Thursday, April 1, 2010

my virtual family

I love technology. I could spend days wandering the aisles at Circuit City or Best Buy. When a new suite of Microsoft Office debuts, I create conveniente excuses to drop by computer stores just to play around with the new features. I become easily enraptured for hours with experimental projects just learning the various features of programs and the fastest ways to navigate them.

...and I love social networking.

I first opened a Facebook account before picture and video uploads were available and the principle behind the application was connecting students within their college spheres. In fact, the name "FACEBOOK" stems from the creator Mark Zuckberg's prep school's tradition of distributing a photo catalog of all students and faculty members, unofficially dubbed the "face book".

As Facebook grew in popularity, so did its functions. My mother abhorred at the idea that I was uploading pictures of my college antics or posting status updates that could assist a persistent stalker in tracking my favorite haunts. However, when I packed my bags for a 6-month stint in Spain, I drafted my mom to the Facebook troops to facilitate fast and efficient updates of my travels abroad. Two years later, she's mastered the site and even catches up with her own friends with photo uploads, wall posts and comments.

One of the major benefits of Facebook is its global reach. When I bid farewell to Spain, I left behind a network of friends from Slovenia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Morroco and scattered areas throughout the United States. Without the help of Facebook, the consolidated network that interconnects us all, the probability of keeping in touch would have a near impossible feat. Though checking photo uploads and reading their status updates (when written in a language I know!) doesn't constitute "keeping in touch" per se, it does keep us connected. A French classmate contacted me when she saw I was moving to San Francisco via my Facebook status. Ironically, she was going to be in the city for an extended stay shortly after my arrival. Had Facebook not updated her on my move, we'd have had to file a missed connection on Craig's list ex post facto...

Not only does Facebook help me maintain my ever-expanding web of friends and classmates, but the use of the site has actually enriched the relationships with my own cousins. Though growing up we were all based in the North East, age gaps and busy schedules prevented me and my cousins from really getting to know each other. As adults, we've scattered all over the country- stretching from Boston, DC, Michigan, NYC, California, Hawaii... but somehow we're a little closer. We talk more. We know more about each other. The "appropriate familial behavior" facade has erroded and our personalities have emerged through pictures, wall posts, etc. We've discovered common interests, experiences and goals through our Facebook profiles.

Though our strengthening bonds through social networking can't trump time spent together, our personal expression via our Facebook pages has enabled family gatherings to get a little more personal. We know more about each other and are more aware of each other's lives. When we gather, we spend less time listing our calendar of events or activity resume and more time discussing and divulging deeper into learning about each.

Many criticize the ease of "stalking" others on Facebook, but with a family so wide spread, and a global network of friends, we stay connected and close through our self disclosure. And though we're not making memories together, we're at least able to partake in sharing them.

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