With the growth of Facebook to over 800 million users and showing no sign of going away anytime soon, we have a new element in our relationships that simply didn’t exist too many years ago. We have the ability to easily stay in touch – even to the finest level of detail – with whomever we wish. We can choose to maintain relationships from years past where geography and circumstances would previously have ended regular contact. We can, in a sense, live with many others every day to stay in touch and to at least be up to date on those aspects of their lives they choose to make public.
I think that’s a good thing. Case in point – this week spending time with some family members and friends who I do not get to see in person very often. Because of our connections on Facebook, when we got together we could pick up the conversation from a broader knowledge base than if we did not have that connection. We didn’t have to say “Where are you working?” or “What have you been up to lately?” or “How is the family?” or a host of other catch-up types of questions. We already knew the answers to those things because of staying in touch via Facebook. We could move more quickly to other matters.
I’ve had several friends and acquaintances over the past year who chose to take breaks from Facebook because they felt like it was in some way harmful to them or their relationships. Some gave it up for Lent. Some have closed their accounts completely. That is their prerogative and they have to do what they think is best in their situation for their relationships.
But I am grateful to be connected regularly with friends from high school, with family and with people I see in person every week. Should I be online so much that I ignore my wife or anyone I may be physically present with? No. To do so is as rude as always spending time on your cell phone when you’re with others. Used responsibly, it expands and deepens relationships.
Leap year lesson #130 is Facebook can deepen relationships.