This new era we live in – of mass communication and social media – is fun and exciting. It can also be frightening and overwhelming. I both miss our collective privacy, and appreciate the benefits of it’s loss.

We live in different times. Social media is a new concept for most of us – a new paradigm. Facebook got it’s start in 2004 but truly wasn’t considered mainstream until 2008 – that means that my four year old daughter is as old and mature as Facebook.

As with anything revolutionary and new, it takes some time to figure out the norms of usage. The etiquette of a new communication channel takes some time. We have gone from writing letters, to the telephone, then cellular, and now digital in a relatively short time and with each step forward we have had to re-define the rules and adjust. The way you communicate in a written letter would cause your thumb to be amputated in a text format. The norms for a private telephone conversation do not easily port to a mass facebook status update – but these things do take time to understand.

Even more frightening is the reverse trend of record keeping in conversations – back when a letter was your means of conveying information you were cognizant that it could be shared, kept, treasured, or used against you in a court of law. It took time and deliberate effort to find a pen, paper, envelope, stamp, time to write – a letter wasn’t ever conceived, written, and sent while at a stop light (note – you should not be texting at a stoplight, that is just a bad example is what that is.) Now, not only are your comments recorded – forever – but they are easily sent out to a multitude of others and retrieved at a moments notice.

Nowadays – you can update your status with every shift of your mental status and a bad moment is suddenly preserved for eternity. I can pull up a private message to a friend and read through the last years worth of communication.

And we all do this updating a little different, right? We have the ‘vaguebook’ folks who post these delightfully intriguing but cryptic status updates leaving us all to wonder if their milk was bad this morning or their entire life is now bad. Then there are ‘debbie-downerbook’ updaters who don’t seem to ever have a good day. Contrast the downers with the ‘how-freakin’-great-can-your-life-really-bebook’ where everything they post seems to imply their life is as carefree and easy as it could possibly be. The occasional negative post is met almost with glee by many – thank goodness they have encountered a problem! We have ‘minute-by-minutebook’ posters who are surely being tracked by the FBI and are under Facebook arrest in lieu of home arrest. And the ‘lurkerbook’ folks who never post on their own wall, occasionally post on others wall and make you feel a bit juvenile for participating at all.

I am 100% in the ‘how-freakin’-great’ club of users. I don’t have a perfect life, but my mind-audience when I post is maybe 10 people. My mom is always there at the forefront reading my posts. If I’m on the road it is my husband, Greg. I know there are some faithful followers who will be reading and I heard a great quote just a few weeks ago by an author, “No one owes me their time when they are reading something I wrote.” You gotta respect that, even in a status update. You are changing people with everything you post. You might not be changing them for long – but for a moment you are nudging them down the path of their day and it is either going to lift them up and help them or it is going to bring them down. If I do have an overwhelming urge to post something negative (American Airlines, you know who you are) then I try to do it with some humor. I’m not always successful – but I try.

This leads to the flip-side – I really really struggle with the idea that people either: a) find my online optimism fake and incredibly annoying OR b) believe that my life is without it’s struggles. As for a) – can’t do much about that but as for b) I hate to think that someone may feel worse about themselves because they are under some false belief that everyone’s lives are perfect based on what they read on Facebook. Problems exist for everyone, all the time. Facebook isn’t privy to a lot of them – and if they are it is normally in the vein of our ‘vaguebook’ friends – so please don’t use a public social forum as a yardstick for your ‘normalcy’. While we are at it – just embrace being abnormal – it’s a wonderful thing to be.

I look forward to seeing what we can do with all these new means of exchanging information. I have a couple of really close friendships that are very dependent on Facebook – we aren’t geographically close, but I ‘see’ them everyday. I think that we will continue to see amazing advancements in how we can use the internet and this digital closeness to improve our relationships and stay connected.

But – I’ll end with this. I am really, really, really glad Facebook did not exist when I was in high school.

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