Friday, August 1, 2014

Thank you, Facebook. Just … thank you.

This post has been churning in my brain for a few days. Time to let it out, I guess.

I am a social media junkie. Not Twitter so much, although I do have and use my account. But don't take away my Instagram, Pinterest, Blogger or Facebook, please.

Especially Facebook.

As both of you know, I live in the Middle of Nowhere. And if you know me in real life, you know I'm not kidding. Twelve miles to the nearest Tiny Kroger. Forty-five miles to a somewhat adequate mall. An hour to Sam's Club and it takes 90 minutes and crossing the state line to shop at Target.

Being so isolated took a real toll on me when I first moved here, 17 years ago. I'd lived in Columbus, Ohio, near many shopping and recreational and entertainment opportunities. I was plugged in to a social and support network that met all my needs and allowed me to give back.

And then I met a guy. A very nice guy, who also lived in Ohio but who was originally from southern West Virginia. And one day he moved back home. As guys do. And we did the long-distance thing. As couples do. And then he asked me to sell my house and quit my job and follow him to the Middle of Nowhere.

And I did. As girls do.

Many years after I moved here, he asked me to marry him and I said yes and we'll be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary next week.

But we've known each other for 21 years and I've lived here in the Middle of Nowhere for 17 of them. Time flies.

I had a hard time making friends here. I just couldn't find women my age who weren't already plugged in to their groups of friends. I didn't really try very hard. I stayed connected to old friends with email. I redecorated our house. I bought a lot of yarn. I started volunteering.

And one day I found Facebook.

I was not an early adapter. Facebook launched in February of 2004. I joined October 26, 2008 (but my first post, oddly wasn't until November of 2009). Less than two weeks after joining, Barack Obama would be elected President of the United States. I worked on his campaign here in southern West Virginia and met some great people. I give the President all the credit for my finding friends, finally, more than a decade after I moved here.

Maybe some of those friends were already on Facebook, although I kind of doubt it. I don't know why I took that plunge. But I'm really glad I did.

The internet had been keeping me connected to long-distance friends, but not in the same way Facebook does. There were these things called "forums" and "listservs" and, of course, I emailed a lot. I started blogging in 2006. (Good lord, have I been spouting drivel for eight years now? I guess I have.)

But Facebook is up-to-the-minute and, with a smartphone and a data plan, always available.

When I joined Facebook, I had two grandchildren. Now I have seven.

When I joined Facebook, I had a few real-life friends and a few more long-distance ones. Now I have hundreds, and some of those virtual friends are also real-life, up-close-and-personal ones.

I've been accused of being too plugged in, mostly by those who live in cities and work with people and have a lot more social opportunities than I do. Or, conversely, by the less tech-savvy who just aren't interested in an online presence and don't think anyone else should have one either. (Pardon the snark.)

My level of plugged-in-ness feels just right to me. I'm engaged, informed and involved in a way that just wasn't possible without Facebook. I've gone from being a shy, backward, inward-facing loner to a somewhat more outgoing and certainly less awkward joiner.

I take and post photos from my almost-daily walks, and my Facebook friends tell me they really look forward to those views of my Middle of Nowhere. I love that they like going on my walks with me, even if they do so virtually.

I was elected to a position at the state level of a group I've belonged to since President Obama was Candidate Obama. I was on the local ballot this spring and won my election. I've met all kinds of important people and learned that they think I'm pretty important, too.

The icing on the cake was getting ready for that high-school reunion. The planning committee had a presence on Facebook and I could see who was registering and look forward in a very real way to the weekend. I reconnected with classmates I hadn't seen or even thought of in years – decades, even. What a blessing it's been!

So say what you will about Facebook – how they change things and there's no privacy and it's a time-suck and whatever. I'm sticking with it, gratefully.

After all is said and done, it is, after all, free. And for once, I'm getting way more than I paid for.

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