By The Duchess, 5th February 2017

Facebook and Friendship

How Has Social Media Impacted Our Lives?

How Has Social Media Impacted Our Lives?

I remember the time I first heard of Facebook. To be honest I was a little confused. I was never the ‘type’ to do MySpace and that was the only thing people were comparing it to.

I wasn’t really that interested.

I sat yesterday looking through pictures of me pre-2007. I had a great group of friends and a fantastic social life. I knew my friend’s phone numbers off by heart and never thought twice about calling them. Fridays were spent planning the weekend and my phone bills were my biggest extravagance (with my love of groovy jeans coming a close second). The pictures I have are mostly blurred. Disposable camera held at arms length, red eye and drunken images that will forever make me giggle. I remember laughing at them when we picked them up from the pharmacy, cringing at the idea that someone else had see our drunken exploits. Evidence of such nights were kept solely on little pieces of photo paper stuck to the walls of my university wall with blue-tack. Faded memories. Great memories. Memories before Facebook.

I long for those days. When the trout pout was not perfected, because you never knew until much later if that smile would look cool or dorky. Thank God Facebook was not around during my high school and college years. Those memories and hairstyles will forever be locked away in my own little keepsake box.

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Old Pictures

That all changed in 2007 when I had a friend request email from someone inviting me to sign up to this new Facebook website. As a military kid it appealed to me that I could search for all those friends I had lost touch with over the years. I sit here now, 15 years later and I look down my friends list and I am amazed at the connections I have. From Canada to Japan, Scotland to Australia. I have friends that live all over the world. And these days, I keep in touch regularly with at least 80% of them.

So how has Facebook changed Friendship over the years?
With Facebook’s anniversary tomorrow and Mark Zuckerberg declaring it “National Friendship Day” – I was compelled to look a little more closely at the benefits and drawbacks of conducting our friendships and social lives so openly on the internet. People are quick to judge social media as ‘time wasting’ or ‘disengaging from reality’… but I have at least six reasons why Facebook has changed my life for the better.

1: Intrigue
I am a true Facebook Addict. I love people. I love to talk to people. I love people watching (one of the many reasons I love airports), I like to wonder what is was that brought them onto my path that day, or my life for that matter. I am a writer, my life revolves around what other people are doing and the inspiration they may be able to offer me.

2: Inspiration
I am not afraid to tell people what is going on in my life. Why? Because I am a writer. (I realise I use that excuse for most things, but in this case it is 100% true.) As most people can tell by reading all the articles I publish on here, I am someone that believes that courage is found only by opening your mouth and telling people your fears, your pains, your wishes and dreams.

I am a writer

3: Support
I don’t believe that I need to post a picture of my lunch every day, but I do think that if I am having a bad day, it’s nice to have the knowledge that one of my friends out there will know and be able to help. Especially with motherhood – because no matter where you live or how much support you have, sometimes you need to reach out and tell the world your struggles. And for that there is Facebook.

As a new mother airing my battles on social media I didn’t feel like I was a ‘burden’ to anyone. I was just ‘putting it out there’  and whoever had the time to get back to me, would. In those first few dark months of being a new mum, Facebook was my comfort blanket, my saviour. A place I could store all my friends in one place and never have a lonely day again.

4: Business
Nowadays, Facebook plays an entirely different role in my life. It forms a massive part of my business as a writer. With the printed word dying out, what is left behind? Online of course.

Facebook

My life still revolves around my passion for magazines, but now my stories reach millions of people rather than just a few thousand through social media. And they last forever too… call me narcissistic but it’s better than being tomorrow’s fish and chip paper! Facebook helps us, at The Glass House, reach strangers with helpful or healing words; important stories and touching articles that can guide people through tough times; people that our work would never have been able to reach before. In some small way, each and every day, I am reminded that our words have helped and guided people I will never meet.

5: New Friends
I have indeed got friends in my life now that I would never have if it weren’t for Facebook. When I moved house, I needed to get rid of my youngest girl’s cot. Some lovely lady on Facebook had posted on a ForSale/LookingFor site in our local area. I connected with her and said that she could gladly come and collect my old cot for free. That lady is now one of my closest and most valued friends. She has helped me through some very tough times. We would never have met otherwise. We had nobody and nothing in common. Now I can not imagine her not being in my life. She has been my rock, my saviour and I can now say one of my very closest friends. The person I would call at 2am if I needed to hide a body! And I know for sure she would do the same.

And she is far from the only Facebook Friend I can say has helped me through tough times.

6: Community
Recently, both myself and Lady Lolita joined a group on Facebook full of mothers, just like us. Mothers who sometimes just feel the need to rant, cry, scream and laugh with other women who may feel the same. No judgement, no recrimination. This group has been a breath of fresh air for both of us. Most of us know that the likelihood of us meeting in the real world is slim, but the connection is there nonetheless.

In the last few years, many of the groups members have fallen ill or found themselves in heartbreaking situations. All those in need have found themselves heartfelt prayers with the founder of the group organising a whip around to send these ladies flowers and gifts, cards and well wishes. Mostly from women they have never met, but already feel close to. Why? Because we are each other’s rocks in times of need.

I, myself have found a group of likeminded people in THE Book Club Facebook page. A group of people who made me re-discover my love of books and reading. A group of strong and like-minded readers and authors who have allowed me to feel like I belong! (Many thanks to the amazing Tracy Fenton!)

When you don’t want to turn to your family or close friends (because sometimes let’s face it, it’s generally them causing the stress) it is refreshing and therapeutic to know you can turn to a group or community and feel ‘at home‘. These groups can keep people sane. Offer sage advice and an outside opinion. These communities can, in many cases save lives and marriages!

So for that Mark Zuckerberg, we thank you for giving us a place to feel at home when we are at our lowest.

But Facebook does have it’s downfalls.

For a start, it’s making us forget how to be ‘real’ friends. We like status’ that our friends create but we don’t react.
“I have just passed my driving test” – 112 likes. Fabulous. 112 people liked that you passed. Amazing. But did you get one card? A phone call to congratulate you? An offer of ‘shall we go out to celebrate?’  When did that change?

It has also become acceptable to have a category of “Facebook Friends Only” in our lives? Why are they just Facebook friends. I asked a friend of mine the question and her response was “well, we know each other, but I can’t really stand her. I would never go for a drink with her or anything. But we know each other.” Then WHY  are you friends on Facebook? Surely If you don’t like her, and would not go for a drink with her, she should not be someone who gets to know the innermost workings of your life? The whole concept is alien to me.

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But we have become a society of oversharers. And not just us writer folk. We are quite happy to rant and rave into the ether, forgetting it is out there for all to see. Pick up the phone and bitch about it to someone, by all means, but don’t hang your dirty washing out in public. Such as that comment you made about fancying your boss the night you went out and got drunk and forgot about posting it on Facebook. Your own fault, love. But let’s face it, if you hadn’t ‘friended’ your boss on Facebook he wouldn’t know about it now, would he? Is your boss your friend? Then why the hell is he on your friends list anyway?

But that is mild in comparison to the dark side of social media, the trolling and cyber bullying. It pains my heart that this even exists. I realise that putting your innermost thoughts on a Facebook page is going to leave you open to criticism, but having to deal with some of the extreme forms of backlash is something else.

The number of deaths in recent years that have been linked to bullying or trolling on social media are much higher than I ever imagined. And the craziest deaths actually shocked me. From a husband killing his wife because she changed her status to single, to a father killing his wife because she kept posting updates about child support payments. Social media means that everyone’s life it out there on full view.

Which leads me on to crime. Did you know that it is estimated that a crime is committed every 40 minutes due to information given or received on Facebook! Come on now people. Most of this is common sense, but it seems we still are not getting it right. If you are going on holiday, don’t post about it publicly and let the whole world know you are not going to be home and that Rocky, your Rottweiler, will be in a kennel. It leaves your home open to burglary. Don’t accept random friend requests from strangers you have never met just because you like the look of their profile. You never know who is sitting behind the screen. You leave yourself open to trolling, harassment and stalking.

So has Facebook helped us or hindered the ever evolving human race? I long for the days of my youth when taking a photo, making a phone call and checking your diary involved three separate and rather large contraptions that you nearly always left at home (imagine that)! Plus the negative aspects of what is essentially meant to be a large interlinked connection of like-minded people has, inevitably, developed into yet another way for crime and hatred to spread.

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So whilst writing this, and deliberating its pros and cons, I (of course) checked my Facebook. And on my lovely TimeHop memory app up popped a picture and a message that brought a tear to my eye. My beautiful Aunt died last year. We reconnected on Facebook a few years ago after losing touch for almost a decade and arranged to meet up.

I took a picture of us and posted it to my Facebook account. A beautiful smiling picture of me with my beautiful vivacious Aunt, full of life and love. My Aunt died of Cancer last year. The afternoon I spent with her will live on in my memory, but today, as I see my TimeHop, it reminded me of that day. Next to the picture is a link to her Facebook page. A page that is still active. On her page is an outpouring of love. Messages from family and friends because her Facebook Page remains a place of memories and love. She may no longer be with us, but her page full of wonderful pictures and heartfelt messages is always there for us who miss her.

So I smile through the tears and finish by saying this…

Yes, Facebook can be bad. It is an addictive drug that is almost impossible to detox from (although many have tried.) But Facebook is connection. It has changed the face of friendship forever. You are never more that a ‘like’ or click away from a friend – old and new. You are never alone, because Facebook is 24/7, global and always open. And as long as you use it responsibly, Facebook will always be that friend you can turn to. The friend that is always there.

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