Published in the Rains County Leader on December 18, 2018:
I opened my Facebook account ten years ago when one of my friends sent me an invitation. I didn’t really know much about social networking, but my friend lured me in with the promise of pictures of her grandchildren. After looking at those sweet faces, I was hooked.
I was working on my first book at the time, and when I was told by those who know that it is imperative for the modern author to be active on social media, my future was set. A decade later, I am not only active on Facebook, but I also have a blog and accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and several other sites.
For those of you who don’t know what a blog is, it’s like my articles in the paper except that I post them on my website and the subject matter is a little broader. After I post a new article, I share the “address” on my social media accounts to encourage people to visit my site. That’s the only time I visit most of my social media accounts.
Visiting social media sites is kind of like eating potato chips – you can’t stop with looking at just one post. Before you know it, the day is over and your to-do list is not done. I have over 5,000 followers on Twitter and, and I used to spend a lot of time there with the excuse that I was promoting my writing. It was intoxicating to look at the statistics and see how many people had looked at, liked, or shared my brief words of wisdom – or nonsense. However, when I looked more closely, I realized that my followers almost never clicked on the links to read my blog or to buy my books. I didn’t quit cold turkey, but I now limit my Twitter activity mostly to a Bible verse each day and a link to my blogs.
Facebook, on the other hand, is more personal. Many of my FB friends are people I see every day or at least once a week at church. Many more are family and friends that are far away but still close in heart, and some are friends from long ago that I have reconnected with in cyberspace. Then there are some that I met for the first time on-line. All of us use this electronic platform to share pictures, celebrate victories, pray for hardships, and share interests.
I participate in several Facebook groups where people join together to communicate, encourage, share, and learn together. Our church has a group where we share reports of past events, reminders of coming events, prayer requests – and yes – picture of kids, grandkids, and more. I also belong to a group devoted to memory issues, an RV group, two memoir author groups, two special interest groups, and several Christian author groups. I have become real friends with several people as we have shared the joy and heartache of being a caregiver or the trials and tribulations of being an author. We do life together, but we have never met in person and probably never will.
I treasure these on-line friendships, but I was recently reminded of how two dimensional they can be. Several months ago Jeanne Loidolt, the mother of a church friend, contacted me and asked if we could meet for coffee. She had written a book and was pursuing publication. Since I had been through the process, she wanted to pick my brain, and we spent a lovely hour sharing our love of the written word. The experience of sitting face to face with a real person was so much richer than exchanging a series of digital messages. We ended our time together with a hug and promises to keep in touch, and it was warmer than any number of smiley faces or hug emojis.
Last week I attended a meet-the-author event at the Alba Library where Jeanne presented her historical Christian novel, Thorns of a Reformation Rose. It was so much fun to watch the passion in her eyes as she spoke about the inspiration and research behind her completed work and to hear the emotion in her voice as she read from its pages. I watched her write a personal message in the front of the copy I purchased, and I saw the tears in her eyes as she thanked me for sharing my experiences with her. Once again, the parting hug was the expression of a friendship that I’m sure will continue to grow.
Yes, I have Facebook friendships that are deep and real, but there will always be something missing. If I have a choice between on-line or in person, I’ll choose face to face every time.