Sunday, February 7, 2016
There is a fair amount of justifiable criticism that our society has become fixated with little handheld screens, rather than embracing the here and now of real living. With our eyes focused on a tiny screen forever in the palms of our hands, we can miss out on the important things happening around us. It would seem that we have lost our way as to what constitutes a friend and what constitutes a "friend." Absolutely nothing takes the place of real friendships, real encounters with real people, making real memories that will serve us well into the future. However, in defense of social media, I would offer that Facebook has opened valuable doors for me into the lives of friends I have known for years through my person-to-person encounters, but may not have had the opportunity to truly understand what's important to them and what's happening in their lives. I have a lovely community of friends on Facebook, many of whom are around my age. So, we're on the same page, so to speak. We support each other with compassion and understanding through day-to-day life, new beginnings and painful endings. We share news about job changes, retirements, divorces, graduations, weddings, becoming caregivers to ill parents, facing the death of loved ones, and watching children grow up to become parents themselves. We share the mundane, too, from silly jokes and humorous observations to photos of birds and flowers in our gardens and have-to-try recipes. Through "selfies," I get to see photographs of my friends' hobbies, spouses, pets and vacation destinations. I was slower to delve into this social media world, doing so not quite kicking and screaming but at least as a skeptic. However, now I embrace what is good about this quick and instant method of communication. I realize that friends can come to us in a variety of ways, including through a handheld device. The bigger benefit is that now when I see people with whom I correspond on Facebook, my in-person conversations have more depth and meaning because these friends have shared their lives with me on nearly a daily basis. Social media communication is just one way of staying in touch and we shouldn't allow it to supplant our real-life, person-to-person contact. But after having been slow to embrace the Facebook experience, I'm now ever-so-glad that I arrived. After all, as Bette Midler sings, "you got to have friends."