Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Facebook?

The Christian Century on the "new monasti...Image by Raymond Yee via Flickr
I found an interesting article in our most recent copy of "Christian Century" by theologian Barbara Brown Taylor.  She was questioning our lives "Before Computers" - not denigrating the tools - but reasonably questioning what we did prior to email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. She states her concern to be "with those who have lost their freedom to decide when to use the media and when to turn it off."  Continuing on to say "Does anyone remember what people did with the hours we are now spending in front of screens?"

The author then lists many wonderful things that she remembers doing in that time.  I admit that I related to many of her same memories, yet, I'm personally acquainted with friends who were and still are perfectly happy to spend their time in front of something other than a computer - and that's a television set.  I suspect many of those same folks would never relate to the pleasure of having written long, newsy letters to their friends and family, nor thought of enjoying quiet time on a plane, nor even having lunch with friends to catch up on the news.  Their interest just didn't, nor does it relate to communication with other human beings.  I don't mean to say that everyone I know is a dreary, boring individual.  On the contrary, I find my life full of fabulous friends,  family, and acquaintances met through business and travel experiences - so many people that it would be nigh impossible to either eat or sleep if I tried to correspond with them via the USPS and long, newsy letters.

Continuing in the author's vein of letter writing, I'm afraid I never did develop the habit of ordering beautifully monogrammed stationery nor fountain pens to communicate with friends and family.  I used the telephone if the family was particularly close and I dutifully penned notes of condolence and regret or RSVP replies, but seldom newsy, lengthy letters.  Of course, my parents and in-laws, under a totally unknown situation to me of long time separation due to World War events, had occasion to communicate through letter writing.  They had no other means of communication.  Their thoughts, concerns, love, anxiety and daily news out of pure necessity needed to be sent via the postal service to far off destinations.  So, yes, I can understand how my parents would not understand today's method of communication nor are many of them or their contemporaries still living interested in attempting it on a regular basis.  Just too much trouble and too impersonal.

My counter to that argument, and something I consider a plus, is that through the aforementioned mediums of email and Facebook contact, I've recently found friends from 50 years ago, my high school graduating class.  I found them prior to attending an amazing class reunion a couple of weeks ago and, due to Facebook communication, we kind of had a headstart on our face-to-face reunion.  I've made connection with cousins and their children, with new blogging friends - whom I've never met in person, yet feel connected to via our  personal post exchanges.  I'm in contact, or shall we say,  in communication with a niece in Kyrgystan, a nephew in NYC, and two in MN, I know about birthday parties and celebrations of nieces and nephews that I haven't seen in years but feel I know their families through snapshots of what's happening in their lives.  I've seen the beautiful figure of a niece expecting her first baby, the glowing pride of their mothers and fathers about the events in their children's lives that they would never think to write me about in a letter.  Why would they think I cared to know that?  Mundane details of daily life?  How much more connected am I with my loved ones and even with those I don't love soooo much, but still am somewhat curious about where life has taken them.......!  

You might ask what difference does all of that make - short sentences over full-blown correspondence?  A big difference - there's an instant connection - there's an "I'm here, I'm listening to you, I'm offering up my prayers for your ailing parents, for your children recovering from surgery, for your recent divorce, for your broken heart, for your new job, for your vacation, for the birth of your first grandchild, for the wedding of your second daughter, for the launch of your last child to college, your first grandchild's steps or first ballgame or first swimming award!  I care and can pray for these persons rather than wondering some time later, where was I?  Where was I when these folks needed my love, my prayers, my support in their sorrow, in their losses, in their thrill of new birth, in their celebration of each day?

Still with all of the communication tools I have, I may still miss LOTS of important events in the lives of those I love but I do have a fighting chance to know the news before it's old and cold news.  I can get carried away in writing a blog, in surfing on Facebook, in rejoicing in the silly and arcane but it's a way of life that I wouldn't trade for the non-communication, the non-knowing, the non-connection of friends and family. 
In closing I think it amusing, along with Mrs. Brown Taylor, to ponder the items of the past that my grandchildren will never experience......touring last summer through a local historical museum depicting the heritage of our community, my 9 year granddaughter, Ella, spied a very old typewriter in a showcase.  She quickly summoned her brother, age 4, and pointing at the machine, said, "Look Henry, there's an old-fashioned computer!" By the way, same Henry, has started answering SKYPE calls at their home in Asia...........so, yes my grandchildren will certainly probably never enjoy the pleasure or habit of writing or receiving letters (although I must admit I do try to send off a letter now and then to perhaps pique an interest in lettered communication) but perhaps they will be in closer communion with each other, their families, and their loved-ones - I don't know.

But one last thought, probably to be expanded into another post - maybe our thoughts in prayer and conversation with God have always been somewhat internet/electronic in nature?  I mean we send them out there in space and hope for a returning answer, that is, an answer that we'll like...........
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Wonderful post Dianne. I also have reconnected with high school friends and feel in some way like a know them better now that they have lived these rich diverse lives. I wouldn't even know where they were otherwise. And you are a wonderful example of people I have connected with via the internet. Sometimes I resent the time I spend on the computer, but the results are so fantastic. And yes, through meditation and prayer I definitely feel online in the biggest sense.

  2. Some interesting questions you raise here - you got me thinking what I did before computers came along, and what I use social networking for.
    I do have less face-to-face interaction, but I think perhaps that's a natural extension of owning and celebrating my introversion, which I was unable to do when I was younger and was out socially all the time.
    That same introversion makes the internet a perfect communication medium for me - there's a pause for thought mechanism that simply isn't there on the telephone for example. (I've never had the knack of ringing someone for a chat, and I'm often the subject of some amusement to friends who ring me - we'll get 15 minutes into a conversation while I'm waiting for them to get to the point, then it dawns on me there is no point, they just called to catch up!)
    For me, the great gifts of the internet are not catching up with old friends and family, but making new connections, and this sense that the whole world is open to us is, I think, unprecedented.

  3. Through internet, I have met a community of spiritually like-minded friends, women and men with whom I can share beliefs and thoughts.

    This is very precious to me.

    Another great post!

  4. I truly enjoyed reading this post...truly enjoyed it!

  5. Love it! I'm still amused by the various responses and experiences with facebook. My own is very similar to yours, yet one near and dear to me (M.. Techy who shall remain nameless) refuses to enter the conversation. I'm also certain that two sisters I know quite well have a computer-enhanced relationship!! xoxoxo

  6. Hey Katharine, I agree that the time spent online with other bloggers lends itself for a rich experience with folks we might never meet in person - and isn't it great - WE did have the chance to meet in person outside of the blogosphere! Yes, communication by pony express or by email is what one chooses to do with the experience:)


  7. Hi Tess,

    We in the household (spouse included) so relate to your comments re introversion and not feeling great about the "chat" thing by phone! Even though I'm a classified extrovert, I understand that the "think time" is precious through online communication. (I still can spend a good hour with someone on the phone - not everyone but my spouse would sooner be run over a truck than to have to make small talk on the phone for over about 5 minutes!) But I, too, do not always want to start a conversation by phone and find that the online communication lets someone know I'm thinking of them and TRULY interested in what they're up to without a long lengthy engagement of small talk that a phone call often involves.

    I truly treasure our friendships online and am looking forward to the day you and I meet in person:)


  8. Claire,

    So well-said, I have met bloggers that I send up prayers of thanksgiving for - they've opened new ideas, new ways of thinking, new ways of worship that I've not found in any other venue. Heart-felt comes over the internet very well!


  9. Jennifer,

    Welcome, welcome. So glad to see you here and glad you enjoyed this post!


  10. Hi Lucy,

    Oh yeah, we get some giggles off of FB don't we. I hope everyone takes it as light-heartedly AND as heart-felt as we do:)