You never read anything good about Facebook. In fact until two years ago, the impression I had gained from everything I had read about it was so poor that, if the ghost of Christmas future had told me I would one day be an active participant, I would not have believed him.
I am a writer and, like many writers, an introvert. I am also a very cautious person. I have always been hesitant to reveal much of myself. The kind of social interaction I am most comfortable with is the intense one-to-one discussion.
So why would Facebook, with its reputation for superficiality and promiscuous over-sharing, appeal to me?
It didn't. But one night I read the blog of a friend — an extrovert, an optimist, and a ready embracer of the new. I noticed a little logo in the right-hand column proclaiming that she was on Facebook, and I wondered what her Facebook profile was like. So I clicked, realised I would have to join in order to see it, considered, decided to join just to have a look around and then depart, and signed up.
I don't remember forming an opinion before I turned off the computer and went to bed that night, but I do remember that when I woke up the next morning I had about ten friend requests. Most were from fellow children's authors whom I knew either personally or by reputation.
It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. With Facebook, I mean — but also with many other people, some of whom I would never otherwise have met, some with whom I had already had some contact, but whose beautiful personalities revealed themselves to me more deeply in cyberspace. Some had simply read my books.
People say that Facebook is superficial. The truth is that everybody approaches Facebook in a different way. Part of the fascination lies in the differences. Some people tell you what they are doing from hour to hour — and even those ordinary things, what one friend is cooking for dinner, what another friend's three-year-old just said, I find delightful.
Some people post links to reviews or to articles on subjects they find interesting: I love this! Many people, including myself, share music videos from YouTube. How delightful it can be to be reminded of a long-forgotten song, or to discover that a Facebook friend has similar musical taste!
Some write progress reports on the novel they are writing. And others share their lives — their frustrations and achievements, their griefs and joys — in a way that gives much insight, inspires much compassion, and deepens one's appreciation of the human journey.
I have followed the story of a friend who took responsibility for a tribe of stray cats living in a vacant lot next door to her. I have read of the pain and frustration of a friend caring for a terminally ill parent. I have shared in the anniversary of a beloved child lost to cancer. And, in cyberspace, I have had the joy of attending several beautiful weddings.
You have only to say something a little fragile on Facebook, or even to be absent for a while, to attract well-wishes, warm support, queries about your welfare and even personal offers of help. I have found it an immensely supportive community. And if you share an achievement — the publication of a book, for example, or a good review, you are showered with encouragement and affirmation.
There is also a lot of talk about cats and other furry animals. But in my view there is nothing trivial about this. The beauty and charm of kittens, or of new born animals, is a shared short cut to joy.
In short, I haven't had so much fun in years. And I have never felt less alone.
I don't see what is 'inauthentic' about this.
Facebook has changed me. I remember I once found it difficult to cope with the idea of having a photograph of myself in a public space. I am less private than I used to be. But my personal standards concerning behaviour towards others haven't changed at all.
A couple of days ago a headline on an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald declared: Etiquette of cyberspace is simple - there are no rules. But there are rules: the rules you impose on your own behaviour, which in the end are the rules that count most.
I have been lucky in my real-life friends who are on Facebook, and in the friends I have encountered there — other people are less so. And of course, like anything, Facebook can be used for bad, even evil. But any suburban kitchen is full of implements that could be used to injure. Most people use them to cook.
Cassandra Golds is a Sydney-based author of children's fiction. Her most recent book is The Museum of Mary Child.
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19 May 2010
Interesting article. A group of writers up in QLD are interested in how Facebook has helped other authors. Would love to hear more about that if you get a chance.
19 May 2010
Yes. it's the rules one imposes on oneself. Unfortunately the idiots spoil it for others, like a mother writing about her newborn baby projectile pooing....how immature if not disgusting. But what's worse it's the response from like people !!!My assessment of Facebook, and I am on it without my permission and I use it only to view others, not for myself, is that 99% of the hits are by idiots and mainly youth.
19 May 2010
Oh Phil! Obviously you've never been a mum with a baby with projectile poo! That is NOT superficial! Remembering the days of isolation as a mother (no family in Australia, living in a small community) I would have loved a way of communicating the frustrations, fear, joys and cries for help! I'm on FB - it's strengthened friendships, formed friendships and kept my sanity at times!
19 May 2010
Thank you Cassandra for a positive article about online communication. I used to manage tutors for off-campus subjects online. I made some good friendships. I kept in contact with one who contracted cancer: he tutored for as long as he could, we then e-mailed support to each other, as he weakened he included me in the group he contacted occasionally to let us know how he was going. The final e-mail came from his son after he had died. This is one of the friendships I treasure in my life.
Like most things online is neither good nor evil. We determine by our actions what its effect will be.
19 May 2010
What a refreshing, positive article. Good on you Cassandra. As for Philip, so sad. I regularly prune my Facebook and take out the voyeurs so you wouldn't last as my friend!
DAVID MELBOURNE HICKS
19 May 2010
I agree Carol, " What a refreshing, positive article. Good on you Cassandra. As for Philip, so sad." And how well put by Cassandra, " ...any suburban kitchen is full of implements that could be used to injure. Most people use them to cook."
19 May 2010
Many thanks in general, Cassandra, for an absolute gem of personal non-fiction writing. Special thanks for such a positive and encouraging write-up of facebook experiences - like you, I have met many excellent people through joining it and by taking the chance to do a variety of posts. I wouldn't have met those people (and through them, some more) for any other reason and not in my home city either.
21 November 2010
Cassandra and I used to work in the same Department, but on different campuses, and only ever met up at a special event every year or so. Years later, we'd both moved on to new challenges and were almost-accidentally reacquainted, via Facebook. Not too long after, we had planned and organised an author visit to my school wholly via Facebook. We both felt very empowered and have a much richer friendship thanks to Facebook. And I agree, etiquette is etiquette.
21 November 2010
Phil, if your friends in the real world are idiots, your friends on Facebook will be too. My friends on Facebook, like my friends in the real world, are interesting, intelligent, well-educated people who are constantly introducing me to new music, art, ideas - as well as to the ups and downs of their lives. And my social life has never been better, as I hear about events happening that I never would have known about before, and once I get there, it's easy to connect with people, as there's usually someone there who, even if I haven't met them before, I've probably seen their name and comments floating around FB via some mutual friend - so breaking the ice is a lot easier at real-world social events as well.
22 November 2010
Facebook is fantastic, it is no different to any other activity. Everything great in this world is ruined by greed and predatory behaviour. In a town of 50,000 people everybody locks their doors because there are a very small number of people who may steal. Wisdom is realising that whether one locks their door or leaves it open does not alleviate the fact that anything in this world that one can imagine is possible, if everyone locks their door, the focus changes from turning a knob, to the weakest lock!
I am curious as to whether critics of Facebook ride bicycles next to semi-trailers and believe they are safe because they have medical insurance. I would not be surprised if this was the case.
27 October 2012
You last sentence is gold- actually this whole piece is- but the last sentence? Perfect.