And ever since I've been noodling over the difference between the two. Is Facebook just an abbreviated form of blogging? In Facebook updates one gives a one or two sentence description of what they're up to or what they're thinking. Easier than writing an illustrated essay, I guess, and not as nearly as revealing. Maybe Facebook is the blog for people with commitment issues. Or time issues.
But although there's certainly overlap, for me there's mostly different audiences. Blogging has mainly been a way to connect to people I do not know "in real life" (IRL—I'm becoming slowly hip to these internet abbreviations). What initially sounded like a weird and unnatural thing has turned out to be a wonderful thing: People connect over shared interests through writing, with those interests often spanning boundaries not only geographical but political and personal. And every once in a while it spills into another level: an email, a phone call, lunch.
For me Facebook has been more about connecting with people I used to know—and some of them hardly at all. There's been a virtual explosion on Facebook of alumni from my high school, and I've also reconnected with people from past jobs and graduate school. Who knew that conversations began thirty years ago, some of which we seemed unable to finish at the time, can be picked up so easily? Questions answered, ambiguities cleared, new connections found. Over the holidays, a few classmates and I did a Facebook fundraiser to raise money to send a former classmate fighting stage-4 cancer and his eight children to Disneyland (yes, they're Mormon; and, no for just that moment their prop. 8 stance did not seem to matter). Would people wire money to people they had not seen in almost thirty years? Amazingly, they did. Many of us now watch this friend's progress, happy that we solved a small problem but checked by the knowledge this family has much in front of them that we cannot take away.
Last weekend one of my Facebook friends died. Rollan Kim was one of the bright stars of our high school—not necessarily one of the popular crowd but someone everyone liked. In all my memories of him, he is laughing. He went to Harvard, then Wall Street, then business school, finally landing in Silicon Valley after fitting in some good world travel and a gig as a bike messenger. I loved reading his status postings: Rollan is doing the foxtrot, making his kids homemade mac and cheese, thermaling with hawks. He died Sunday in a paragliding accident, his body found tangled in his gear floating off the San Mateo coast. His Facebook page is still there, with a link to a page memorializing his life. Of the memories and pictures people have shared, this is my favorite:
Who wouldn't want this man playing the ukulele at their wedding? I'm so sad he's gone (especially for the three children he leaves behind) but so glad I got to see what a bright and sparkling life he had.
To friend, or not to friend—that's what everyone is talking about. I read a comment posted by someone from high school who lamented to to a friend "So-and-so is really trolling. I hear he just got divorced and is friending everyone! How gross!!" It made me sad that someone would say something so unkind and juvenile, I hope not realizing that the person to whom she referred was friends with the owner of the page where the comment appeared and so could have seen that comment. I don't recall that he said two words to me in high school either, but we're not in high school any longer. I say cast the net wide and friend them all. You might be surprised by who someone is now and by what you have in common. You can always delete them later.