Facebook gets a lot of grief in my circles and rightly so. Their sexist double standards about how breasts can be used (selling beer? ok. Nursing a baby? not ok.) is a huge sticking point. There is also much talk about how “bad” facebook is for us and our kids. Everyone is always “trying to cut back” or “taking a break” from facebook.
Don’t get me wrong being able to balance our use of technology is important but there seems to be this general feeling that facebook is primarily a vice. A silly diversion at best. I’d like to argue in favor of the great wonder of facebook.
(I’m going to talk about facebook specifically because it is by far the largest social network in the world but the same could apply to twitter or pinterest or any other person-to-person connection tool.)
Five Reasons I Love Facebook:
- I meet great people that I’d never have the chance to meet otherwise. I have friends from San Diego to Maine and every state in between. These are people I’ve never been within 100 miles of physically but who add to my life in indescribable ways. And that’s just the US! I got a Christmas card last year from a favorite blogger of mine who lives in Belgium. I have friends who give me hard time by posting sunny, summer pics from Australia when I’m under ten feet of snow in Ohio. I hate them. 😉 No I don’t, I love them so much. I am unbelievable grateful for facebook putting these people in my life.
- Making enemies usually ends in making wonderful friends. Like getting kicked out of a feminist group because I don’t vaccinate my kids (ouch) and then having five people friend me because they agree with me and thought I was treated unfairly. Or when my long time friend and neighbor comments negatively on my son wearing a “girl” shirt (ouch) and then having twenty people friend me because they too are gender non-conforming or transgender and want other parents to know you *can* support your kids. That’s some serious silver lining there.
- I can cultivate whom I am influenced by. Facebook often gets slammed for changing the word “friend” to mean non-hostiles. I get what they are saying. Many of the friends I mention in #1 and 2 aren’t the people I’d call in a crisis. They only know one slice of who I am and I only know one slice of who they are. This is usually seen as a bad thing but I like to look at it a different way. Facebook is a place I can nurture my passions and share my struggles. I have tons of friends filling my facebook feed with social justice, peaceful parenting, and generally, positive, world-improving views. When I’m feeling frustrated with parenting I know that I’ll be getting advice from people who share my values. My facebook feed is carefully cultivated by the “friends” I make to be a place of safety and nurturance for my journey. I’m so grateful.
- I cultivate my own news channel. These friends I’ve made because of a single issue (like they liked my post about my “cross dressing” three year old) are people who’s views I respect. So, when they post something outside my wheelhouse I am apt to listen. Social justice is a HUGE arena and none of us know everything. The diversity of my friends list exposes me to ideas I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. Like my vegan friend who posts about animal rights or my Jewish friend from whom I’ve learned a great deal about Israel/Palestine. Instead of relying on one news outlet I have this great network of people sharing snippets of news from every corner of the independent news world.
- My worldview is larger. I grew up in a tiny little town in Ohio. I was 18 before I ever met a black person. I know, right? Sometimes I think it isn’t any wonder that so many white people are so ignorant about racism. They’ve literally been shut off by their own homogeneous environment. Even though I dream about living in a diverse city circumstances have kept me here. I try to embrace that since middle america needs awakened people too. For people who live in all-white areas and aren’t in the tax bracket that can travel, facebook is an amazing window to differing views. It is hard to understand your own subconscious assumptions when everyone you interact with daily has the same subconscious assumptions. Facebook connects me with people who share my passions and yet are very much different from me because of differing backgrounds. I’m no longer bound by my place or financial status. By hearing non-white, non-american, non-middle class views I can better challenge my own lens on the world.
Facebook has its downsides – ads, sexist rules, and horrible marginalization of pages that don’t have million dollar budgets to “boost” their posts – but it is only a tool. And YOU control the tool.
If you get on facebook and feel worse then change your facebook! Unfollow family and friends you can’t “unfriend” that fill your feed with hateful things. Join topical groups about the things you like and friend request people you have synchronicity with. Unlike any page that doesn’t enrich your life. Like, share, and comment on threads you appreciate. It will help facebook show you more things you like.
Facebook isn’t static. It is what you make it. As your passions migrate, change your news feed by unliking old pages and liking new ones. Make it work for you and you’ll feel less guilty when you use it.
And remember the days before facebook (or ask your mom, lol) when our worlds were smaller and with it our minds and ideas. I’m a better person because of facebook. Hands down. I’m grateful for facebook and what (and whom) it has brought into my life.