I Still Love You Facebook

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Two years ago, Hurricane Harvey nearly destroyed the neighborhood in Houston, Texas, where I grew up. A few weeks after the storm, one of my high school friends created a Facebook group in which people shared childhood memories as a way to heal from the tragedy. It has been thirty years since I lived in Houston, but reading all of the messages connected me back to my roots and to my community.  Many of those individuals helped shape the person I am today.

The world has grown tired of Facebook. People are ignoring their accounts or, in some cases, shutting them down. Studies show that spending too much time on social media can lead to depression and isolation. Facebook has created and faced scandals. People use the social media outlet as a source of bullying, stalking, creating hate messages and trying to harm others. While this is true and undeniably awful, I find that Facebook has also contributed to my life in positive ways.

As I scrolled through my home page awhile back, I proceeded to write a comment on a friend’s photo from a milestone event.  Above my comment, I noticed a post from someone whose name I recognized from my past. I took a chance and sent her a message. I was her “mother’s helper” when I was nine years old. For the phone less generation, finding these connections to the past are mind blowing.

Facebook has connected me with camp friends that I haven’t seen since the 1970s and college friends who are scattered across the globe. We have watched each other’s families grow, sent “wall wishes” when  children graduated and acknowledged pain after a loss. During my empty nest travels, I added several friends to my FB world. Cousins whom I barely knew most of my life now sprinkle my feed with their photos. One day I hope to post a shot of our families together.

The Memories — two years, six years, even eight years. Some of these pictures can be wonderful (like the one of my daughter and husband decked out in Red Sox gear going to a playoff game six years ago) and others painful (a photo of a loved one that has passed on.) It’s like reaching into a shoebox of pictures and randomly picking one every few weeks, only to discover a different emotional reaction each time.

There was a time when bookshelves were filled with photo albums. These albums celebrated our lives, our families, our vacations, parties, anniversaries and holidays.  The only problem is that no one sees these memories because they are collecting dust on a high shelf.  While I can look at these photos whenever I want (but I don’t because of the high shelf),  it would have been nice to share some a few of these events with people I have collected throughout my life.

Even taking the photo can be fun.  I have a group of friends (well let’s be honest most of my friends) who want to take 40 shots from 40 different angles before we get it right. (Another beautiful thing is a phone with a camera so 39 can be deleted.) During those sessions, we act like silly teenagers. Jokes are told, someone erupts in laughter, others won’t sit still. The whole shoot is a comedy act. Ironically, the desire to get one perfect FB shot created quality time together filled with love and laughter.

There is nothing better than a Facebook birthday. Ten years ago, I got 15 cards if I was lucky. Now, over 300 people write on my wall. It’s like I have won the lottery! I get that virtual relationships are hard to navigate, but I just love seeing people from all parts of my life wishing me well on my special day.

People may read this and disagree, and I welcome discussion about social media from different perspectives. Facebook may not be perfect, but it does have a place in our lives and society. I guess if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em applies here. After all, I would never remember your birthday on my own.

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