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Face-to-FaceI check in on Facebook multiple times a day. I think it is basically out of boredom. As a writer and unemployed poor elder I write maybe 3-4 hours a day and then the rest of the day just stretches yawningly in front of me. I hang out at local cafes, do minimal shopping (at way below poverty line I cannot afford to do much more) I read a great deal, I do a lot of research and cruising on line, go to the gym daily or every other day, but there are still many hours I need to find constructive activity. Meditation helps and I do that daily. I still find myself checking Facebook every couple of hours. I “curate” my page and rarely mention personal matters. I post things of social, cultural, political interest to me and perhaps others, I do occasionally post pics of nature shots, my kids and myself, throwback Thursday pics etc. I have found some long lost high school buddies for which I am grateful and a few other friends I’ve lost track of so that has been a plus. I see the ills and spills of many people in Facebook, I see their woes and their growth, I am heartened by the FB friends who are new parents, I love many of the things I read and see on FB, but it also seems to tend to exacerbate my jealousy and my bad tendency to compare myself to others. I have a great many writers in my feed and that I find both interesting and sometimes really frustrating, especially when they get to bragging about their latest publishing deal. Sometimes we (me and other FB friends around my age) vent our frustrations and our struggles and that can be helpful, but many times I find myself feeling as if everyone has it better than me!

So Facebook is a complex arrangement of sharing, hiding and values. There is a lot of self aggrandizement or self pity, there is much information, some of it useful, much of it useless, there are plenty of “moments” with pets and children and interesting sites and sounds–Facebook is a way to feel as if you are connected to something greater than yourself and for the lonely, such as myself, it is a double edge sword, because the connection is not really real. I recently met someone I’ve been “friends” with for sometime on FB. I stayed on her couch while visiting my kids, which was very generous of her, but she was not too nice to me and I found we really didn’t get along or like each other much. Quite honestly, NOTHING can take the place of face to face connecting. Body language, facial expression and the kinesthetic experience cannot be replaced and that is how we make connections–through attraction! In this age where we have so many people and so much information, Facebook can represent a disheartening feeling of alienation all while giving us the illusion of connection. It is more about separation than anything.

Despite that, I am not quite ready to give it up. My oldest daughter (43) gave it up a year ago and I envy her, but she has many many face-to-face friends who she is interacting with daily plus she owns a hair salon where she connects with clients all the time–many of her clients are her friends! In addition, she is living with her husband. I live alone, do not have many people I have connected with in this city that I find reprehensible that I seem to be stuck in because of financial constraints, so I hang on to Facebook.

I have no doubt that if I am able to move to a more amenable environment and my social life starts to pick up, Facebook will go right out the window!

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ChatI’ve been a Facebook user since 2008…started cautiously but soon became an enthusiastic poster/reader/advocate. One of my friends, in trying to describe Facebook’s appeal, remarked that at its best, it’s like walking down a street populated by people and groups you know and exchanging greetings…at whatever level of detail you choose. I am in touch with people all over the world, either through personal friendships or mutual participation in groups with a particular interest. My hometown group shares information about upcoming events, local businesses, lost pets, and such things as what roads/bridges are blocked…very helpful! I can keep up with events in the lives of many more people than I ever could by telephone or even email. Relatives and friends I seldom see are a regular part of my life through Facebook. I’ve been able to maintain friendships with people as I’ve moved, or as they have moved. I’ve renewed acquaintance with people from my long ago past (for good and not so good).

Problems experienced with Facebook are easily manageable. If I don’t want to see the political/religious rants that folks sometimes post, I can block or hide. I set my security level where I want it to be and I never post anything that I would worry about being shouted from the courthouse steps. If someone wants to steal my wrinkled, grey image for nefarious use, they are welcome to it! Posting personal attacks, inappropriate jokes, or sharing information about other people that they prefer kept private is a breach of common courtesy, of course, and would lead to a quick “unfriend.” But in general, it seems to me that the issues associated with Facebook are just human issues…magnified by the public nature of the medium, but just a reflection of people being people, with all our warts and glory.

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