A few weeks ago, I read the article "Saying Happy Birthday to Your Friend on Facebook Is Meaningless." What a snarky, mean-spirited, shallow and sad look that person has towards life. You see, I believe in the power of social networking and relationships which are built because it exists. There are people I would never have been able to reconnect with were it not for Facebook (I'd talk about MySpace, but that causes most people to groan, so it can stay in the background of my thoughts). I also have several people whom I consider to be amazing friends today because of Facebook. I would never have met them in person, our paths would never have crossed; but because of various circumstances, we made connections and those relationships astound me every day - they mean the world to me.
So ... Saturday was my birthday. What a wonderful day I had. I was really looking forward to seeing who would just jot down a few words to let me know that my name and face had crossed their mind that day. It was kind of an extraordinary experience. You see, I know that Facebook puts my name in front of you all day long until you deal with it. If you ignore it, that's fine. I don't ignore things like that very well. But, I get it that Facebook pushes for you to say something. However, it was your choice to actually type the words and the moment that you did so, I smiled and a quick connection was made.
A great many of my friends on Facebook are there because we knew each other years and years ago. I'm thankful to have found them and so grateful for the opportunity to see that their lives are filled with wonderful things, whether kids or grandkids, exhilarating job or exciting new adventures. These are connections that would never have been made and friends who would have been lost to time because we had no possible way to discover each other in the immense morass of people that interact in our lives today. For some, my memories are locked into short periods of my life and until Facebook, only a picture in an old yearbook reminded me we once spent a great deal of time together.
Because of the way I grew up, as an itinerant preacher's daughter, I lived in several different communities and built different circles of friends. I attended three different colleges the first time around and at this point, I have made friends in two different universities as I get my Master's Degree. I have friends from so many different churches that I have attended, the idea of taking count is a little overwhelming and I've made friends in varying organizations that I've belonged to throughout my life. As one thing supplanted another, friends and circles of friends transitioned and I lost contact with many people. That I've found any of them again is a joy to me.
All of this means that every year I anticipate my birthday because of the moments I connect with my friends on Facebook. I choose to believe that everyone's intentions regarding their comments to me are as good as mine are. When I type Happy Birthday to someone online, flashes of our past interactions happen in my mind. It brings me joy every time.
I believe that building a community is intentional, whether it is face to face or online. It is just as easy to avoid relationships with people when you see them face to face every day as it is online. I believe it isn't as much about the location as it is the intention of the individuals involved.
It might take only a moment for you to type the words 'Happy Birthday' to a Facebook friend, but for just that moment, you have made a connection. It might take only a moment for you to read those same words, but instead of believing them to be meaningless, consider that connection between the two of you. However you know that person, you can build on the connection today or tomorrow, but it's still a part of the world in which we live.