I laughed, I cried, I clicked “like”

September 18, 2013 | Life in My 50s

Every once in a while I think about canceling my Facebook account. Really. But I know that, if for no other reason, my work requires me to be here. I have a love-hate relationship with the social media monster that sucks up so much of my free time. But lately I have to admit that I’ve really been feeling the love for Facebook. Well, maybe not for Facebook but for the people and conversations and connections Facebook brings into my life on a daily basis.

On any given day, I might carry on multiple conversations with friends far and wide — some I’ll see in town, others I might see once in a blue moon, but most I will never see (or have never ever seen in real life). But inevitably I’ll find myself drawn into discussions that alternately leave me laughing or crying or a combination of the two. And what I realize is that this space, this void that so often gets a bad rap for being nothing more than digital navel-gazing and self-promotion and wasted hours, has become a very real community for me. As someone who works alone from home all day, every day, Facebook is my water cooler and my cafeteria and my happy hour. And not in a creepy pathetic way, but in a really uplifting and almost spiritual way. Yeah, Facebook is spiritual for me, but then again so is oatmeal.

When I can sign onto my computer at any given hour and connect with friends I haven’t visited in years or share a difficult moment with someone who’s going through a tough time or just post something silly that might make someone else smile, I’m making a spiritual connection. We all are, whether we admit it or not. Earlier this week, I posted an update thanking everyone for making me feel just a little less insane, and I meant it. If I read that a friend in Canada accidentally used her dog’s poultry-flavored enamel-boosting toothpaste instead of the mint-flavored people-version, well, suddenly driving the wrong kid to the wrong location doesn’t seem all that bad. Solidarity is a powerful thing, even when it’s virtual.

And two days ago when I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment despite a pile of deadlines and obligations staring me in the face, it actually had everything to do with the silly IM conversation I had with two friends that went from autocorrect-inspired miscommunication to a downright hilarious exchange. How can I not feel content knowing that I may be in my office all alone, but I am surrounded by friends and strangers who share so many of the same struggles and joys in their own lives. It’s a good thing.

Just this morning, despite all the good stuff I find there, I thought about going on a Facebook hiatus. It just seemed like a good thing to do, to break the dependence on this online world that commands so much of my attention. But then I came downstairs and saw messages and posts and stories and comments, and I knew I couldn’t do it. And why would I want to? This is the modern-day version of talking over the backyard fence, and I’m lucky to have some really great neighbors here in Facebookland.

This whole Facebook experience may have started as a way to get information about my books out into the world, but it has shifted to something much better, something significant, which may seem odd when taken on face value but becomes abundantly clear when you break down the comments and updates and private conversations that are occurring there. And I know I’m not alone because another FB friend — someone I have never met and know only peripherally through my husband — posted a similar status update about the “magic of FB” just yesterday. (As it turns out, the two of us are planning to meet some time soon because we have realized we are so similar it’s scary. And that’s a pretty great discovery to make out of the clear blue sky with a  perfect stranger.)

So thank you to all of you who make up that Facebook community. You really are a blessing in my life.


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