Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Imaginary Friends

I recently had what may seem like an unusual conversation with a friend.  I said I was glad Mark Zuckerberg is a gazillionaire, because I cannot think of anything (OK, other than the iPhone) that has altered my life more thoroughly for the better than Facebook.
And I said this as someone who was dragged, kicking and screaming, to Facebook to promote the release of my first novel in 2008.  I didn’t want to be there.  I thought it was silly and superficial.  The contemporary equivalent of a middle grade burn book.  Isn’t that what I’d struggled to get away from?  Wasn’t the reward of adulthood supposed to be graduating from such nonsense?
But a funny thing happened.
I reconnected with folks from high school - the silly and superficial as well as those I’d genuinely missed - and I found they’d all grown, often in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined.  I received an apology from a girl - now a grown woman and a mother - who’d stood by as I was teased by her friends.  Honestly, I didn’t recall her complicity in my suffering, but I was grateful that she did.   How amazing is the soul that catalogues and atones for abuses even the “victim” has forgotten?  I felt honored.
But best of all?  Through Facebook I found friends I would never have found any other way.  A gay vegan bodybuilder from Australia?  Check.  A fellow Rhode Islander honing her remarkable talent for fiction?  Sure.  A Hollywood producer turned YA author?  Of course.  An Indigenous American filmmaker and activist?  Yup.  A civil rights activist and blues aficionado?  You got it.  A network of chick lit authors who’ve become my sisters?  Hell, yeah.  Folks in South America, India, Slovenia, England, France…the world just keeps shrinking.  Beautifully.
I could go on (and on and on) with the list.  I now speak daily with people I cannot imagine my life without.  And I’m no internet hermit; no - I’m outdoors in the “real world” as often as I can be.  But the lines have been blurred.  I’ve met many of my Facebook friends live and in person over the years, and the gratitude I feel for their presence in my life is palpable.
I wonder sometimes how I went from being a person who abhorred all things technological to this girl who cannot keep her paws off her iPhone for more than a quarter hour.  The answer, I think, lies in the motivation behind the interaction.  I am - as I have always been - a people person.  And I am thrilled beyond expression to be able to communicate so easily with so many people.  To reconnect with people long gone from my life, and to find those I’d never have found in a million years otherwise - what a blessing!
So, come on…say it with me…
God bless you, Mark Zuckerberg.
Good night, all you princes of Internet, all you kings of social media.

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