Lifestreams

This week, I've been working on an article for CPM on social media. (The research and interviews have been fascinating!) Did you know that if Facebook were a nation, its population would be more than that of the United States." Startling, huh?

One of the things that has surprised me about Facebook is how it facilitates relationships. While I sometimes hear people scorn Facebook saying it is "virtual" and not "real," I have to disagree.  My appreciation of the ability of a "lifestream" to draw people closer actually happened unexpectedly, and it was all because of a sentence Lynette-the-Cowgirl posted:  "Doing laundry."

Now, I know that doing laundry is mundane.  Except that there was a time, when Lynette and I lived close together and I actually knew in real life when she was doing laundry. (Because we were teenagers, and she would get bored and call me.)  I also knew that when we were little kids that I could never knock on her door on a Sunday afternoon because her mom made her nap. And I knew what cabinet the glasses were in. And the name of her dog. Because when you live life with people you know stuff about them.  Even the mundane stuff.

Lynette has now lived in Kerrville for the past 20 years, and though we kept in touch and saw each other at least once a year, we didn't get to see each other in the day-to-day details.  Until she joined Facebook.

My theory is that long before people lived anonymously  in cities they grew up in villages where they knew each other's daily routines.  After all, when you live with someone (or work with them forever) you know their likes and dislikes--the things that make them unique.  I know that John never drinks from a straw. I know that Nancy-the-Insightful moves a ring from her right hand to her left when she is trying to remember something. I know Craig always orders green curry when we call out for Thai.  But I also know that Danielle in Illinois wound up eating way too much frozen soup because of a commitment she made for Lent, that Melissa from 7th grade art class has poured her heart out over the past year in caring for her parents and that my neice has a fantastic sense of humor. Social media has allowed us to create our own villages outside of the limitations of geography.  (My favorite part of it all is that I know the people I work with and people I go to church with in a much fuller context.)

When I first introduced my dad--78--to Facebook his response was "this is the stupidest thing I've ever seen." This initially took me by surprise, until I realized he was thinking of it like a newspaper or a book.  Social media isn't that. It isn't designed to be read cover to cover any more than I would try to live life with Lynette 24 hours a day.  What it does is create "lifestreams"...in status updates, photographs, and messages...so that whenever you decide to spend 10 minutes here or there, it is like walking down to the town square and seeing men playing checkers, or moms sharing photos or pausing to chat with whoever happens to be there.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall