I've covered my three main uses of Facebook: relationshipswriting platform, and news source. But there are several other minor uses, including:

  • As a memory aid, a record of events. I use my own blog for this, but tend to use Facebook for more minor events.

Is Facebook the best or only tool for this use?

I could put them on my blog, or just not talk about them at all. For the primary purpose, a far more generally useful record of events can be found in my phone camera's time and location stamps.

  • For making short comments on current events—individual, family, community, national, worldwide.

Is Facebook the best or only tool for this use?

Longer comments already go on my blog, but these are more conversation-style, the kind of thing I might say to Porter, or to friends over lunch. Facebook seems like a logical place for such tidbits ... but maybe not. When we talk with family and friends, we know with whom we are speaking and tailor our conversation accordingly. We have a pretty good idea when our comments will elicit support and agreement, and when they will poke the bear. Facebook, even when limited to our own friends list, covers a very wide variety of people, backgrounds, and opinions. I can get just about everyone in happy agreement by posting pictures of our grandchildren, or of my nephew's Boston Marathon race, but that's about it. Spontaneous, unguarded commentary posted on Facebook very often does not end well.

  • Daily encounter with different points of view. My friends are nothing if not diverse in background, experience, and opinion. It's not that I need so much to hear their points of view, which are generally widely (if too loudly) available. What I value is the reminder that behind these worldviews, opinions, and attitudes are real human beings, fellow citizens of the world, men and women made in the image of God. People with parents, siblings, children, jobs, goals, dreams. No matter how ill-informed, twisted, and even evil I might find their opinions to be, these are people more like me than not, people of infinite value, and people I am actually commanded to love. And I try to present to Facebook a similar reminder to others that behind those whose opinions they consider ill-informed, twisted, and even evil there are also real human beings more alike them than not.

Is Facebook the best or only tool for this use?

It's hardly the best. Absolutely nothing replaces working together on a common project for opening one's eyes to the humanity of those with whom we disagree. I think the jury's still out on whether or not Facebook can do what I hope in this. It's risky—it's easy to do a lot of harm even with the best of intentions. But more and more as a society we are shutting ourselves into our own worlds of like-minded people and convincing ourselves of the "otherness" of those who disagree. The pandemic has only magnified the problem.

It may be too great a risk. I treasure stories of the lives and families of my Facebook friends. But these days I'm much more likely to hear political comments, usually negative and far too often painfully rude. I know what it's doing to my own mental health.

  • Interesting and sometimes important bits of random information. My son-in-law finds a new product that he recommends. Shutterfly sends me a photo book offer. I've found Facebook often to be the best way to contact a company or organization, getting a rapid response from a Facebook message after several e-mails have gone unanswered. I often get church and choir information through Facebook that I don't get elsewhere. Friends send out everything from new baby announcements to urgent prayer requests through Facebook because it is a quick way to reach many people. Even the advertisers have learned that the best way to catch my attention is to offer a new recipe; I still curse the ads but I'm enjoying them more. Facebook also has saved me a few times by reminding me of birthdays.

Is Facebook the best or only tool for this use?

For some things, no. I can be reminded of birthdays through other ways. Companies like Shutterfly usually send e-mail offers as well as posting them on Facebook. There are more recipes on YouTube than I can handle anyway. However, there is no doubt that I will miss important information—such as the prayer requests—if I drop Facebook altogether. On the other hand, it seems that more and more people are moving to other social media sites, and it's going to take a very strong incentive to get me involved in another one—especially since they're not all going to the same places.

After weeks of pondering, I'm beginning to take action. But that will be for another post.

I wish any veterans reading this a blessed Veterans Day.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 at 9:02 am | Edit
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