It is the time of year for effusive expressions of grace and gratitude. Just today, I have been thanked on-line for being a customer, thanked for writing book reviews for publishers’ sites, and thanked for having my groceries delivered. To all of these people, I wish to say, “You’re welcome. “ Shortly, I will express more tangible thanks to my hairdresser, my postman, and the UPS guy who knows me and my Zappo’s boxes far too well.
However, there is a person that I have never met who I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart at this season of effusive praise to total strangers.
Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg.
I bet you didn’t expect that one, huh? Now, Zuck (do you mind if I call you that? It’s informal, I know, but you do always wear that hoody that makes you seem sort of casual), you and I are not acquaintances. I have never met you, I am not friends with you, and I wouldn’t expect you to know me if I fell over you and your accomplished bride on the street. However, I would like to thank you for bringing Facebook into my life.
I did see the movie, and I know that there is controversy as to whether you really invented Facebook or co-opted the idea from those 8”X10” glossies, the Winklevoss twins. Nonetheless, I will give you credit for the discovery since you’re the one making the big fortune from its popularity and commercialization.
I also know that the idea of Facebook was really supposed to be the exclusive territory of college students looking to meet their dorm mates. Of course, you realize it never would have reached the astronomical popularity that it has without the intrusion of Baby Boomers. We rapidly greying folk (I can only speak for myself and my own hair color) co-opted the site and turned it into a sharing agency for grandchildren’s pictures, old age-related memes, political screeds, and pasted pictures of our favorite recipes and crafts. I have compared the site before to an endless Christmas letter of bragging and boasting
On the flip side of the coin, Facebook has re-connected me with a large portion of my high school class plus people several years younger than me and several years older than me who all grew up in roughly the same geographical area as I did. It’s such a revelation how we’ve traveled our separate roads but still maintain a “homeness” that connects us in ways that cannot be easily defined. I have fewer friends from college who have joined my Facebook list, but the ones I have are “cherce,” to quote Spencer Tracy. (Yes, people my age know who Spencer Tracy was. I don’t even have to explain him to my Facebook friends). Yesterday, two of these friends, college sweethearts, posted a picture of themselves in front of their house with their adorable grandchild. I couldn’t help thinking that they’ve grown up so nicely and yet I would know them anywhere as my college friends. Would I have seen this picture if not for the Facebook community? Probably not because we hadn’t been in touch with each other for a very long time. I am so happy to have reconnected with them and another college friend who actually taught me a great deal about independence when I was fresh out of college. She may not realize it, but she was a role model as well as a friend.
I have moved around some, in my adult life. My Facebook friends are a geographical reminder of the places I’ve seen and the homes I’ve left behind. Some were physically there when I left my hometown for my far-flung adult life, while others have seen me through job loss and traumatic moves. However, through the invention of the internet and Facebook, I have this far flung rooting section that “likes” me when I say something either sincere or humorous, and encourages me with a line or two of praise just when I need it. I am grateful for those special “shares” when I’ve felt low and needed to be lifted up.
This is not to say that Facebook is without its pitfalls. I have “unfriended” and been “unfriended” many times, especially during political campaigns. I have also “unfriended” at least one high school date who seemed to be stalking me for a while. Oh, well. Funny how he wasn’t that interested when he dumped me on prom night. Obviously, I turned out better than he expected.
Facebook has enabled me to see my nieces’ families grow up even though I’ve been geographically distant most of their lives. I get to rejoice when my friends become grandparents. I get to express condolences when far flung friends lose parents or spouses. There was a time when my mother, long deceased now, filled this role by sending me birth announcements and obituaries from my hometown paper. I suppose you might say that Facebook has taken over the role of “town crier” that my mother once filled.
Sure, Facebook invades our privacy and sells our information to advertisers, but so do a lot of other companies. Very little is private these days as people discuss everything from business to their divorces on their cell phones in very public places. As I’ve tried to explain to my computer-novice sister, the minute you use a credit card, everyone knows your business and, yes, that’s scary. However, I love the fact that the community of people I know, while it has grown and stretched from coast to coast and top to bottom, is actually much smaller now because I visit with them daily and come to know their inner thoughts far better than I did when we were younger. The loss of a degree of privacy is worth it to me to regain special people from my past and gain new friends-of-friends.
For someone who still can’t correctly use a cell phone and has never been one to go out for casual dinners, Facebook is extroversion for introverts; mental stimulation for the times in our lives when memory seems to fail; and a lovely way to get back the pieces of our lives that otherwise would have been lost in time.
Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for making my life a little richer with old acquaintances, new pals, and a snapshot of my life from kindergarten to today.
Would it be okay if I “friended” you?