Social Networking

Love it!
Hate it!
I could care less.
What’s Facebook?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’re aware of Facebook, the popular and controversial social networking site. Where we used to get our personal news from the town crier, and then Mabel, the gossipy telephone operator, and more recently, the annual Christmas letter, we now have our own giant cyberspace bulletin board. Is there such a thing as TMI? Too Much Information?
Legitimate worries abound: privacy, stuff you post coming back to haunt you in a job search or college application, ads targeted to your spending habits, crooks looking to see when you’re going to be on vacation so they can break in and make off with your plasma TV. And more.
Facebook probably isn’t going to go away any time soon. I don’t know how many gazillion users it has at the moment, but it’s a huge number. I’m one of them.
I like to think I use Facebook sensibly. I limit viewers to those people I invite to be friends, I check in periodically to see who’s doing what, I try not to put anything personal out there, and I’ve pretty much trained myself to ignore any and all web-based advertising. Maybe you’re not a business or need to stay connected with everyone you ever met, but there’s no reason not to use it. And several good reasons why you should.
Few families live around the corner from each other any more. More likely, it’s around the world. I currently have close relatives in Japan and Thailand and at least a quarter of the 50 states. It’s hard to keep up with everyone, and everyone with me. Facebook has been, therefore, like an ongoing family reunion, without Aunt Sally’s famous baked beans and the water balloon tossing event. I can even pass around my photos and see the latest additions to the clan, sometimes only hours after birth. During the recent upheaval in Thailand, my nephew was able to quickly assure everyone that he was okay. I learned when a friend had returned from Paris and it was a lot easier for a wife who was meeting her relatives for the first time because she’d “met” them already on Facebook. During the winter, one of my nephews posted something about Robert Frost’s “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and several people had fun chiming in with the subsequent lines. There are frequently calls for help in finding things to amuse a sick toddler and I’ve been able to assure a college-age grandkid that we’re praying for him during exams. The older I get, the more these connections mean to me.
Maybe you’re not a computer person. There are plenty of you out there. Rest assured, I’m still going to enjoy getting those hand-written Christmas cards with the yearly family updates.
NOTE: This is not posted on Facebook: My potatoes are doing great, at least as far as the foliage is concerned. It’s pretty frustrating when the only part of the plant I’m interested in is underground.

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