More about why I appreciate Facebook…

June 5, 2011 @ 9:32 am | Filed under: , ,

…despite its being, you know, Facebook.

Scott thought a remark I made in the comments ought to be pulled onto the main page and elaborated on a bit, so here it is. In response to a nice thing Melanie had said, I replied:

I do like thinking aloud about the new media…I tend to be an early adopter, and I’ve tried out loads of things that I didn’t stick with for one reason or another. The way I know something works for me is if I’m still using it a year later. :) There are many platforms I’ve enjoyed briefly but didn’t find expedient over time (for example, I love the look & functionality of Listography but forget about it for long stretches of time, which tells me it wasn’t quite the right platform for my daily needs).

There are things about Facebook that drive me batty (the privacy issues) but there’s nothing quite like it for staying in touch, is there? I mean, I’ve been on the internet since 1995, active on bulletin boards and email groups from 1995-2008, blogging daily since Jan 2005, on Twitter since 2007—but not until Facebook was I in daily internet contact with my relatives, high school friends, college friends, grad school friends, old work friends, etc. PLUS the interaction with online friends (with whom I became friendly first via boards, lists, blogs, etc), kidlitosphere colleagues, and so forth. And I find I really count on FB to let me know quickly who is safe when, say, a freak tornado touches down in Massachusetts!!

And actually, I think my main point got a bit lost in that paragraph. It’s this: not until Facebook was I in daily internet contact with my relatives. My closest cousins, some of my aunts and uncles, one of my sisters and her husband, my other sister’s daughter, three of my four sisters-in-law, many of my nieces and nephews on Scott’s side. That’s a big deal.

My father is also quite active on FB, to my delight—I seem to Like just about everything he posts 😉 —and he shows my mom all the photos and kid-quips Jane and I post there. But my affection for Facebook isn’t because it lets me share glimpses of daily life with others—as I said, I’ve been doing that via a variety of platforms (including, for a long while, a private family blog) since 1995. What I love about FB is that it, for whatever reason, seems to be the first platform that has compelled a large number of my loved ones to share glimpses of their daily lives online. And I really, really love that. Scott and I have never lived close to our families, and the telephone is not the easiest way for this mom-of-small-children to keep up with loved ones. Appropriate phone-call hours overlap too completely with attending-to-younguns hours.

In my first twelve years on the internet, the people I talked to were almost entirely new acquaintances. Some of them have become very real and dear friends—Huck’s godmother, for example. I’ve met dozens of internet-first friends in person, several of them repeatedly. They’re real friends, and I’m glad to have them in my life. But it wasn’t until Facebook, these past couple of years, that I had the pleasure of seeing, on a daily basis, what my cousins are up to, and my high-school friends, my college friends, my grad school friends…all of them, friends I’ve not lived near since the pertinent graduations, and so many of us busy these past two decades raising our families, attending to our jobs. It would take me hours and hours of telephone time each week to find out what Facebook can tell me in ten minutes.

(Occurs to me I can sum up this entire post with that one sentence.)

Don’t get me wrong—I love those long, gossipy phone conversations. I’m simply unable to manage them very often during this season of my life. And this season has been sixteen years long!

Keeping a blog doesn’t appeal to everyone. Commenting on blogs doesn’t appeal to everyone. For whatever reason— convenience, layers of (hypothetical) privacy, the visual format— Facebook seems to appeal to a much wider swath of people. I love being able to see, with one click, my niece’s prom pictures, a birth announcement from my high-school friend, a link to an article written by a grad-school classmate, and the beautiful wedding photo of one of my very first internet acquaintances—now a real-life friendship spanning sixteen years. I love the reminder that today is my Uncle Eddie’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Uncle Eddie!

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19 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. DT says:

    Well. That is rather perfect. It is not possible for that to have been put better. Nicely done, my Facebook Pal!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Yup. I totally agree. FB didn’t appeal to me until all of my family hopped on board. I would have gradually lost touch with all my cousins, but not now. It’s wonderful.

  3. Karen Edmisten says:

    “In my first twelve years on the internet, the people I talked to were almost entirely new acquaintances. Some of them have become very real and dear friends—Huck’s godmother, for example.”

    … who just wrote a whiny post about how she’s still trying to figure out how to best use and enjoy FB. 🙂 I’m always far behind the curve and you’re always way ahead. One of the many things I love about you. 😀

  4. Melissa Wiley says:

    I require a like button for these comments!

  5. Melissa Wiley says:

    P.S. Karen—one thing about being an overeager experimenter the way I am is that I wind up with a very high fail-rate for the things I attempt. I play with lots of stuff and stick with little.

    (I used to feel somewhat rueful about this, seeing it as evidence of a flaky or dilettantish temperament—but as I get older, I’m realizing it takes flakes like me to find out the bugs in a platform. I mean, back in hunt-and-gather days, *somebody* had take the first nibble of those leaves and roots, right? We’re not dilettantes, we’re explorers! Yeah, that’s the ticket.)

  6. scott (the other one) says:

    You can see why I was so nervous for the first few years of our relationship: at any point she was likely to suddenly look at me and think, “…nope. Doesn’t really work for me.”

  7. MelanieB says:

    You sum up Facebook so well.

    “not until Facebook was I in daily internet contact with my relatives.”

    Exactly. I’ve got family scattered from coast to coast, most of whom I’ve only met in real life less than a dozen times and Facebook lets me peek at their lives because we don’t talk on the phone and we only see each other in person maybe once every ten years. It’s so much better than hearing third-hand info via my parents, which is all I had prior to Facebook. I like to know that my aunt and uncle just spent a week in Umbria and to see their pictures. I love watching my cousin’s baby twins grow.

    Also I love reconnecting with college friends. I’d never have expected some of them to become homeschoolers, for example. We now have so much more in common than we did back then.

    “It would take me hours and hours of telephone time each week to find out what Facebook can tell me in ten minutes.”

    That’s definitely the heart of it. I can hardly find time to talk to my parents these days. So Facebook does save my relationship and creates new ones.

    And I like the hunter-gatherer metaphor. Definitely an intrepid explorer! I am so grateful to you and Dom and my mom and the other nibblers in my life. If it weren’t for you I’d never have got on Facebook at all and I’d be missing out.

  8. Karen Edmisten says:

    Yes, I’m glad you no longer feel rueful about it. Once you’ve done all the tasting and nibbling slackers like me say, “Oh! That’s what works! That’s how to do it. Yeah, yeah, I’ll try *that*!”

    So, we slackers and latecomers owe you a great debt and fortunately none of your electronic nibbling is poisonous. I love how you find the delectable stuff and then teach us how to consume it. Left to my own devices, I would have starved in hunter-gatherer times, saying things like, “Who can eat this walnut thing? It’s hard as a rock!” Then you would come along and enlighten me about cracking the shell. (Hey, I’m loving this analogy …. )

  9. sarah says:

    I am in two minds about what I want to use FB for. Currently it’s my private place – yes I know it’s not *really* private, but I cherish the illusion! For that reason, I hesitate to connect with my family. On the other hand, so many of them live scattered about the world, it would be great to connect with them. So I’m undecided.

  10. Molly Norris says:

    Na and I love being able to see what you and your family are up to. FB has allowed me a glimpse of the kids and yourself that I would not have otherwise. Hugs to all.

  11. Melissa Wiley says:

    Hey everybody, say hi to my sister Molly!! 🙂

  12. Jennifer says:

    I know I miss out on FB postings from family, and I don’t avoid FB for evils, but trying to stop me from wasting more of my time on the computer. While keeping up with the family is appealing, I do find some tendencies to personal laziness — I could try to keep better contact with some relatives in other ways. Emails and phone calls are still around, and then snail mail still works. Plus, I’m bad at posting pictures, whether it be blog or email, or Snapfish, etc. I’m not good at it…and one more venue isn’t going to change my bad habits!

  13. Laurie M says:

    Hi Molly!!
    I’m so happy with facebook and being able to keep in touch with family in Iowa.

    My favorite story is how my cousin posted their trip from Iowa to Las Vegas 2 summers ago and it was going to be the same weekend we were driving to LV from California, so we were able to meet up for dinners and fun that weekend.

    We are not cousins that ever phone called or wrote to each other so we would have never known if not for fb. But since then we see each other’s posts everyday!

    And this year being able to post my mother’s health issues one time to go out to all of her siblings and my cousins at one time has saved so much time.


  14. Elizabeth M says:

    I’m with you. Just a couple years ago, I never would have imagined that I’d be on FaceBook. I really thought it was just for high school and college kids.

    But then I visited my sister after her twins were born. She’d just joined and connected with some friends from high school. So she showed it to me. Then it became a way to see pictures of her 4 kids from hundreds of miles away.

    Now that our grandparents are gone, it’s the only way I really keep in contact with a number of my cousins across the country — I have 18 and I’m the oldest. So several of my cousins are having their first babies. On FaceBook, I get to keep up with their families in a way that I wouldn’t third-hand from their parents to mine to me.

    I have also connected with friends from high school, college, and grad school. It’s funny how much more we share now that we have our own families.

    I don’t spend a lot of time on it — a quick check in most mornings and then maybe following suggested links or browsing photos later in the day.

    It’s also fun to share little things. We posted pictures of the robin’s nest in our front bush from eggs to first flights. It was fun to show how quickly the chicks went from “pink aliens” to actual birds.

    I don’t FaceBook my every thought or activity — but there are things I share and I like when others share — happy and sad, funny and thoughtful.

    I think the key is to find what works for you. With the right security settings and the right choices of who to friend, it works for me.

  15. Melissa Wiley says:

    Ah, Jennifer, I’m afraid if I reply I’ll sound like I’m giving FB a hard sell and I don’t mean to at all—I quite understand that it doesn’t appeal to everyone, for a variety of reasons. I’ve long wished we could talk my *other* sister into joining the family party there, but her job requires long hours on the computer and she doesn’t want anything to do with a screen in her free time. I can grok that. 🙂

    But let me offer a counter perspective. For me, the value of Facebook is in what I *get*, not what I give. Does that sound selfish? I’ll explain. I can post news and photos here, and family and friends may come and see them if they wish. But no one else in the family blogs, and no one besides me and my father posts pictures on Flickr or another photo venue. I tried several venues, over the years, for encouraging the family to share photos—, a private photo blog, etc—and none of them took. But FB, for whatever magical reason, has. Maybe it’s because those family members, like me, can keep up with family *and* friends via FB, making the most out of their social networking time—versus spending time uploading news or photos to a private family site and then still having/wanting to share them with friends elsewhere as well.

    Finally, finally, all the niece and nephew pix and news my heart desires! That’s huge!

  16. Hannah @ A Quiet Spot says:

    I, too, have enjoyed reconnecting with relatives and longlost friends via FB. I’m a terrible long-distance relationshipper, and the contact I have on FB, even if it isn’t terribly deep or substantial, feels meaningful because many of those relationships would otherwise go untended. Especially if they relied, like you said, on those long phone conversations we never seem to have time for once we become parents!

  17. MelanieB says:

    “I tried several venues, over the years, for encouraging the family to share photos—, a private photo blog, etc—and none of them took. But FB, for whatever magical reason, has. ”

    Us too. MyFamily worked for a little while but it was pretty clunky compared to FB. The interface just wasn’t as friendly. The site still exists but no one posts anything there anymore. Now its all on FB. And much more lively.

  18. Kathy says:

    In contrast, my side of the family is on FB, and photo sharing there and on Flickr is adequate.

    My husband’s side of the family is not (well, my SIL is, but she was away at college). I use Flickr for family photo sharing, but it’s only in the past month or so that my MIL figured out how to download pictures so she could print out hard copies, which is what she really wanted anyway. And no one ever says anything nice about the pictures, just complains if they are too long in coming!

    I love that technology enables us to communicate with our families who are both far away. But sometimes I think that it causes unreasonable expectations. I know some people (my parents ;-)) post pictures the instant they get home from a trip. But it takes me some time to post things and I don’t like being made to feel bad about it!

  19. Ami Jones says:

    My favorite personal Facebook story is when I found two old friends from college. We went to one in Ohio, where I grew up: they had grown up in West Virginia. They dated all the way through college, so as we caught up on the past two decades, I wasn’t surprised to hear they had married and now have two little girls. We finally got around to the “Where are you now” part. I am in a smallish town in new Mexico. They were…six blocks away. I kid you not. I think we could hear the simultaneous shriek from each others’ houses. Eventually, of course, we would have seen each other in Walmart and done a double take, but how long would that have been?