The recent announcement
of the word unfriend
winning "word of the year" by the New Oxford American Dictionary (by the way, isn't it called de
-friending?) made me think about some of the ways Facebook has changed my friendships for the better…
* I've found long-lost friends. I fully realize this is quite obvious, but stick with me. While reuniting with high school and college pals was the reason I joined the Facebook craze in the first place, what I didn't expect is for new friendships to blossom out of it. To wit: I've discovered that a couple of high-school acquaintances now live in Portland and I've met — and become buddies — with a couple of them in person, like Zach and Thane, neither of whom I knew well while growing up, and now I'm glad to have these two fascinating fellows in my life. And then there is Manny, whom I knew in college and NYC but always as more of a friend-of-a-friend. Through joking around with each other on Facebook, we've become better buddies than we ever were in person, which then translated into a real-life bond when he graciously opened his home to me while I was in Denver (that's him in the picture below, with our other college pal Meghan, after my bookstore event — don't mind my shiny face, a girl really needs a professional hair and makeup handler, I've decided!).
* You know how people really think about you. One of my favorite side benefits of Facebook is that it's like a grand sociological experiment. Speaking of de-friending, I've been the recipient of that phenomenon quite a few times, and each time (when I figure out who did it, that is, and which, thanks to my near-photographic memory, I always do) it only confirms what I originally suspected about that person. Whether it's writer "friends" whom you've always deduced are secretly hating on you for whatever reason, or in one case a friend who takes himself waaaay too seriously and is a little too sensitive for my taste, it's refreshing to me to have people show themselves for who they are. The murky waters of friendship become clear, as in the case of other friends who are remarkably silent about certain exciting events in my life. Of course, it's not all bad — those who are truly my buddies show their true colors too. In the end, it's simply become a handy gauge for telling me to trust my gut instincts about people. And what girl doesn't need that?
* You bridge the mom gap. One of the biggest wedges that can come between two female friends is when one becomes a mother and one doesn't. Your lives are just suddenly completely different, and while I've tried to maintain certain friendships with kiddos in tow, sometimes it just naturally falls by the wayside (although some of my very best pals are moms too). While I'm probably not going to pore over the latest mommy blogs anytime soon, and while I still scroll past descriptions of potty-training (which classify a little as TMI in my book, although I know that other moms are fascinated by the topic so I don't hold it against anyone), I have found this strange comfort in hearing about others' kids. It's like I can be a cyber-auntie to the world (does that sound creepy? Not as creepy as cyber-uncle, though, does it?), with the healthy distance of the computer between me and said tyke. Through Facebook, I've developed crushes on my friends' kids (my pal Sarah's son John is currently one of my favorites), and I look forward to news about kids I've met in person (like Brett and Jodi's two adorable mini-thems). What can I say, this non-mom is secretly a softie for her friends' kiddos, who knew?
* You cut out the small talk. This is one of my favorite side bonuses of Facebook. You see, I detest small talk. When someone asks, "So, what's going on in your life?" I cringe. I know, I know, I'm taking myself too seriously, and they really don't want a full bullet-pointed list or anything, but there's something about constantly updating people that used to drive me crazy. Maybe it's a byproduct of my years in New York City, where it seemed every social gathering had been scheduled weeks in advance and therefore every outing was filled more with catching up on our lives than actually creating new memories. Because of that, I cherish Portland's more laid-back vibe with spontaneous adventures mixed in with planned-ahead outings. Facebook has helped me eliminate the "So, what's going on with you?" question, and cut directly to the chase. Now, for example, when I went to an annual party this summer — where I typically see people whom I only see at that party every year — we had in-depth (and hilarious!) conversations about trips to Europe, master's degrees, books, and blogs, all because Facebook had already answered the "what are you up to?" question, and we could instead delve into "Hey, I saw you went to Italy, where did you go?" Love it.
One year after joining Facebook, I can say that I feel my life is more friend-filled because of it. But try explaining that to a Facebook hold-out, like my sister. "If I want to get in touch with someone, I'll e-mail them!" she likes to say. And that's true (after all, some of my best buddies aren't even on Facebook). I try to explain that it's not necessarily about those you'd keep in touch with anyway, but about those you didn't realize were in the same city, or those you wouldn't have gotten to know otherwise. In the end, though, there's really no explaining the full Facebook spectrum to a hold-out. Sometimes, you just have to be there.