The Dreadful and Brilliant Facebook
Facebook is such an...interesting phenomenon. Many people I know have a real love/hate relationship with it. The best way I’ve seen it described is this: It’s the 21st century equivalent of the local coffee shop. You pop in to find out what’s up, and then go on your way. Indeed. Love it or not, Facebook has wriggled into a place many find compelling. It essentially connects us in an odd, disconnected way. It is the town crier, the front page news (fake and not). It is where old friends reunite, despite great distances of space and time. It’s how like-minded people on the far corners of the planet can move forward together. It’s the coffee klatch, the man-cave of the ethers, the new Ann Landers.
On the first weekend of March, I was reminded, though, that Facebook also disseminates dreadful news. My first close encounter with death-via-Facebook happened last October when I got the shock of seeing that my writing mentor, Brent Chesley, had died. How shocking and gutting it was, seeing his photo, softened only by the very carefully and sensitively worded message from his colleague and friend who knew he was writing to who-knows-who. Given the circumstances of daily life, I wonder: how else would I have heard?
Then on the first weekend of March, another such announcement appeared. Emily Busch, a woman I met and befriended on the Aikido mat in Denver in the 1980s, dead from an asthma attack. I hadn’t seen her in years, but we continued to share a deep bond. Again, I pondered: how else would I have ever known this remarkable woman had left us?
Facebook. I say again: the resource is both brilliant and dreadful. It’s my “social media” venue of choice and if those reading this use another one, plug that name in with regards to these comments. The point is: it’s the 21st century and we’re all moving faster and farther than ever before. The annual Christmas card update note is still relevant in a quaint way, but for real-time updating of my people, little else beats social media.
For someone like me, whose life is held in many containers (family/friends, horse world, EMS, search & rescue, various traditional educational institutions plus NOLS, fire service, planet-wide geographic wanderings, and the recent national tremblings), Facebook is a jewel. Through it, I can reach all my “peeps.” I trust them to pick and choose postings that interest them. I do the same; discernment is an essential skill when scrolling through any internet platform, but that doesn’t mean I refuse to take a look.
And it also doesn’t mean I trust it all the time. My travels aren’t common knowledge until after they are done. I make an effort to “bcc” group emails to others, for their privacy, and appreciate when others do me the same courtesy. It’s becoming more obvious by the day that privacy is mostly an illusion, but it’s worth paying attention, so as not to be outright stupid with the information being released into those ethers. And certainly I respect those hold-outs who refuse even to start with social media. Maybe they are the smart ones. I just know that, for myself, there’s a tiny bit of reassurance knowing that if I’m the one who dies, social media will get the word out to those who have touched my life—wherever they are.