As an identified Social Media trainer and strategist I often find myself in the position of defending the virtues of the various social media platforms…well, let me clarify that, when with my family I often find myself defending the virtues of social media platforms. The conversation is always similar and usually is with someone the generation ahead of me in my family line. This past Passover was no exception.
There I was having fun and laughing with my “cousins” (we live the family by choice model) 2 glasses into the prescribed 4 glasses of wine, when the gentleman across the table from me blurts out, “I just don’t understand why I should join Facebook. Tell me why I should waste my time on that.” My insides began to twist and I knew from the tone of his voice that he wanted a serious answer. I responded “You shouldn’t. If it doesn’t feel like value to you then it is simply a waste of your time. It is just not the case for me.”
I could tell by the twisted angst on his face that he was not pleased by my answer. He wanted me to get into it with him but I wouldn't. I will never tell you you SHOULD join Facebook or any other social platform for that matter, but I will tell you what it has meant for me.
1. Connection, to my family
Like many people today I don’t live in the same city as my family. We are scattered around the United States and the globe. When I see a post about one of my cousin’s children, or the lunch my brother made for his new spouse, or even that my cousin by choice, who lives in the same state as I do, made varsity poms I get to celebrate along side each of them. Regardless of the distance in miles I know about the part of their life they choose to share.
These chance connections lead to opportunities for forging face to face interactions in the future. My case in point is the family reunion my cousin and I, mostly my cousin, have been planning following a back and forth in the comments section of one of his posts over Facebook this past year. The event will take place in May and will involve me, my kids, and my ever patient husband, taking a 40 hour road trip for a 4 hour family event certain to be chronicled in all the amusement possible right on Facebook.
2. Connection, to colleagues around the globe, Literally
I used to want to run for public office, it is true and was well before House of Cards. Now I know better. My life involved lots of trainings on leadership and communication. One incredible training by the no longer in existence White House Project connected me with a learning partner from Pakistan. Years after our face to face meeting Facebook came on the scene and we were reconnected.
This past summer we were both pregnant. She with her second child, me with what I hoped would be my third baby and the fourth child in our family. I lost that pregnancy at just before the 5 month point. While my pregnant friends in the US felt they had to separate from me, partially to ease my pain and partially because as a culture we don’t know how to handle pregnancy loss in the US, my friend in Pakistan had none of those concerns and we kept on chatting over Facebook about her challenges in pregnancy.
Through our continual dialogue, though the time difference was 24 hours, I would lay in bed in the wee hours of the morning while she sat in her home just before the dinner hour and I shared lamaze videos and breathing techniques as well as nutritional advice that she was not given in her hometown. I had the gift of sharing in her pregnancy and thankfully, healthy delivery, as if I was a sister in the town over and yet, I was, a world away.
3. An opportunity for growth and dialogue
It used to be that news was delivered only in the form of subscription. As is human nature, we subscribe to those outlets who share content in the way we wish to have it delivered. Our thought processes, our beliefs, our natural language. Yes, most people still consume and share information in that manner yet I make it a point to read content that is contrary to my ingrained belief systems so I can grow my mind and perspectives.
I believe in dialogue as a two way, or more street. While I know that many in my feed do not, those who I engage with are respectful in the way they share opinions and may also be eager to hear and learn and teach. We grow on the outside of our comfort zones. My Facebook feed allows me the opportunity to grow on a regular basis.
4. Discipline, in what I post and indeed how I live my life publicly
I teach Social Media. I teach it for the purposes of elevating the social media experiences we all have. I believe that people wish to support their communities in growth from the independent retailer to the teacher posting for art materials for her class project. As we learn how to engage in elevating dialogue we all benefit.
For me this means sticking to my social media mission statement. In short, changing the mirror we use that reflects who we are as a society. Shorter: post positive content. Each time I post I double check myself. Does this add value? Is it a rant? Is it working towards creating something of value: a relationship builder, an idea generator, something to make people’s days just a bit better, a human interaction…if I answer no it doesn’t get posted and I hit delete. I hit delete a lot.
Is this just fueling the debate that people only show the rosy sides of their lives on Facebook? Well, first of all, what’s so wrong with that? Facebook as a way to celebrate what is good and glorious about life? May we all be filled with feeds about the authentic raw happy moments in our friend’s lives. But I also share when I am in pain and I do it an a way that I hope will help others who may have experienced a similar pain. I do it a bit differently, typically in a blog link instead of a short post. Most of my posts are the shining happy moments so when I am in pain my community responds and wraps itself around me. Is it in the physical realm? Why yes it does cross over. Cards show up in my mail box and friends on my doorsteps. Do not confuse Facebook for a replacement for face to face it is a funnel for it. Which leads me to…
5. Communicating, Face to Face
My Seder mate’s main criticism to me, which I hear all to often, was: “You kids today (I’m 41) don’t know how to talk to people face to face. Unlike you I prefer to get my interaction that way.” Perhaps for some that may be the case but for me Facebook provides opportunities for chance and planned connections on a daily basis. I communicate on Facebook so that when I travel anywhere in the world my peers may know I am there and I can find a way to meet them face to face. It is called Facebook. You can choose to touch, see and kiss that face in person because the computer gave you the opportunity to maintain a connection so many miles a way.
May you find your Facebook experience as fulfilling as I do and now I gotta go and see who I can hang out with this week and check on what new adventures my cousin has planned for the family reunion. See you soon Ohio!