I have two Facebook accounts, one which is restricted to family and very close friends, and a second one which is for my pen name R. Z. Halleson.  It’s the Halleson account that I’d like to discuss here.

I first went on Facebook to help build a platform for my writings, mainly the memoir that I wrote with a Cambodian friend Spare Them? No Profit. Remove Them? No Loss. which was published in February of 2010 (http://halleson.com/pages/spareThem.htm).  To try and accomplish this, I added any names that would accept my “friendship” until I had almost a thousand names.  Out of that cluster of names, only a few became interested enough to purchase the book, but I discovered niche markets for it elsewhere so the book has been selling.

The question then became: What do I do with Halleson’s Facebook?  I hung in there and wrote on my wall occasionally, but more often entered into the conversations on other people’s walls, and that’s where I found the pleasure of interacting  for its own sake.  There are wonderful people out there whom I shall probably never meet in person, but with whom I love to exchange ideas.  They are thoughtful and care about issues larger than themselves.  I learn from them and they open my mind to possibilities that I had not yet encountered.

For example: I have a number of Muslim friends that I see only in person only occasionally, but thanks to Facebook, I have entered conversations with Muslims whom I may never meet and have learned how very vocal they are about the issues they care about.  Many of these are Canadians who do not seem to hesitate in letting their opinions be known.  Maybe it’s easier to be outspoken in a venue such as Facebook.

At one point I was invited into a private conversation on the message board  with about fifteen people who were discussing race relations in the United States.  Another white woman and I were trying to honestly dialogue with what turned out to be very angry young mixed-race people who deeply resented their white parents and said some very nasty things to us and about us when they discovered we were white.  The white father and brother of one of the young men entered into the conversation to say that they had no idea that their adopted son/brother felt the way he did.  The conversation became such that that the other white woman and I left the dialogue, but I learned a great deal from the experience including that there are actually organizations that exist to help people who are of mixed parentage or who have been adopted into homes of races other than their own.  This woman and I, originally strangers to one another,  subsequently met for lunch to talk about the Facebook experience and the two of us remain friends to this day.

I’m finding the need now to cull the list of  Facebook “friends” so that when I go on Facebook, my page is rich with people who love to dialogue about issues of interest to them.  I’m also “unfriending” those who have an account that they don’t seem to use, or those who visit but lurk in the background never interacting with their “friends”  and especially those who seem a bit too angry for my taste.  I will no longer accept “friend” invitations from people who have upward of a thousand “friends” unless they are a newsmaker or journalist whose opinion I respect.   I’ve discovered that, for myself, it’s just too hard to manage dialogues with that many people at once.  Somewhere in the mix I’m losing interesting wall entries that scroll off before I can see them and I’m having to wade through a lot of what seems to me to be narcissistic fluff.

Facebook is a wonderful social network, and it works best if you know why you are on it, work out the best way for yourself to use it, and interact with those you actually choose to be your “friends.”  I love the news stories that people point to, the videos that are so amazingly funny, beautiful, or poignant, and the conversations where people share opinions, thoughts, and just goofy remarks.

Thanks Zukerburg.  Good job.  Carry on.

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