Tuesday, November 25, 2014
November 25, 2014: 21st Century Thanks: Facebook
[For my annual Thanksgiving series, I thought I’d express my gratitude for some of the best of our 21st century digital age and what it has contributed to my work and life. I’d love to hear your thanks, for anything and everything, as well!]
On two reasons I’m thankful for a 21st century whipping boy.
It’s easy to hate on the Beast that Zuckerberg Hath Wrought, and I understand many of the critiques: the time-wasting and clickbait, the superficial interactions and clichéd posts, and, most seriously, the potential privacy invasions and life repercussions. All of those are genuine concerns (for all social media and, probably, all the internet, for that matter), but I would say about all of them some of the same things that my colleague Kisha Tracy did in this Guest Post: that the worst and best of Facebook depend in no small measure on what we do with it and how we use it, on the choices we make and don’t make (on the site, online, and in our lives). And in any case, the worst sides of the social media giant are balanced, for me, by a couple very positive effects.
Facebook’s ability to put and keep us in touch with those with whom we might otherwise lose connection is another of the site’s clichés, but I have found it to be remarkably accurate. My high school graduating class is full of truly remarkable folks, including a large number of successful professional musicians, a very talented YA fiction writer, an up-and-coming Portland cider-maker, and, y’know, Taylor Swift’s bass player, among others. I don’t know that I’d know about any of those efforts, and I certainly wouldn’t feel nearly as connected to them, without Facebook. But it’s not just about professional successes and stories, of course—many of my childhood and high school friends have likewise begun families, and being able to connect to and share that side of their lives, and share some of mine with them as well, has amplified my sense of parenting and family quite powerfully.
And then there are the conversations. It’s certainly true that trying to have political or social debates on Facebook can be a fool’s errand, and I’ve gradually learned to post only a tiny percentage of the times when I could do so. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to have meaningful conversations on Facebook, and this blog is living proof: a large number of the voices and ideas that I’ve been able to include in my Crowd-Sourced Posts here have come directly from responses and discussions on Facebook threads featuring my blog. And I have likewise participated in interesting and productive Facebook conversations about any number of topics, from academia and art to parenting and cooking, and, yes, even hot-button political and social issues. If the latter require all participants (including this AmericanStudier) to find ways to express themselves more respectfully and conversationally—well, that’d be just one more Facebook effect to be thankful for.
Next thanks tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Other AmericanThanks you’d share?