Facebook. Love it, hate it or in-between — it’s hard to stay away from. I’ve heard lots of complaining recently about Facebook’s new algorithms — whatever they or that may be. Clearly, I don’t know much about how Facebook works, but I do know nothing in recent history has changed the way we stay in touch with the people we love or like — or even those we’ve friended (the word friended is not autocorrected for those confused as to whether Facebook has changed our everyday vernacular) in an I-knew-you-once, blasé, yawn-y kind of way.
I’ve used Facebook for business with limited success but boosting posts is exciting and fun because you’re hoping your written word (usually and inarguably pure genius that has the potential to change millions of lives) will reach those beyond your immediate scope of friends and followers. That somewhere in the blogosphere (no autocorrect for blogosphere either) your words will touch someone who needs a laugh or a hand or even, yes, a friend.
Facebook has provided us older folk the opportunity to connect with those from our faded pasts who somehow held onto a small nook in our hearts. Those childhood and college friends who — through time and geography and life — somehow organically slipped away. So, good on Facebook for that. And I, for one, am grateful for some of the wonderful people who have found their way back to me through the miracle that is Facebook.
If you strip away the complaints about not seeing posts from everyone, not being able to control your privacy to the extent you’d like and the whole cyberspying (yes, autocorrected) debacle, Facebook is, for all intents and purposes, a rather nice place to be. It’s a place, in equal measure, of self-congratulation and affirmation of others’ self-congratulation. It’s Pleasantville on steroids. Or The Truman Show. Depending on your lens.
In our heart of hearts, we know it isn’t statistically possible that every bride is “the most beautiful ever!” or every baby “should be on TV!” but that’s how we respond to posts from our nearest and dearest Facebook family. On Facebook, we trot out our best selves (and selfies) and comment on friends’ posts with all the enthusiasm of a kindergarten teacher whose class has finally lined up quietly for the first time.
I’ve developed my own inexplicable Facebook protocol, as I’m sure you have in some form (be honest, now). For example, there are the countless times I’ve written and then deleted comments on my friends’ posts, deeming them not complimentary or engaging enough. Or when I’ve scrolled through earlier comments to make sure mine isn’t just a simple repeat of what’s already been said ten times. As a parent, I don’t stalk my kids’ timelines because I’m afraid they’ll unfriend (no autocorrect) me. I don’t comment on their posts even when I see that Number Two Son was recently in another state just a few miles down the road from his grandmother whom he hasn’t seen in many months. Being “friends” with my kids (and mine are young adults) gives me a sweet window into their lives which I wouldn’t normally have. And I’m grateful for that, too.
Facebook is like a safe neighborhood. You can post that your dog died, your son got into law school or you just made the best lasagna ever and you know you’ll get condolences, salutations and eager requests for your secret recipe respectively. You can walk around Facebooktown and know your neighbors are smiling and friendly and wishing you well. Facebook is far from perfect but it’s as close to an idyllic community as you’re going to find. Perhaps younger folks engage in more snarkiness or bullying on Facebook, but those of us who’ve ridden the mechanical bull of life more than a few times, know we need to celebrate the little things and mourn the big ones with a community — as far-reaching and virtual — as it may be.
As a rule, I don’t engage in real life the way I do on Facebook and I’m going to guess that’s true for you, too. I don’t pepper every conversation with, “You haven’t aged a day!” or “Thanks so much for sharing!” So, perhaps, Facebook brings out — for a few moments a week — our light, our better sides and the recognition that most of us know what it means to be kind and decent. If nothing else, Facebook reminds us there’s no autocorrect for good, old-fashioned nice.