Facebook’s true purpose

Writers are constantly implored to use ‘social media’ to promote themselves and their work, but  I’ve never liked the idea of using Facebook to advance my own agenda. I do it, but always feel I’m inflicting myself on both friends and strangers. I did not even want to get into Facebook: My daughter forced me onto it by setting up my account there, but I have to admit that while Facebook is somewhat overrated when it comes to marketing and promotion,  it has been useful to stay in touch with distant family and friends.  And today something rather magical happened, which helped me see the whole thing in a new light.

Through my first cousin, Irene Valencia Marquis, I was connected to a mutual second cousin of ours in Denmark, Betina, who I had met decades ago when I traveled to the tiny island where my grandfather was born. I remembered her as a cheerful tow-headed little girl who startlingly resembled my own sister, Ginny (who evidently got more than her share of our Danish genes).  I was sorrowed to hear that our 18th-century ancestral home, once surrounded by acres of scrubby farmland and grazing horses, is now situated on a tourists’ golf course—I had spent a whole week there, mostly in a little upstairs room just under a thatched roof, desperately ill with some kind of summer flu. My great-aunt Angelika would bring up chamomile tea and toast with the island’s famed ‘lyng’ (heather) honey, and I spent hours gazing out over the flat farmlands toward the sea, wretchedly waiting for my fever to pass so I could rejoin my grandfather on his tour of Jutland, as he visited all his sisters and brothers. I was reminded of all the cousins I met, and who are there still, and perhaps some of them will join us now on Facebook.

I should mention too some of the other serendipitous connections I’ve made on Facebook, people I’ve never met, but who have read my books! Now they feel no less like friends than the people I see every day. I’ve been happy to connect with a cousin from my mom’s side of the family, Kelly, who I practically grew up with, now living in Oklahoma. And this seems to me the true mission of Facebook: Not to self-promote, not for commerce or business, and probably not for all those crazy memes and jokes and political rants one has to wade through every day, but for that essential human connection we all need. Community. Facebook is now the global backyard fence, the quilting bee, the water cooler or the town well, the market day: For better or worse, it’s how we connect with those we can’t be physically near, and exchange news of our lives and reveal bits and pieces of ourselves and our souls.

So I won’t be signing off Facebook anytime soon, as impatient as I’m getting with the administration of it, and their attempts to ingratiate themselves with ‘reminders’ and targeted ads (wrinkle cream? Weight loss aids? Really?) I’m looking forward to making many more pleasant connections, and not necessarily for the purpose of selling books. That’s what blogs are for, right? (lol).

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