The Wonders and Evils of FaceBook… and Finding Old Friends

If you are someone who gets online regularly these days, you have encountered Facebook – a social networking site where you can connect with friends.

A lot of people make fun of Facebook (FB), saying they don’t care what you had for breakfast or how you feel about politics, but there is so much more to FB than that. I tend to think of it like that old rhyme by Longfellow (1904) that said,

There was a little girl,

And she had a little curl

Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good

She was very, very good,

And when she was bad she was horrid.

I say this because I’ve had some horrid experiences on FB. Twice I’ve actually closed my account because of negative feedback. But both times I returned because I missed it. Once you make friends on FB you really do wonder what they are up to every day. It is a virtual, but living, network.

I think what you have to realize is that FB, while being a very social place, is also a platform for narcissists. Hiding behind an anonymous computer screen makes it easy for a lot of people to say derogatory or inflammatory things they might never say to someone in a face-to-face setting. And the more they do it, the more emboldened they become. They are cyber-bullies. You’ve probably encountered a few if you’ve been on FB for a while.

These are the folks that “block” and “unfriend” you the minute you say something they don’t like. It sounds inconsequential. After all, who cares? It’s only FB…

Turns out plenty of people do. After I was blocked and unfriended by a number of people, I researched the subject. And in today’s world of social platforms, there truly is a system of “etiquette.” Certainly everyone has the right to maintain their status on FB as they see fit. But it can be a little bit like junior high school.

Remember that popular girl who demanded that no one in her circle speak to anyone she was displeased with? That actually happens on FB! Offend her and you are toast to her and her friends. One article said that “unfriending” along with “blocking” is the equivalent of throwing your drink in someone’s face at a party. And let me tell you, if you happen to be the “blocked & unfriended” – that is exactly what it is like. It is a power play someone uses to publicly let you know you are excluded from their world. Very definitely junior high mean-girl mentality.

Personally, I don’t like the idea of “blocking” or “unfriending” people unless they are somehow dangerous or threatening or obscene. All you have to do is “unfollow” them and you don’t see what they post. It’s the polite way to ignore those you don’t want contact with all the time.

Others feel more strongly about the “unfriending” business and use it liberally. They say they are taking charge of their timeline and controlling who has access to it. Which sounds reasonable at first.

But here’s the thing…

Why did you “friend” such a person in the first place? Did you actually know them? Were you trying to expand your friend-count as though FB is some sort of popularity contest? A lot of people do this. They have many hundreds of FB friends – basically anyone they’ve ever talked to in their lives. But honestly, if there was no FB, would you really have 500 “friends” in real life? I don’t think so.

And that means, you don’t know a lot of these people at all. All you know is that when you post the pics of your latest vacation they all jump on and say “Wow! Hope you had a great time!” And you can bask in the glow of all these friends who congratulate you even when they don’t know you or even particularly care.

I’m not saying that to be mean. I’m saying it because FB is very much a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, you can reach out into cyber-world and put on a show about your wonderful self. And when you’re down for a day, you can post that and others will give you encouragement. “Hang in there,” they chime. “You can do it!” they applaud. “Don’t let the turkeys get you down!”

Oh, how good that sounds! Hordes of friends always there every time you type a few words into FB. No more crying into your pillow at night… just post it on FB and the positive feedback pours in. (And let me say, this is a wonderful thing among real friends, but pretty superficial among those hundreds you’ve never met.)

To me, this is not the beauty of Facebook. It is the illusion. The mirage. The false assurance that others have your back when truly, they don’t know you… have never met you… and wouldn’t recognize you if they ran into you on the street.

So, if I feel this way, why in the world am I still on FB???

Simply because…

It’s like that little girl, who when she was good, she was VERY, VERY good!

And FB at its best is a social connection like no other.

Believe me, I have lots of FB friends I’ve never met. Some are acquaintances that I play games online with. Some I’ve met through business connections who want to expand their network. And my list of “un-confirmed” friends is quite long since I decided long ago to not just “friend” someone I don’t know in the interest of building up my “friends” numbers.

But… and this is a very big BUT…

Some days you are just cruising along, minding your own business, and a request will show up on your FB timeline like a blast from the past. And it’s someone you actually know. And you haven’t seen them in 40 years. And they aren’t looking to build a friend list… they just found you and genuinely want to know how you are.

This, too, occurs all the time. I can’t tell you how many old high school mates, neighbors from the old stomping grounds, friends of my children and others I’ve known through the years who have found me on FB. These people are actually friends. They are treasures from the past. And you never know when they’ll come back into your life via FB.

I love it when this happens. And it just happened to me again a few days ago.

This particular friend request came from someone who was a pal of my dad’s more than 60 years ago – and still is, although they are not in regular contact today. Somehow he came across me on FB and got in touch. And since we live in different cities now, this would never have happened in real life.

I immediately recognized his name, Bill Venrick, and excitedly responded. “Are you that old friend of my dad’s?” I asked.

“Indeed, I am,” he replied. And our conversation continued from there.

I went to Bill’s timeline and discovered he is still celebrating life with his wife Jean (over 60 years now) and that in recent years they have published several books on the history of Lancaster, Ohio, which is hometown for all of us.

The Venricks have written a history of the Boys Industrial School (known to locals as the BIS,) complete with historic photos, called Echos from the Hill. They also recently published the history of the Fairfield County Children’s Home called A Place to Call Home. Both of these locations are of great historical interest to anyone who lives in Fairfield County or grew up there as they were/are local landmarks and institutions.

(Note: these books are available from the Fairfield Heritage Assoc, 105 E Wheeling St in Lancaster OH, or The Frame Shop on the corner of Union and Columbus St in Lancaster. Or you can call the Venricks at 740-654-3072 to get a copy of either or both by mail.)

But I’m not just promoting the Venrick books here.

No, I’m pointing out the wonders of FB friendship when it happens just right.

As I said, Bill “friended” me and we were able to chat and get a bit reacquainted. Then the most wonderful thing happened…

Since Bill and his wife really were friends of my parents all those years ago, he just happened to have some photos to share with me. He sent them to me in an email, and when I opened them up, I literally burst into tears. Let me show you why…

Here’s Bill with my dad, Ralph Tipton and a friend, Ronnie Wilkinson (now deceased) one evening in early 1952. Bill is the one wearing the foam rubber nose and my dad, Ralph, is in the middle… (please click on photos to enlarge)

Bill V, Dad, Ronnie

In the following photo, the Venricks had stopped by after church to play a little music at my dad’s place. From left to right is Jim Buckalew (dear friend of the guys, long deceased), Bill’s dad Ike Venrick, Bill, my dad, Ralph, and his step-dad, Lawrence Featheroff. I can’t tell you how much I love seeing this photo of my dad and grand dad when they were so much younger than I am now…

Music - Dad, Grandpa, Venricks, Buckalew

THEN! Bill includes these precious photos that made me cry…

Here’s my mom, Margie, age 17, holding me at age 3 months…

Margie & Lynnie 3 months

And Dad holding me as well…

Dad & Lynnie 3 months

And mom and dad with me that night in early 1952 when I was just 3 months old.

Mom, Dad & Lynnie 3 months

These are not pictures I had seen before – or ever would have seen – if not for Mr. Venrick finding me on FB and sharing them with me. I haven’t had a chance to share them with my dad, but I will. And he will be quite surprised to discover that his old high school buddy still had these photos and found me to share them with. What a treasure!

Sadly, my mother died just over a year ago but I know she would have enjoyed this time capsule when she was so young and hopeful with a new babe in arms.

This, my friends, is Facebook at its best. Connecting people from all walks of life, from different generations, and with timeless memories to share.

When FB is good, it is very very good.

May everyone enjoy it as it is meant to be.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marciaconrad
    Sep 01, 2015 @ 09:46:32

    I love fb Starr and I’m so happy for you to find this old friend. The pictures are priceless.. love you..


  2. dozernation
    Dec 10, 2015 @ 21:47:07

    ummm… I think fb is lame and some people are wooorrrrrddddddyyyyyyyyyyyy… but hey, I do like pictures…


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