'Friend' is a verb in Facebook world

I've avoided it too long. The time has come. I'm going to share my personal feelings about social networking. This may not be pretty.

Let's describe this topic as "interactions using online media."

For starters, I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. If you have hundreds of Facebook friends — I'm happy for you (LOL). At last count, I had about two dozen friends "… and most of them were related to me. I like them all — but I would just as soon have a hug as a "poke."

You can find me on Facebook, but if you try to "friend" me, I may not respond. I'm just not entirely sure how to do that unless one of my kids is there to talk me through it. Or my teenage granddaughter — she's the most patient. (She has hundreds of friends.)

For me, Facebook "postings" are rare. In fact, our kids have taken to calling me on the telephone if they see me posting. It's so out of the ordinary they usually respond with, "Are you all right, mom — why did you post?"

Sometimes I simply cannot resist. My new son-in-law posted something about "waxing" the week before the wedding — and I responded online with "WAXING!!??" It took a way-too-descriptive email from him to explain his comment, and in the process I learned things I didn't need to know.

Do not misunderstand. I realize social networking is a staggeringly powerful force. It has emboldened oppressed people to rise up in protest, and the world as we know it is changing as a result. The familial connection-making possible in the tornado-ridden South is an example of its life and death influence.

My husband (always an early adopter) uses Facebook several times each day to check on the mood and circumstances of each of our kids and their offspring. He is masterful at it. And at the end of the day he gives me a brief update about what he's learned. It's prompted new understanding of our children — but it also sometimes feels like we're eavesdropping.

Recently I was at a conference where the 200-person audience was composed of middle-aged and older adults. One of the presenters made a joke about the Twitter feeds that were going out of that room — well, I thought it was a joke. Then he asked everyone who was "tweeting at that very moment" to put up their hands — and one third of the audience did just that. Honest.

Yup "… it's definitely love-hate. I resonated with a recent New York Times editor's comments. The article began, "Last week my wife and I told our 16-year-old daughter she could join Facebook. Within a few hours she had accumulated 171 friends, and I felt a little as if I had passed my child a pipe of crystal meth."

You can see how one's feelings might ebb and flow on this topic. I love the fact (well not entirely) that my daughter's wedding photos showed up online before the wedding reception even ended. And I love watching an in-the-moment video of my youngest grandchild who lives thousands of miles away.

But I'm happiest that Facebook has turned the word "friend" into a verb. It means it gets used more often. And I cannot think of a better word to have constantly winging its way across our challenged world.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. Email her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 541-776-7371, Ext. 210.

Share This Story