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Facebook Friends
by Sydney Avey  
9/12/2011 / Internet

CyberGirl passed from purview on Monday. After a long battle with Microsoft Publisher, her links failed. Though critics say she twittered her life away, thousands of her Facebook friends left moving tributes on her Wall acknowledging her influence on their lives.

"Day or night, I could count on meeting CyberGirl in the 'Rotarians who off road in rural Romania' chat room," Anonymous posted. Famous in forums around the globe, we will miss CyberGirl's comments and responses.

Kidding aside, social media can be a boon to people with lively interests who live in small rural towns. At best, it helps us stay connected with the younger generations who don't write letters, call or even email anymore. If we have special interests and hobbies (and I hope we all do!), it gives us an opportunity live in a larger world and learn from others. At worst, it eats up valuable time. Like sampling three cookies and then feeling compelled to munch through the entire box, it can leave you stuffed and tired, but not nourished and satisfied.

I opened a Facebook account for two reasons. I wanted to understand social media and I wanted to keep up with my kids. My son and daughter-in-law use Facebook to keep track of each other, sometimes when they are sitting in the same room. I see their discussions about myriad mundane issues clogged sinks, who will do the dinner dishes, who is tired and headed for bed. Facebook has been criticized for banality but it's the pedestrian nature of their conversation that delights me. Knowing that the tomato vines survived the hornworms and the surf was good on Saturday morning, I see that all is right in their world.

If we open a discussion about what is happening in our lives to the full spectrum of our personal network, is that a good thing or a bad thing? It tests the waters of who is interested enough to comment and indeed, they may have valuable feedback. (That's how I found a mechanic when my car developed a new rattle and my husband was out of town.) It can also make us a pariah when we vent our anger IN CAPITAL LETTERS ABOUT THE NASTY PERSON YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE WHO LET THEIR DOG POOP ON MY DRIVEWAY! I've blocked distant relatives whose lives seem clouded by petty grievances and artist friends who write offensive poetry.

A good test of appropriateness remains what I learned in Journalism 101. Play that post or tweet as a headline in your local newspaper. Hornworms attack early vines, stir debate over pesticides seems acceptable. Angry housewife threatens neighbor's dog, not so much.

Sydney Avey writes and blogs in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. She is the author of The Sheep Walker's Daughter.

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