By Lynn Paris
I wrote a pretty decent column about Facebook back in April 2009. It was called Overload: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and American Idol. You can check it out in my archives if you’re so inclined. At any rate, at that time I was relatively sure that my addiction to Facebook had just about run its course. In many ways I was right; I got quickly bored with the daily updates and the pointless postings about what someone had for breakfast or at what bar a FB friend spent his night with another FB friend. I was cluttering up my life with too much meaningless information, so I took a few steps backward.
I didn’t close out my Facebook account as one woman I know did, informing her legion of friends that she was re-joining the real world. That didn’t seem necessary; I was never in that deep and I was still very much entrenched in the real world. But I stopped checking it every day and I stopped updating my status except when I had something I really wanted to say. I stopped taking the dumb quizzes or responding to outlandish invitations. FB took its rightful place as a place to stay somewhat connected, but not at all addicted.
From that lofty perch I was able to watch as other “newbies” joined and followed the familiar path . . . confusion followed by an obsessive need to post something several times a day about every mundane detail of their lives.
Just when I was sure I had achieved FB independence, several things happened that changed the game. The first was that I upgraded my blackberry facebook app, which seemed like the thing to do at the time. What that wrought was an onslaught of updates, messages and notifications on my cell, all of which I at least had to give a cursory glance to before deleting, and some of which seemed to require at least a minimal response . . . if not a comment then at least a thumb on the “Like” button.
A second thing that happened is that people began to tap into FB’s capacity to reach thousands . . . or millions. They started using it to market themselves, to promote a cause, to spread the word in ways never before imaginable. I was marginally involved with one of those campaigns.
It might seem inconsequential to some, but Texas A&M University got involved in a race to be the first university-sponsored page in the world to have 100,000 fans. With two days to go, we had the lead with more than 83,000 fans. Then, in one day LSU surged ahead with 96,000 fans – putting the Aggies in second place. With only two days to get 17,000 people to participate, The Aggies called upon their huge worldwide network to show their spirit and came from behind to move ahead of LSU and break the 100,000-fan milestone. It earned us a one thousand dollar scholarship, but more importantly, a ton of media attention and credibility in the world of social media, where we continue to set the standard.
On a smaller scale, my son-in-law uses Facebook as so many do——to market his music. He just put out a new CD, and he and my daughter have posted his website all over Facebook. That’s smart; facebookers will click on almost anything, and if they like it they’ll forward the link to their friends or post the link on their own page. Facebook has an amazing ripple effect that has helped many new artists catch a break. In fact, I’ll do my part right here, since I love my son-in-law’s music too. Go ahead, click on www.michaelmulder.com and see what I mean. After you finish my column, of course.
Everything from the last presidential race to posting safe places to donate to the Haiti relief fund have benefited from the tremendous impact of Facebook.
And I’ve experienced the impact of Facebook in a whole new way too. I have two cousins I lost contact with years ago. It was a shame, but life goes on, people move all over the country, and keeping up with changing addresses and phone numbers never seemed like an option. Then we had email, and it became a little bit easier, but by then the connection had been broken for so long that we never really made it work.
But Facebook changed all that, and now my cousins and I (along with my son and daughter) can all keep in touch with each other’s lives. We still don’t engage in long “conversations,” because we have such separate and complicated lives. But with practically no effort, we now know when a nephew graduates from high school or a niece grows into a beautiful young lady. This past year we cheered en masse for the Yankees and commiserated over the NY Giants; we knew who was unemployed, who was depressed and who was having a party. It feels like we’re a family again.
Then there are the long-lost friends with whom connections once seemed impossible. In most cases, the friends you make over the course of a lifetime are either people you intentionally stay close to, Facebook or not, or they fall by the wayside. But every once in awhile, we all have someone in our lives about whom we have fleeting thoughts. Those “I wonder what ever happened to?” people, people who made an impact and then forever disappeared from our life.
I had a few of those. People I would never have dreamed of hunting down, much less getting in touch with if I happened to stumble upon them by chance. The first was a guy I knew in high school. I never really thought about him, but when he contacted me via Facebook I remembered him instantly and it brought back a flood of memories. Good, funny memories, because he’d been a classmate, confidante and the source of much of the humor in homeroom. Turns out he’s quite brilliant and still funny, and we’ve reconnected to the point where he now writes a column for this site. That’s C.C. Youngren, the author of “Muse Droppings” and still the source of much of the humor, only now on www.netlistings.com.
There WAS someone I had thought about quite a lot, at least for about ten years after he came in and then out of my life. His name was Paul, and he was my first college crush; in fact, I was crazy about him. Due to circumstances beyond our control, our budding romance was cut short after a few brief months, but it took me years to get over him. So when NYU flashed across my screen inviting me to search out people I knew, my first, no, my only thought was Paul. And I found him immediately. I wrote him a funny little message, something I would never have done under any other circumstances, and we’ve been catching up ever since. Thankfully, we’re both happily married to the loves of our lives, but it’s still been awesome to reconnect, reminisce and tie up loose ends. Turns out he lives in California; he was about a half hour away from where we used to live. But it’s all good. And we would have never had this crazy weird opportunity to find out how our lives turned out were it not for the magic of Facebook.