This week’s guest post comes to us courtesy of a college friend with whom I have quite literally traveled to the other side of the planet, met a frightening member of an endangered species, and slept in a hut in the rainforest. Those facts–as interesting as they are–have nothing to do with her post today. Enjoy!
I know there are those out there who don’t appreciate Certain Social Networking Sites. Some of those folks don’t like the superficiality of relationships it can foster. Others are skeeved out by the stalking it breeds. And for others, it can be a colossal time-suck; a black hole of silly videos and vacation photos and controversial status updates.
However, I am writing today to defend Facebook. Despite the truth in each of the concerns listed above, Facebook can be a tool used to build true community.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I live in a tiny town. A unique, tiny town in which you can scarcely go to the (only) grocery store without running into at least four people you know. Now, in this tiny town, most everyone is on Facebook. And most everyone is Friends with most everyone else, regardless of whether or not there is a deep connection in real life. Therefore, Facebook here has become somewhat of a community bulletin board where people can post needs, requests, items available to others, noteworthy news of interest to the community, etc. Because I spend a lot of time at home, devoid of adult interaction, I *ahem* spend a bit of time on Facebook. This can turn into the black hole phenomenon, but my time spent there also allows me to ‘hear’ needs in the community, from people who I don’t regularly encounter or list as my ‘top friends’.
For example, this weekend Facebook told me that a friend of mine had a sewing machine quit on her partway through a project. I called her up and invited her over to use mine. While she was at the house finishing her project, Facebook told me that another friend’s only car would be in the shop for a week, which meant their family of four would be without a car for that amount of time. We happen to have two cars right now, so I messaged her to let her know we’d be glad to share for the week.
I don’t see either of those folks regularly; we pass occasionally and are definitely friendly with each other, but had it not been for our common use of Facebook, I wouldn’t have known either of those needs. AND, most importantly, I would have been robbed of the joy of giving to others.
Lest you think those are unique circumstances, recently I have also seen requests for babysitting, prayer for emergency heart surgery, an infant car seat, running partners, rides to the airport, bartering & trading for homemade Christmas gifts…oh how I could go on and on and on…
Facebook, for all of its problems, is redeemable. Whether for good or ill, the truth is that we often are reticent to ask for things, outright, from others. But we can post our needs on Facebook without feeling badly about putting someone on the spot. And at least in my tiny town, it’s almost a sure-fire way to get help (and give help), and build community in the process.
I’m sure some of you are ready to pounce on this post and criticize my argument. Doesn’t this just mean that people aren’t living in true community – they have to use Facebook as a crutch because they’re too superficial (or chicken) to outright ask for help from others. I admit, the Status Plea for Help is probably less than ideal, but I’ll tell you what; I’m better friends with those two folks mentioned above because of it. So thanks, Facebook, for telling me how I can be a better neighbor. And thanks, too, for helping to transform my Friends into my friends.