Other than Leah’s odd post, this is the first time I’ve had a guest post and I’m proud to have my friend (and old boss) Tara Scott writing here today about Facebook. I’ve wrestled with this exact same topic and have come to very similar answers; however, I am a little more curmudgeonly about it—as you might expect. Enjoy!
I have a lot of mixed feelings about Facebook. I know people who have quit and I sometimes think they’ve got the right idea. I don’t like the way Facebook is happy to play fast and loose with my personal information, claiming that everyone wants to be open these days.
So why not just quit? It’s certainly possible, and while it’s a bit complicated to actually permanently delete an account, there’s something clean about that idea. I’d be out of the system, done supporting a huge network that doesn’t care about me, but instead thinks of me as part of an advertising demographic that’s interested in real estate purchases, weight loss supplements and solutions to help make a baby.
But everytime I start to consider quitting, I think about my family. You see, I have my mom, brothers, some of my aunts and many of my cousins on Facebook. If I can’t easily get to a phone but want to get in touch with my mom, it’s the best way to go since she’ll always answer me on Facebook faster than she’ll answer me over email. And because so many people from my extended family are on there and are posting every day, I find myself getting to know all of them better now that I live 3,000 km away than I did when I lived locally.
A perfect example is when my grandmother passed away. I knew right away that things were going downhill because my aunt sent a message to let me know, and she kept me up to date for the next few days until Grandma died. And because I knew, I was able to tell my cousin in Seattle when I saw her online. In the end, even though I couldn’t make it to the funeral, I still felt like I was a part of it because so many people in the family were posting updates and photos. It looked like it was such a beautiful time and I was so proud to be connected to all of those people.
And that’s really what so much our experiences online are about. We want to feel connected to other people, share our ideas and have them heard. Maybe we even want to share our pain, tell someone else what is breaking our hearts and know that there are other people out there feeling exactly the same way. And the amazing thing is when other people do respond, like with the It Gets Better Project. What started with one video reaching out to gay teens to tell them that life gets better after bullying has blown up into thousands of videos with millions of views from people like performers, clergy, nations and even President Obama. It’s been beautiful and breathtaking to see so many people care about a cause and come together, even when most of them have never met in person.
In my own small way, I feel like that’s what Facebook has given me. It’s my connection to people I care about, a window into their daily lives. Sometimes that means hearing about good news like someone getting a new job, or bad news like hearing about Grandma, but I’m grateful for the chance to connect.
(If you have the time, check out this TED Talk from Ze Frank. It’s related and it’s excellent.)
Tara Scott is proof positive that you can get work outside the retail and service industries with two degrees in English literature. Married to a novelist and owner to two ridiculous dogs, she blogs regularly at Versus Boredom.