Saturday, November 28, 2009

Plug In Some Twinkle Lights

These days, you hear a lot about why people do or do not like Facebook.  Mind you, young people don't spend a lot of time thinking about the pros and cons of social media. If that's where their friends are gathering, then that's the place to be. But older people seem very torn. Some jump on social media like a dawg on tasty rawhide. Others refuse to enter the room because they are suspicious that they are going to get a bath.

Keep in mind, old folks only appeared on Facebook about two seconds ago. Most eschew it altogether-- perhaps fearful it might lead to dancing. They worry about privacy. They frown at the thought of their pasts circling around and biting them on the tail---resurrecting what they thought was long dead and buried. "There's a reason I lost track of her! I had to wade ten miles in an icy stream to throw her off my scent."

I have heard people say Facebook appears to them as a junior high minefield-- who to friend, how to not friend, can I unfriend the obnoxious (or boring), do I have to be friends with my boss? There are certainly noisy friends who take every quiz ever created and push interesting updates right off the screen. Other friends sign up and then disappear forever...or do they? Are they still out there watching?  Who is your audience? How many witty updates do you have in you? Too much pressure!

The most common criticism of social media comes from folks who simply can't comprehend why they would want to share/hear all the minutiae of mundane life. "Why would I want to know when someone is having a cup of tea?  Or barking at a squirrel?" But I would argue that people need this ambient intimacy to make them happy.

Light banter, water-cooler talk, hey-how-are-ya butt sniffs bind societies together. Dogs leave updates everywhere we go: sniff, pee, sniff, pee.  Sure, I'd rather run into my friends in the fur and spend a few hours romping at the dog park. And yes, I would prefer that chocolate lab did not pee on my tree or even exist. But in the end, it is just nice to know the news.

I like to think of the ambient intimacy of social media as hanging strands of twinkle lights in your life. One by one, each Facebook friend glows a little point of light.You can plug in different bulbs of every color and shape or make them all matchy-match (although it is always best to avoid those frenetic blinking ones, in my opinion).

Stop thinking about how they fall short. Twinkle lights aren't supposed to be bright enough to light the room.  You'll still need some floor lamp friends--maybe even a few chandeliers and some bright shop-light friends --folks who can really kick out some light.  But little twinkle lights, strung together, can cut through the darkest shadows.  And they are just darn pretty.

You don't have to have your twinkle lights on 24/7. Sometimes the heavy blanket of darkness is cozy. But when you need banish the night, you can always find some twinkle on Facebook.

Note: I am hardly the first one to consider the point of social media.  Leisha Reichelt's blog Disambiguity does nice job of talking about why she embraces the ambient intimacy of Twitter (which seems to me is simply Facebook updates on steroids).


  1. Ditto, Carmella. I admit that as one of the old folks, I was skeptical of the value of Facebook. But the ambient intimacy has turned out to be a wonderful way of not only re-establishing relationships, but strengthening already existing ones.

    Twitter, I still don't really "get." I'm working on it, though.

  2. Oh, and my dog has a coat because he is a sensitive soul who gets chilled when the temperature drops below 60 degrees.

  3. I caught my Susan reading my comment about your dog's coat and snickering something about "Christmas is coming." I am afraid...