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Facebook; An Update

The internet superhighway as predicted by Vice President Al Gore (1993-2001). Facebook was launched in 2009.
Once again, it’s time for a Facebook assessment. I remember my reluctance to enter this virtual world, and my surrender. I’ve written about finding a college friend, the pleasure we’ve found in our posts, the constancy of our responses, the shared news about our creative lives. I enjoy the photographs my niece posts of her children and her husband posts of his new encaustic paintings. Yes, he’s painting again! We are separated by a continent but can eavesdrop on one another’s activities. This makes it easier to feel connected and to reconnect when we do see each other.

I post my website blog—this blog post that I am writing today—as a “note,” and the Facebook note feeds into Twitter which enhances my online profile and keeps my classes (mostly) filled. My prospective students check me out before signing up. Who can blame them? They are spending hard-earned money—a lot of it—and want to make sure it will not be wasted. I even use their Facebook posts and photographs as writing prompts in the workshop. Who would have ever thunk it? In fact, I encourage my students to write their hearts out on Facebook and in emails, not just sound bytes but long narratives: captions for every photograph, commentary in answer to every commentary. Facebook: yet another tool to keep the writing muscle supple.

But Facebook is more than a publicity or writing tool. It’s also a bulletin board, a graffiti wall, a communal well, a listening post. I find it particularly comforting when something awful is going on in the world which, alas, is all too frequent these days. People in the US and overseas post words of comfort or insight, and all at once the isolation, despair or frustration we feel is eased; we are a community. And, maybe just maybe, a shared link or two might suggest a way out of a conundrum: the refugee migration crisis, England’s imminent EU referendum, the US election. Or, more personally, a private woe expressed fleetingly on one particular day: “Dear FB Friends,” it might say, “I am not feeling so great today.” Incoming: lots of supportive messages and suggestions. And, for me, the impulse to pick up the phone and talk.

A dear friend, someone I see in the flesh in the city, once said to me that an old high school mate, now a FB friend, is ranting on his site. For some reason he won’t “unfollow,” him though this is easy enough to do now—a new, welcome function—without the finality of “unfriending.” Don’t we pick and choose our friends in the real world? So why not insist on civility on Facebook if that is our preference? The digital culture has evolved and so have we.

I can’t imagine my life these days without Facebook and I wonder, at times, whether friends and family who “don’t do Facebook” are missing out on this inclusive, global conversation. I intuit that they are and wish they’d consider joining.

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