Apologies in advance for fixating on Facebook (which I am), but for those of you non-believers (including my wife), I feel the need to try to explain to you how Facebook really is changing the way the world communicates - or to better describe it - does NOT communicate.
This is Sam Epstein. He is my first cousin, once removed, and he was born at 4:36 yesterday afternoon in Atlanta, Georgia. Within an hour and fifteen minutes, his father - my first cousin, Mike - had posted the news on his Facebook page, and within an hour of that, there were pictures posted of the baby and more than 20 "mazel tov" greetings on Mike's Facebook page. (There have been dozens more posted since then, along with more photos.)
Big deal, you say? E-mail has made all of that possible for years, you say? Yes, that is correct. But the beautiful thing about this happy experience is that it was shared simultaneously with friends and family, all connected from across the country, and all celebrating TOGETHER on one page on Facebook. A shared digital experience - one that no one needed directions to find.
What makes this even more special is that I was able to experience the moment with both of my sisters in Maryland, my aunt in Virginia, and three of my other first cousins (from three separate parents) in Florida, Chicago and South Carolina all at the same time. And these cousins (and aunt) are people who I usually see one day a year, on Thanksgiving - and that's assuming everyone shows up!
In the past couple of months, I have gradually added all of these relatives - and others - to my Facebook family, and I have suddenly discovered that I am getting to know them all much better than by merely seeing them one day a year. We have conversations on line. I am learning what they like and dislike - what they do in their spare time - what frustrates them at work - and what their real life goals and dreams are.
After I posted my latest "Random List" on Facebook, my cousin Sarah, who is about 18 years younger than me, wrote this response:
"John Matthews... it makes me sad that we weren't same generation cousins.... I guess we'll just have to make up for it now that we're both adults!"
Facebook is actually turning my "one day a year" family into an "everyday" family, without all of the accompanied dysfunctional crap that usually goes along with spending too much time with your relatives. (All of you relatives reading this - you know I mean it only in the most loving way!) I even have one relative who totally wigs out at speaking to other family members - who is now having chats with other family members!
If this is happening with my family - with people ranging in age from 25 to 60 - it is certainly happening everywhere else, too. And no matter how cynical you are (and few are more cynical than me!), how can it be a bad thing to get to know and love your loved ones a little more?
Mazel tov to Mike and Mom, Lenea... and to Grandma Susie and Grandad David! I'm happy to know I won't have to wait until next Thanksgiving to see how little "Sam-I-Am" is growing, because I - or I should say, the Matthews family - have Facebook to keep us up to date together!