Social Media: A Defense of Facebook

A few friends of mine have quit Facebook in much the same way that the characters in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged departed from their corporations and all-too public lives in search of fulfillment.  I, on the other hand, have often left the brick and mortar world around me in search of meaning and connection to others via social media.  I do not question the “Hands-Free” movement; indeed, I frown too when drivers drive while distracted or diners eat while staring at their iPhones and iPads.  I don’t want to be that mother who misses out on the milestones of her own children’s lives because she gets lost inside a virtual world that she carries around in her pocket.

Rewind two years.  I glared at the phone and prayed for it to ring and it almost never did.  I was too shy to pick the receiver up and call anyone, so I felt lonely.  From the moment I traded in my Audi TT for A Volkswagen Passat and bore my first child almost nine years ago, I lived with this searing, cold, sickening loneliness born of intellectual and often physical isolation.  One day, I prowled the hallways of a downtown “BIG LAW” firm; a day later, I stared at the twinkling lights rotating around my daughter’s Winnie the Pooh mobile.  Each time the mobile stopped rotating and playing the same ditty, I would twirl it up and replay it again, until the tune felt as familiar as my social security number.

I still remember that little song and like so many other things from the last several years, it makes me feel happy and sad at the same time.  As an ex-lawyer who had never changed a diaper, the initiation into motherhood was messy, stinky and sudden.  I went from typing legal briefs and addressing judges in the formalistic language of “Your Honor” and “May it please the Court” to singing “The Noble Duke of York” out of tune to a captive audience of babes and toddlers.

For a few years, I lost myself.  My day and my friendships with other mothers revolved around the playgrounds and the preschools our children frequented.  And these friendships took on no more depth than an after school TV special.  In the past, lacking real connections to other women didn’t bother me because I had a career and a life outside the home.  I had a point.  I had value, independent of the children I loved so very much.

And then it changed, gradually and then all at once.  Social media drove me out of my claustrophobic four walls and helped me rediscover myself.  How, you ask, could virtual relationships help a lonely woman?  And how can a relationship born of the Internet result in authentic connections or mean more than ones engendered by “real life?” In my case, Facebook helps me to connect to other people all over the world who share something much more important than our zip code: common interests in writing, art and running.

Facebook benefits me as a writer even more than it helps me connect with and make friends with like-minded people.  If I cannot find a word for a passage in a blog post I am creating, I can ask those kind souls who follow my Facebook Page Running from Hell with El and get a quick answer, a smile and a joke.  Some of these online connections run deep.  For example, I met my writing partner, Renée Jacobson, via Facebook and she has become both a dear friend and an incredible source of support, advice and help to me as I work on my novel, Ripple.

Most of you know that I am writing Ripple and that I hope to give birth to it by the end of the year.  I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that I also hope that many of the Facebook Page administrators with whom I interact will help me market my finished product.  And while I understand that not every person who follows me on Running from Hell with El will buy my book, perhaps some of them will.  In other words, Facebook benefits me on a personal and potentially professional level and for this I am eternally grateful.

Facebook is the main form of social media I use, but it is not the only one.  I tweet on Twitter and I pin on Pinterest, but I am far from expert at using either social media source.  For an expert view on how to use Twitter, please see Nina Badzin’s invaluable article, “Why I follow You on Twitter (and Why I Don’t).”  To discover the many benefits offered by Twitter to writers in particular, please do check out Kristen Lamb’s Blog.  And for an amazing tutorial on the professional benefits offered to writers and artists via Pinterest please see August McLaughlin’s Blog.

In the meantime, I love to hear from you!  How do you use social media and how does it benefit you?  Would you like to escape from the endless immersion of social media to the mountains or do you see infinite frontiers of hope and opportunity when you scan the social media landscape?

34 Comments on “Social Media: A Defense of Facebook

  1. Well I have to say that it is a great way to connect with likeminded people. I have a Facebook page TK Butterfly that I go to escape the hum drum of everyday life, it is a bit of a sanctuary for me really. Just started blogging also and hoping that my passion of writing can be recognised. We are blessed to have this virtual world at our fingertips, we just need to keep the balance right and follow our hearts but remember to take our heads with us! 🙂

    • Oh–TK Butterfly!! It is so wonderful to meet you here! Thank you for stopping in and commenting! And I agree very much with you re finding a sanctuary . . . and on the need to find balance!

  2. I’m nowhere near as adept or involved with social media as you, so perhaps I can’t see the benefits as sharply. Besides blogging, I keep a minimal FB presence, mainly to see other people’s pictures.

    I can see it as a real boon for lonely people, though, and a source of support and inspiration for many of us. I sometimes worry that many neglect their real lives in favor of virtual reality.

    • Aye Peg,

      I think that for people like you who aren’t lacking connection in their personal lives, Facebook would not provide as much of a benefit, and I have to admit (as I will in an upcoming blog) that as a result of all of the time I spend on Facebook and especially on a few groups I help run, I feel overextended. It is very difficult to find a balance. I reckon that the key for me, whether it is in real life, as it were, or via the virtual world, to find true connections with other people without exhausting my energy. Thanks for stopping by!

      El

  3. This definitely seems to be the hot topic these days. I think writers are becoming overwhelmed by trying to keep up with our writing lives and our online lives and our personal lives, and it has all just become exhausting. I know from my friends on Facebook that they are sick and tired of all the self-promotion on Facebook and long for the old days when people weren’t being talked at but were really connecting.

    But you are right, Facebook is a wonderful place for people who are homebound or lonely. Like Pegoleg up there, I worry about how much we all seem to be neglecting real life in favor of cyber friends who we hope will help us when the time comes.

    I don’t have the answer to this.

    • Yes, yes, absolutely Renee! I detest the promotional side of Facebook, and I think that effective networking occurs when we form real connections and friendships. That, however, takes a lot of time and work, and that in turn exhausts our emotional and physical reserves. And this is my way of admitting that I don’t have the answer either!! Thank you so much for your sage remarks above!!

  4. El, this is the first post I’ve read where I actually agree with a positive view about Facebook. Well done. You make a lot of great points — specifically about connecting with your writing partner, and gaining courage to pursue the things important to you, such as running.

    I’ve been on Facebook, for about a week at a time, a couple of times over the past year or two. And each time I’ve deactivated I have felt so wonderful and free. It is too noisy in there for me. Too many memories, and too invasive. But then — I wasn’t looking for the beautiful things you were. I’m really impressed with your post, and its honesty.

    • Thank you so very much, Happykidshappymom, for your kind remarks above! And yes, it is so true that FB is noisy–it reminds me of going into my children’s elementary school to have lunch with one of my littles. The cacaphony and din in there always leaves me feeling shaken (smiling) and makes my head hurt! It is impossible to communicate when everyone is shouting and shoving pictures in your face, whether this be in real life or via the Internet.

  5. I love facebook! I have been able to reconnect with both old friends and family members I had lost touch with many years ago, and also meet new friends. I’m far more involved in “real life” pursuits due to hearing about them via facebook, so it as also helped me there. I can be very much a hermit so this has helped me tremendously!

  6. I don’t write fiction or have writing partners or anything like that, but I personally love Facebook. I think the people who have an issue with it are the ones that take it entirely too seriously. The key is to keep perspective in that anything you share is out there and that you have control over how much you interact. There is most certainly a pressure to keep up (which I detest,) but personal responsibility and limitations come into play.

    I keep my personal page personal and my blog page for connections and interaction. I love it for that reason 🙂 But I also know that it’s important to actually live OUT LOUD and not just ONLINE. That’s a key factor, I think.

    • Oh, so well-said Abby: “I think the people who have an issue with it are the ones that take it entirely too seriously. The key is to keep perspective in that anything you share is out there and that you have control over how much you interact.” Like anything is, it is our responsibility to find balance, and the same thing applies to our interpersonal relationships. Back when I practiced law, I had to restrain myself from walking around the office and chatting nonstop. The same self-governance applies to how I use Facebook.

      And yes, for sure, we must live out loud!! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. As a SAHM and a caregiver to my Mom with Alzheimer’s, FB keeps me connected to the world, my family and my friends. I even connect with my teenaged daughter, who lives with me, through things that I see her post on FB, which we can follow up with a real conversation. Were it not for FB, I wouldn’t even know to ask her about some things going on. However, I think that FB can be a huge time sucker. I have given it up before for small periods of time because I let other things go such as grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc…. I tend to get a little OCD and if I’m too virtually connected, I let real life just build up. Balance is the key.
    And, although I get to connect to people with common interest that I wouldn’t otherwise know, I also get to find out how some people in my real world are so very different from me. I hate when people, who I thought were nice people, go off on political rants. I’ve gotten into a bit of trouble for voicing my opinions and have ended up losing those friends. They weren’t real friends, but friendly aquaintance’s in my community. It’s just so much easier to speak your mind on the internet than in person, so I get myself in trouble when I’m unfiltered!

  8. Thanks so much for including me in this great post. It’s funny . . . sometimes when I’m talking to a non social media person I’m a little embarassed about knowng so much about Twitter. Or someone will say, “I’m never on Facebook” then I spiral into a shame pit. “What am I doing with my time?” “Am I wasting my life.” You know, light stuff like that. 😉 The thing is, it’s all such a natural fit for me–the blogging, FB, and Twitter. It’s hard to give up that instant gratification of writing something and seeing reactions so quickly. That said, I got so much more writing done before I started all that. (I think we’ve discussed that before.)

    • I feel the same way about all of my “virtual friends” on Facebook and in the blogging world. It is so hard to explain that the virtual connections cross over into the real world. And it is somewhat of an amusing skill to be a Facebook aficionado and self-proclaimed expert (yes, my gosh I am grinning and joking). But yes, the social media world fits me like a glove as well. I love all of this — waving my hand toward the computer and the opportunities it represents. But sigh–yes, it does distract me from writing Chapter 28. LOL. Thank you so much for stopping in, Nina.

  9. Love this defense. I have a need for connection and for whatever reason I’ve blossomed online and through blogging. I get mired down with bullshit and I stop looking at it. The smaller groups make me stabby but for the most part I’ve met incredible people like you El! I’m grateful for the FB and this community. Xo

  10. As Rene said, FB, Twitter, pinterest, Yahoo groups and blogging all provide me with access to the world that I am largely denied IRL. Perhaps the relationships may not be what I imagine them to be, but at home I have no one, except my DD, since my marriage is not what I wish it were. Plus, I find more kindred spirits on-line than IRL. For example, many beliefs I hold dear are far from shared by my husband. If I lost internet access for an extended period of time, my life would have to change. (Mind you, I am 60 years old, super-morbidly obese, with health issues).

    • Hello Simplytrece!! Aw hun, I am sorry that you have felt or do feel the same sort of loneliness I feel in real life. Yes, I find more kindred spirits online it seems. And my gosh, life without internet access-gah!! Hugs!

  11. I moved 1500 miles away from family and friends, to a neighborhood that is populated only seasonally – and I was bored and lonely. Facebook kept me in touch with people – in many ways. I have connected with cousins I had lost touch with, and was also able to keep my boys updated on things going on for me. I am not a phone person (I usually couldn’t even tell you where my cell phone is) and Facebook was a quick and easy communication tool. Just that, though, not a replacement for making friends, reaching out and enjoying real face to face contact.

    The whole blogging, thing, though…I have got to make some changes. I have subscribed to so many blogs that I cannot possible read them all – and cannot even comment on the really brilliant ones – so I will be doing some paring down.

    • k8edid: I’m happy that Facebook kept you connected with people you care about after the move 1,500 miles away from family and friends . . . and yes, it should not be a substitute for real connections. Ideally, social media will facilitate such connections, you know?

      OMG, the whole blogging thing has got to change. I am tearing my hair out trying to keep up and I got to pare things down too. Often, even when I love something, I only have time to hit the LIKE button. So I hear you.

      Thankd for stopping in tonight!

  12. I really like your perspective on this topic. I just read an article in the Atlantic about how the impersonal connections on FB are actually making people lonlier. I started writing a blog because even with 3 kids and loving husband at home I was lonley. Being at home with the kids wasn’t enough. I love FB as a tool to help me get my blog out there, but I am going to have to make sure I keep my blog FB page in check because I can already see myself getting lost in it. Like everything in life it is all about moderation and balance.

  13. For me, social media is a necessary evil. At the same time, I also enjoy it. I’ve been on twitter for about 9 months and I swear it helped me find my voice ad a newly published author. I also highly recommend Kristen Lambs book. It was extremely helpful to me when I was setting up my author platform. Put simply, social media is imperative to any writer wanting to find success in what is a very competitive, often subjective world of publishing.

    On the mommy front, I can totally relate to your transition from being a big time lawyer to changing diapers. I too had a high-profile job in corporate communications, with a nice salary, perks, etc. Like you, I was lost for a good while after having my kids. But the thing that kept me going beyond my corporate identity was my writing. Looking very forward to Ripple’s release!

    • Hello Stephanie! Great to see you here! Amen to paragraph 1. Renee Jacobson has taught me how to use Twitter and introduced me to the work of Kristen Lamb. And yes, quite: “Put simply, social media is imperative to any writer wanting to find success in what is a very competitive, often subjective world of publishing.”

      As to the mommy front for ex-professionals, I am chuckling with empathy AND admiration for how you navigated the transition from professional to mother. And like you, it has done a lot for me to have my own dreams above and beyond the dinner menu or the grocery list. And thank you so much re Ripple!

  14. I always feel like I have way too much for your comment box, El! LOL (‘Cause I’m still thinking about your time as a lawyer, and not the real subject at hand!) I am so torn on social media. Like you said, it introduces us to like-minded souls we probably would have never met otherwise, and as writers it provides opportunities for feedback and promotion. I think aside from the obvious issues of cyber-bullying and identity theft, my main hang-up with things like FB and Twitter is the intense pressure to keep up with the day-to-day minutia of random people’s lives for fear of missing something important. My blog posts automatically get posted to FB and Twitter, and people in ‘real life’ often bring it up when I see them [in person], and then I feel BAD that I have no idea what’s going on with them, because I rarely read anyone’s wall posts or Twitter feed. It’s just way too overwhelming to keep up with that on top of a full-time job, my personal life, family obligations, reading blogs and writing!

    Speaking of, I also think sometimes social media takes away from really living life. I don’t think anyone likes the feeling of ‘unplugging’ for a weekend, being with the family, going for hikes and to the movies, only to come back to 10,000 emails/Tweets/wall posts/blog posts.

    In sum (HA! Finally), I guess I’ve got a love/hate relationship with FB and Twitter. 😉

    • I only post to my FB page every other month or so. I feel uncomfortably like I’m bragging or pushing my writing on to my friends and family. Most have no idea of blog world and look blankly at me when I talk about it. I’m working on a post on the topic – it’s marinating, you know?

    • Amen Jules, amen. I hate how little I get to read about my real-life friends. Many folks tease me that I am the apotheosis (on Facebook) of the “LIKER” because I sprint through my newsfeeds (individual and page) and like almost everything. It’s my signature perhaps–my way of saying “HEY!!!!” As far as real life friends, I am a writing introvert-hermit type LOL. And I am sort of weird, so locals are used to seeing this runner-woman going around talking to herself all the time . . . so I have established really low expectations of sociability. xoxo.

  15. Twitter is the social media that comes easiest for me. Facebook too (personal profile). I must admit I don’t really know what I’m doing with my Facebook Page. I think that might be evident. Help!