I have 645 Facebook friends.
I don’t say that to brag – as if anyone would brag about such a thing – but to marvel at the strangeness of the internet. That's what happens when you sign up in college right after your school was added to the Facebook community back in the day (2004, I think). Friends accumulate and stay “connected” to you even though you only knew them for a few months in a class or internship, and haven’t seen them since.
I know lots of people who don’t understand Facebook (I'm married to one of them) or don’t see the point, or think it’s just a way for self-absorbed people to delude themselves into thinking the minutiae of their lives is interesting to everyone else. (Hello, that’s what Twitter’s for…I kid, I kid. Sort of.)
It's cool to make fun of Facebook, or wax eloquently about how it's ruining personal interaction, or do anything other than profess un-ironically that you love it.
But Facebook has made my life better. I’m not embarrassed to say it.
When JB and I went through the hardest few months of our lives this summer – the birth of our twins three months early, the passing of our son G after just six days, the 71 days that our son Mr. W spent in the NICU – Facebook was, simply put, how we knew we were loved.
Our families and close friends were with us during that time of course, and we felt loved and supported by them in person. But Facebook was how I kept our friends, extended family and church community up to date when JB and I were spending nearly all of our time at the hospital. We didn’t have the emotional strength for phone conversations, much less for telling the same thing over and over to different people. I could (and did) post anything I needed as my status update: the day and time of G’s funeral for those who didn’t know yet, updates of Mr. W’s slow-but-steady progress, photos of his sweet face.
The outpouring of love was overwhelming. I read and re-read the comments people left every time I posted a status update. It was like gulping fresh water when I’d been living with a parched throat. People who'd moved away, or who I hadn't seen since college sent their love and told me they were praying for my family. They congratulated us on every little achievement Mr. W. made – stuff I would have thought was so small that it would only matter to us: that the doctors upped Mr. W’s feedings to 10 ml of milk instead of 8, or that he went a whole day off the ventilator.
We attended JB’s 10-year college reunion about a month after the boys were born – Mr. W. was still in the NICU – and I was never asked the “oh, how are your twins?” question I dreaded. It seemed like everyone already knew, and I was grateful for that. People I only sort-of remembered from high school (JB graduated the year ahead of me) told us they’d been following us on Facebook, how handsome Mr. W. was and how they loved looking at photos of him every time I posted them. Near-strangers were praying for us. It's the most humbling, hope-inducing experience I've ever had.
We exprienced a veritable tsunami of love. It strengthened my belief in the inherent goodness of people. Facebook did all of that, and I’m thankful for it.