Anyway, all that is a long and pointless preamble to why I have been spending (wasting?) even more time than usual on Facebook. I know I said on this very screen that I would spend the whole week I had off work writing, but as any writer will attest (except for the exceptionally gifted and dedicated ladies with whom I share this blog) playing solitaire, checking email and fiddling with Facebook are often a far bigger draw when faced with a couple of free hours at a computer than knuckling down to some serious writing.
It took me a while to get into Facebook. Not only can it take time to figure out how to work it when you're as technically challenged as I am (and they keep changing it) but initially I didn't see the point of logging on just to learn which of my acquaintances have just put their bins out, or bought a Wii, especially when I didn't plan on filling everyone in on the private minutiae of my own life.
This last year, however (and we're coming to the stage where it is quite appropriate to reflect over the year) I have really started to understand how Facebook can enrich and improve my relationships with others. I believe that Mark Zuckerberg entirely deserves his Time magazine Person of the Year award (and not just because the other contender was Lady Gaga).
So what has Facebook done for me? Here are just a few reasons I love it:
- I have reconnected with many people from long ago - people who were special to me but, for reasons of geography or time, I had lost contact with. Most notable for me was an old college friend I hadn't seen in 20 years, but had made a promise to which, through Facebook, I was finally able to keep.
- It reminds me when people's birthdays are...
- With so many of my friends living across a very large ocean, it's a quick and easy way not just to stay in touch (email and Skype can accomplish that) but to interact with groups of friends. When I log onto Facebook first thing in the morning, my screen will be full of news of my American friends while the British ones slept.
- My daughter's email account was hacked so she closed it. Now she she does all her communicating through Facebook - using messages, instant chat and status updates. Her friends do too. When homework is given at school, one of them will photograph the assignment (using their phone), post it on Facebook and tag it with the names of all their friends who should be working on it. Best of all, my daughter can access Facebook for free on her phone, so running out of credit is no longer a problem.
- I've made new friends and joined new communities through Facebook. When I became a fan of the Stephanie Meyer page I started writing fan fiction for their competitions (which was lots of fun and great practice) and made several lovely friends, one of whom I discovered lives less than twenty miles from me.
- When someone gets married, has a baby, or just goes on holiday to somewhere exotic, the photographs can be on Facebook in minutes for everyone to enjoy and comment on.
- Many businesses use Facebook to great effect. The best I've seen so far is Harvester, a group of restaurants over here in the UK. From menu updates and new restaurant openings to asking for suggestions for a vegetarian Christmas dish and giving vouchers for free ice-cream to all page members, it has really helped to give Harvester a good public face, and many of those on the page are commenting on the wonderful meal or service they received. I have found it very useful to go to business pages on Facebook to find opening times or good deals.
- I'm using Facebook to further my writing "career". It's free publicity for us writers, and that is priceless.
Like anything else, you do have to be carefully. I have two policies - I don't "friend" anyone unless I really know them, or know well several people we have in common. And if anyone swears in their status, I remove them from my friend list.
I haven't got into playing the games yet, despite many invitations. I think that really would be a terrible (but fun) waste of time. I love Facebook primarily because it helps me to connect with people I care about, and share things with them. Which is, in fact, the whole point.
It's now noon, and I've wasted enough time blogging, so I'm going to have that last piece of chocolate yule log.