When I joined Facebook back in 2008, it was with a sense of irony. The whole enterprise seemed ridiculous and adolescent: The kind of thing writers do to avoid their real work, which is writing, and their real life, which is also writing. The only reason I set up an account was that someone told me it would pump up my book sales. It would, as he put it, be “word of mouth on steroids.”
Like most writers, I didn’t find social media the marketing supernova I had hoped. Still, good things have come from my time on Facebook. Five years after I joined, I find Facebook fun, entertaining, and enriching. What’s more, it’s helped me both spiritually and artistically.
Facebook has helped me build community.
If it weren’t for Facebook, I would never have seen my seventh-grade friend Judy again. Or my travel buddy from the 70’s, Cheryl. I would never have gotten to know some of the authors who’ve written for The Whirlwind Review, or kept in touch with the people I’ve met in my travels over the years.
Through Facebook, I can reminisce about my first attempt to drive in snow—back in ’73—with someone who was there to experience the terror. I can communicate with my family and friends in California not just on an occasional phone call, but nearly every day. I can see pictures of my niece growing up as she grows up, commiserate with my nephew about his bout of flu, and enjoy my friend’s trip to Venice as it unfolds.
People who don’t use social media seem to think it isolates us. But what really isolates us is our tendency to leave people behind. Facebook has helped rebuild some of those broken ties.
Facebook has forced me to be more openminded.
Like most people, I tend to hang out with those who share my political views, and why not? We enjoy reinforcing our shared biases, and get along famously.
But on Facebook, I have friends whose views differ sharply from my own, and I’m confronted on a daily basis with posts that challenge my assumptions. Because we’re not face to face, the tension of those challenges is offset with distance and time to think. When I get a Facebook post that blasts a movement I believe in or supports a cause I don’t, it gives me the opportunity to think about the point being made and evaluate my own opinions thoughtfully without the knee-jerk reactions common to to face-to-face discussion. This has helped me remember a number of very important things:
1. People on all sides of issues have reasons for their views.
2. Political views that differ from mine are worth listening to and thinking about.
3. People who disagree with me are neither stupid nor evil.
4. There is a remote possibility that I might not be right about everything.
This is good stuff for everyone to bear in mind. For writers and spiritual seekers, it is bedrock.
Facebook has helped me connect with other writers.
On Facebook, I am friends with well established authors, emerging writers, and beginners who are still getting their footing. We all share a love of words, a fascination with storytelling, and a longing to get our own work out there. People who are not writers have no idea why I would sit at my computer on my day off or labor for years on a third novel when my first two haven’t been published. But my writer friends get it. And there they are, on Facebook, sharing their successes, disappointments, aspirations, and passion, and reading about mine.
Facebook has given me opportunities for beauty, laughter, and inspiration.
My Facebook friends post stunning artwork, hilarious cartoons, rousing music videos, moving stories, and inspirational quotes. Many times, I’ve found a difficult day lightened by a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh or Jalaluddin Rumi. I’ve laughed till I cried over more than one YouTube video –and yep, I just plain love the cute pictures of cats.
Yes, Facebook can be a distraction, an escape, and an excuse for not writing. But it can also provide some of the essential things that have been drained out of our busy modern lives. Things like laughter, inspiration, challenge, and community.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...