How many of you are on Facebook? Do you remember life before Facebook? I dedicate this post to FB, I’ve had a few that were about Twitter, but I figured it was about time that I give props to FB. I was thinking about what life what like before I signed up for Facebook. In fact, I was thinking about life only a dozen years ago, when social networking wasn’t even in anyone’s vocabulary.

Do you remember when you first got an email account?

For me, it was when I first travelled in Europe, in the summer of 1998. Back then, a few of my friends had started to get free accounts with their university or college.  My dad had an email of course, he’s always been ahead of the game. Hotmail was THE free email provider so of course my first address was a hotmail address. I made a wise choice, and just chose jcmboyer as my email name.  I know quite a few people who’s first email name choice was not that appropriate (btw, if that’s still you, and you’re now a professional adult, start a new account with gmail).

Since only a few people had email in those days, and cell phones certainly were not common (and 3G did not exist), I spent a fair amount of cash calling back home, using a calling card.  And in those days, long distance was not cheap (and Skype was not around either) – I remember coming home to a $250 phone bill for 9 weeks. I believe I had to paint the front of our house it pay it off!

The next time I was in Europe…

Fast forward to 2004, when I moved back to Europe, this time for a much longer period of time. By that time, email was becoming a primary mode of communication and internet chatting was also more common. This time, my phone bills were much cheaper, long distance calling cards were cheaper, and internet cafes abundant. Even wireless internet was becoming more common, so it was worth having a laptop.  Of course my laptop at the time weighed about 10 lb!

Since I was travelling and having all kinds of adventures, and taking a lot of photos, I used to write mass emails and post pictures on a site called pbase (it still exists, but there was a cost associated).  I would post my photos on pbase and include the link in an email.  This was my first attempt at blogging in a way. Blogging probably existed at the time, just not in my world. For me, it was the easiest way to keep in touch with the most number of people at a time.  And when I would meet new people, I would just add them to my email list.  The only thing was that it was mostly one way communication, since most people didn’t take the time to write about their travels and adventures.

When I moved back home to Canada in September of 2006,  after living overseas for over 2 years, people had started to sign up for this thing called Facebook. I was hearing all kinds of things about it, how it was addictive and that you would get sucked into spending hours on it everyday.  I was certainly wary of joining at first but gave in in early 2007.  One of the pluses for me was that it was so much easier to stay connected with the people I had met all over the world, throughout my travels and adventures.  It also gave me a place to post photos, although the “blogging” part of the story was no longer included. Eventually, more and more of my friends and family joined Facebook, and now it’s a great place to stay connected.

What are some of the benefits of Facebook?

  • Easier to stay connected with a large number of people, at least on the surface
  • A place to post and share photos easily, without having to send out an email with a link to an album
  • A glimpse into the lives of your friends – this is both a benefit and a negative
  • Can be a great place to reconnect in real life with an old friend
  • Staying in touch with extended family, especially when they live far away
  • A great way to maintain long distance relationships
  • And on a business side of things, I know many businesses who had increased their sales through fan pages and facebook ads

Now, the not so great parts about Facebook:

  • Before Facebook, we knew who our true friends were by looking at our address books and Christmas card lists. Now, with 500 to 5,000 “friends” on FB the word has a different meaning. Are we really “friends” with 500 people on FB?
  • There is an element of voyeurism on FB. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been curious about an ex or someone who used to be in my life and checked out their page to see what they are up to.
  • There is also an element of openess that can sometimes be a little disturbing. I think that sometimes people forget who might be reading their status updates or what is posted on their wall.  One suggestion – even if you’re not on FB regularly, check your wall every once in a while to see what’s posted there. You may be surprised at what has shown up (you can delete anything on your own wall)
  • And finally, I wonder if we have lost some of our abilities to really connect with all of this “surface” type of connection?

Am I glad to have Facebook in my life? Absolutely.  Do I miss a life before Facebook? Sometimes. The bottom line is to keep it real – and continue to build real relationships with people outside of FB.  Make the effort to pick up the phone and connect. Take the time to meet up for a cup of tea or a meal together. Get a bunch of your old friends together in real life, instead of online. At the end of it all, we are real people, with real emotions and a true need to have actual contact with each other.

I challenge you to invite a friend on Facebook who lives within a reasonable drive of you to meet up for a real live meeting next week.  Tell us who and why you’re reaching out to them! And let us know if you’ve rekindled a new friendship or not.

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