Recently, I had the good fortune to reconnect with two of my cousins on my father’s side through a group on Facebook for people with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). This is the disease that is on my father’s side of the family and which is the reason I had my transplant ten years ago.
I actually got a friend request from a woman whose name I didn’t recognize, but I figured she was a writer as a lot of my Facebook friends are writers. When I clicked on her page I saw her maiden name which is the same as mine and that she had, among her friends, a man with the same name as another of my cousins.
Before I had a chance to send her a message to ask if we were indeed related, I got a note from her saying she found me through the PKD group. It turns out she has a page on Facebook searching for a kidney donor as her PKD has worsened.
I thought this was such an exciting thing (Finding her and seeing that she’s taking a non-conventional route to finding a donor) that I sent a note to all my writing groups, sharing this information.
My email program must have a glitch because apparently, although I sent this about 15 days ago, people are just now responding and I’ve gotten some surprising comments.
In one group, the discussion quickly turned into a “rant” about how Facebook is terrible because of all the private information that is now available to anyone and how the world is all so “social” that real live, face to face, interactions are dying.
I started to write a response because I think some of that is wrong and some is true but not the fault of Facebook or even the Internet itself, but I decided that would serve no purpose. Instead, I decided to write a blog post instead.
Periodically, I find some of my friends on Facebook freaking out because “people can find your phone number” so easily. I’m not totally sure why this is so bad, but I guess these same people don’t remember that even though no one I know uses one anymore, phone books are still printed and they are specifically designed to allow people to find your phone number.
It used to be a thing. If you wanted to talk to someone to invite them out or give them information or just chat, you’d look up their name in the phone book and voila, there was their number! Plain as day, right in print!
How did we ever manage to avoid stalkers? And you know what, your address was right there, too!
Another criticism I’ve read of the Internet and Facebook in particular is that we’ve lost the ability to have face to face relationships because we’re living our lives virtually.
Well, I don’t have any scientific data on this, but personally, I don’t see how we can “live our lives virtually” for real. Most of us still have to leave our houses to go to work or to school, and we have to leave to do many things that are just part of life. I actually feel like I spend most of my time running errands when I’d rather be at home writing. The Internet/Facebook hasn’t changed the way I get groceries or pick up my prescriptions or go to the dentist. And I have to deal with people in all those arenas, face to face. Facebook hasn’t changed that.
However, something it has done is given me friends, true and real friends, in far away places. For instance, right now, I have a friend living in the Northeast who I met through a group of romance authors who were formerly in the military. She and I have shared our weight loss struggles and she sent me a message, through Facebook, that I inspired her to join Weight Watchers and we’ve been supporting and encouraging one another through messages back and forth.
I have another friend that I met in 2006 when I went to the RWA National Conference. She wishes she lived in France but she really lives in the Midwest. We’ve chatted about a lot of things and interests we share through Facebook and I don’t think we’d be this close if it weren’t for the Internet.
I’ve reconnected with family members spread far and wide, as well as high school and college friends. I’ve listened online to a radio station in Harrisburg, PA online because one of my dear college friends did the traffic in the mornings.
I don’t worry about stalkers, which seems to be a big concern with other people in regard to the amount of information and photos that go online. Facebook, for me, is a kind of backup for all my photos and scrapbook pages.
I understand there are weirdos out there who want to look at pictures of kids for sick reasons, but I don’t think it’s any riskier to put pictures of my kids out there for family and friends to see than it is to let them actually be outside. There have been sickos throughout time. Facebook didn’t create them. Any guy with a camera could take his own pictures of anyone’s kid if he really wanted to. I would rather that my friends could see how cute my kid is than worry.
Someone said that because of how easy and social the Internet is, people have forgotten how to write letters.
I have moved five times since I got married and every time, I’d cry in my friends’ arms and they’d promise to write. I would get to my new home and be horribly lonely for my friends back home and write letters (this was back in the late 80s/early 90s – no easily accessible Internet) to the friends back home with my new address. I can count, 25 years later, the number of letters I received in reply on the fingers of one hand.
The Internet didn’t kill letter writing. Among most people, it was never quite as alive as those who are nostalgic believe. My mother was a great letter writer, and she would write me twice a week for years, until cell phones made it easier to call and postage kept going up and up. When I was young and in school, I wrote letters. Lots of letters, but rarely did I receive anything in reply, even from boys I was dating over summer vacation.
Some people just would never write letters, even without Facebook.
I realize that some people will never accept social networking, and that’s fine. For me, though, I always hoped the Internet would be a place to meet people and that’s what Facebook is.
Like everything, it can be abused and a few bad apples can spoil it. I just don’t think they are the majority and I don’t think any technology is inherently bad.
I welcome your thoughts.