I began my first completely online college course back in September. While the course has been fraught with some technological challenges for me, the one requirement I was initially opposed to was having the join Facebook. I'm basically a loner in the real world so naturally I'm much the same in the virtual, anonymous world of the internet. I didn't want to join a social networking site. Facebook is for kids, i told myself, dominated by teens, tweens and twentysomethings in order to keep track of their friends in between the constant texting and iPod usage. Mainly, though, I was reluctant to join Facebook out of fear of stalking and harassment. Turned off by the stories of MySpace and Facebook incidents, the last thing I wanted to do was join and post my real name out there for anyone to see. At first I found the site daunting. The layout confused me. Someone from college--someone i was not particularly fond of--tried to Friend me. I ignored the request until he sent it again. I had to formally Ignore him. It made me feel like a jerk. Particularly annoying were the ever-present ads. I found the fact that they were sometimes tailored to the hobbies I listed in my profile to be a little creepy. And for some reason, Facebook feels the need to remind me on a daily basis that I am over Forty and single.
Fast-forward three months. I love Facebook! I have to admit: I loved Facebook almost immediately. Right off the bat I had a handful of friends as each member of the class added their classmates to their Friends list. There's something gratifying about receiving a Friend request. It makes me feel popular. I wasn't prepared for how addictive Facebook is. The Friending with a capital F! The games! The Gifts! The Poking! Where does it all end? In the three months I've been on Facebook I've reconnected with a number of old friends I never thought I'd hear from again. Within the first week online I received a Friend request from a guy I went to high school with. Soon after that a college friend contacted me. When I saw another mutual college friend in her Friends list I contacted her. Two friends of mine in Scotland contacted me as well. It's nice to be in contact with these people again. I didn't have any falling-out with any of them, life simply got in the way and we all just drifted on to other things and places. It happens. So far no stalking or harassment has taken place!
I was unprepared for the extent of Facebook's networking capabilities. Not only individuals use Facebook; organizations, indie publications and music labels maintain an online presence. Know who else is on Facebook? Rock bands! I now get up-t-date information on tours, album releases and surprise appearances from my favorite artists. Most of the bands only have the option to become a Fan rather than Friend, but Denver-based Dressy Bessy actually has the Friend option. And they accepted my Friend request! Now I, along with 4,325 other people, can count Dressy Bessy as a friend. It's sad, but it's all I have in my otherwise pathetic life. Another thing I was not expecting: groups. There are groups for everything, from fans of certain TV shows to rock bands to political organizations. Groups are fun! The SSC English department, Grad School English majors and our literary publications have Facebook groups.
Poking around Facebook is fun. Reconnecting with real-life friends has been rewarding even in the short amount of time I've been on Facebook. The time-wasting aspects are fun, such as Battle of the Bands and Drink Requests. I'm getting annoyed at being bombarded with the Li'l Green Patch requests though. Beyond Facebook's initial playground-like euphoria, Facebook's benefits are becoming clear. Facebook fulfills a basic social need. For me, it's been an enhancement to my reall-world life rather than a replacement. As long as that is the case, I will continue to network and socialize. Beyond the internet opportunities to network are everywhere. Indie publishers abound on Facebook and along with them, the opportunity to submit work and to connect with people already doing what I want to do: write. Event invitations are opportunities to meet locally in person and participate in open mikes, poetry slams and other events.
I finally see why Facebook, and social networking online, is so popular. And yes dear Facebook, now that I've had some time to mull it over, I would be interested in meeting a hot over-forty doctor.