November 30, 2009
There are a lot of people who turn their noses up at Facebook--those who lament that tuning into the cyber world discourages real, face-to-face interaction and human contact. To be honest, I certainly see that as a potential problem. Given certain personalities or dispositions, it's a real possibility that one might dive into the safe anonymity and disconnect from the 'real world' that the internet can provide. However, it has been my experience thus far that Facebook has had quite the opposite effect. It has brought the far reaches of my community and my world together--it has shrunk the boundaries that I might otherwise operate within-- and helped me reconnect (on-line and in real life) in ways that I very much doubt would come to pass without it.
Take Saturday, for example. My sister was still in town on her Thanksgiving vacation. She and I both posted, via Facebook, an open invitation for any of our friends who might also be in town visiting (and those who live here as well, of course) to join us in what we hope will be the first of many Family and Friends softball games at the park right around the corner from my house. We heard from several people who wanted to come join us, and suddenly we had enough people to field a couple of teams. Some of our friends who joined us already knew each other, and some met on the field for the first time that day, but all of us were ready for a little good spirited competition and fun.
Lisa and I were the captains. We figured it might be the best way to ensure fair and balanced teams, since the guys tend to get a little too competitive and we had little kids involved. We split into teams we thought could give each other an equal challenge, and then chose names for our respective teams. Lisa's team was the Vipers. My youngest niece, Bailey, wanted us to be the Green Team because, well, she likes the color green. My other niece Taylor (who told me repeatedly that I was her favorite Aunt Donna, since she was buttering me up to pick her for my team) piped in that a mongoose can kill snakes, so that was her name choice. Thus, Team Green Mongoose was born.
We had players who play softball weekly, and players who had never picked up a bat before. No matter--we all cheered for everyone (especially the kids), and got excited no matter who crossed home plate. It was a beautiful day, despite the rain the day before, and everyone had a great time. By the time we called it a game, everyone had made contact with the ball, everyone had managed to cross a plate at one time or another, and Green Mongoose had emerged victorious.
Team Green Mongoose
We took a little time to play at the playground a bit before heading home and resting up a bit. Later that evening, we all met up at the local pizza place. We again sent out the invitation for anyone who was around to bring their families and join us there. We had all of our softball players (who, by the way, are already looking forward to a re-match) plus a whole slew of additional people who came out to socialize, meet new people, and eat great pizza. Not only did several friends stop by with their kids, but my Grandma came out to visit with her grandkids and great-grandkids. Lisa and I were thrilled that her best friend from sixth grade, whom she hadn't seen since elementary school, also came out to reunite with us and to meet new friends. In all we had at least 40 people show up for some good old fashioned face-to-face, human contact and interaction.
Finally, the adults decided to cap off the night with a little adult time singing karaoke at a local dive bar just up the street from my place. Brianna, Kathryn, and another of our friends' sons, Michael, offered to babysit several kids at our house while we were out. The kids were fabulous, and took turns playing Rock Band, watching movies, and playing games. Bree even baked them a cake and saved some for the adults for when we arrived back home. While we were singing and dancing and laughing among our adult friends, the kids were at home bonding and making future playdates.
Is it possible that all of this could have happened without Facebook? Of course. But the ubiquitous accessibility of Facebook and the instant communication it allows means no missed calls, no 'well maybe I won't call him/her because what if he/she is busy/doesn't like me/isn't home,' etc. It means basically shy people can reach out to others in a relatively safe, non-threatening way, and create opportunities for real interaction. And it means that friends from far and long away can choose to reconnect in a meaningful way using a pretty direct and straightforward device. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't take the place of human interaction; it's a highway that provides access to it in a way that's never been possible before its advent--and I think that's a pretty good thing. At the very least, it's been the means that led me to one pretty spectacular Saturday with family and friends, and I intend to make it one of many more to come.
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