It all started with my mother. She decided to get on Facebook for some odd reason. She claims that it was to keep in contact with her old friends from the neighborhood and to find out what was going on in their lives.
It’s funny when your family gets onto a social network only you knew about and have been a part of for the past eight years. Yes, that’s right. I’ve had a profile on Facebook since the days of http://www.thefacebook.com and when it was strictly limited to colleges and universities. There’s a certain process that everyone goes through I think after creating a profile. In college, we talked about our addictions and you didn’t really realize it until someone pointed it out to you. Now, it’s almost a necessity to stay up-to-date and plugged into the worlds that you’re a part of. Yes, worlds. Plural. With an S.
When my mom got on Facebook, and more recently my cousin Desiree, it suddenly seemed they had more to talk about. “Did you see that [insert family member here] went to [insert tropical location/event here]?” Or “Why does [family member] always talk about [obscure messaging inserted here]?” Yes, they had been bit by the social media bug. It was incredible that about seven years later I was discussing the basics that I had learned as a freshman in college.
I had a friend who would start a conversation by saying something like, “So I saw on Facebook that you went to that show yesterday.” One day, I got sick of it and called him out. “Dude,” I said, “we’re friends. I’m sure you can come up with something more original than, ‘I saw on Facebook…'” I wanted someone to know me for me, not for what image I portray on Facebook. I think that’s the main difference between being involved in media and not. You HAVE to know the difference and how it’s going to affect who you are and who you network with.
But I digress. Last night, I had the opportunity to talk to the teenagers at the Christopher House Youth Leadership Program about the damage that social networks can do to not only relationships but your chances at things like internships and potential jobs. “Don’t put up anything you wouldn’t want to see on a billboard,” I told them. I gave them a mini-branding session of sorts, explaining that not only do they have to be careful of what they put up, but they also have to understand how Facebook can help them. “What would I learn about you if I looked at your profile right now?” I also told them, be careful, especially if you’re friends with family members. I can’t begin to describe the looks of disgust on their faces, the laughs and scoffs in the air.
I proceeded to show them my profile with my big face projected on the wall. “See? There are all my family members right there,” waving the mouse over the left side of the screen. “When you have a family of 62 it’s easier to keep up with everyone via Facebook.” And I realized that we had (at least those of us who are friends and comment, like and chat on the social media program) become closer. I could see pictures of my nieces (the ONE) and nephews (the HOARD) in their Halloween costumes and now Christmas pictures. I know how they’re doing in school, what they did over the weekend and at a distance, I’m still a part of their lives. I have family who live quite a distance away, so seeing them every weekend is not practical. Plus, we all have lives of chaos.
What’s interesting is that we have festivities like birthday parties, holiday parties and all of that good stuff, where we invite EVERYONE. That’s right. This is my mother’s side, by the way. She grew up with seven other brothers and sisters, so you can see how the duplication happened. Our oldest cousin is already in her 40s so we continue to multiply by vast amounts. A new wave of us is born about every two or three years. We can pack a house, to say the least. Oh and don’t forget the boyfriends, girlfriends and family friends who come along with the packages already instilled in the Perez blood line. Family gatherings are never boring. There’s always someone to talk to.
Having our family on Facebook is like having your own special club where you can tag everyone in a picture and have your other friends be jealous that you are so in touch with cousins and extended family. There are inside jokes and comments to be made. It makes you feel more in touch, even if it IS over a computer.
I remember when I didn’t even HAVE the internet. Remember AOL? And Dial-Up? Exactly. I didn’t have that and my best friend, who at the time moved out to Plainfield, did. I remember her saying, “Well, once you get the internet, we can chat and we won’t feel so far away.” We were still writing letters to each other occasionally. Letters! Snail mail! Needless to say, we ended up being roommates for two years before she moved to Georgia then Florida, getting farther away from me. So guess how I get to see her two little boys who I consider my children? FACEBOOK! And text messages and picture messages and all that stuff. Sometimes she’ll pass the older one the phone so I can figure out what he’s trying to explain to me. It’s cute. I love them.
The way I see it is like this: Facebook makes sure you remember the ones who play some sort of role in your life and the way you use it is important. It becomes Matrix like. If you’re not on it, you’re out of the loop. If you are, you have to know how to use it to your best benefit. There are tons of new applications and ways to use these social media sites, but it’s up to us to educate ourselves on them, as with anything else.
It literally helps me to stay connected and up-to-date with the people I love the most.