admittedly, some status updates read as humor columnist Gene Weingarten describes in this week’s column: “I am currently squirting tepid whipped cream directly into my mouth from the can because my refrigerator is broken and this is the only source of nutrients I can find that has not yet spoiled…” But 99 percent of the posts I read make me smile or laugh out loud. I consider this a pretty enjoyable way to spend my time. And it is my time because I can interact when it is convenient for me and not when there’s a pot boiling over on my stove.
Facebook has also brought me closer to people I’ve known my whole life but not necessarily well—such as some cousins whom I didn’t know well as a child because we were apart in years or miles. It has been a blast hanging out with them online.
Those benefits aside, here’s the most remarkable thing about Facebook.
For years I have had a fantasy that all these smart, clever, witty friends I have could one day meet each other. Up to now, I thought that would only happen at my funeral.
I am amazed to see my fantasy coming true—on Facebook. All I have to do is throw out a comment and, voilà, a college chum in New Jersey is joking with a church friend now living in Barbados (who by the way happens to write a great blog called Living in Barbados). An old Dewey Beach house-mate living in Florida is in dialogue with my best friend from seventh grade, now living in Arizona. A colleague from 20 years ago, now living in Burbank, might be sharing a laugh with one of my distant in-laws living in Chihuahua. I was waiting for a friend living in New York City but studying at l’Institute de Francais, to strike up a tête-à-tête with my former OB/GYN, now living in Panama; I haven’t given up on that.
Nearly every day, the people in my life come together to share a laugh, often at my expense.
I love that.