You’re here? Good. Then that means I’ve got your attention. What I’m about to tell you, some of you may disagree with. Why? Because I know many of those who use Facebook think it should be used merely for staying in touch with family or friends. A convenient means of socializing informally. To play games. To have fun and banter around. Frankly, if that’s ALL you’re using it for, you might as well pick up the phone and TALK with your family or friends or simply stare mindlessly for hours at a television set. A judgmental point of view? Perhaps. But think about it. A social media forum LESS than ten years old, a forum that is FREE, is currently being used by nearly 1 out of every 10 men, women, and children on this entire planet. If you exclude small children, the poor, the indigent, the disabled, or simply those without internet access, that ratio goes up exponentially. THINK about it. Do we have ANY idea of just how POWERFUL this thing called Facebook has become? A place where we spend our idle time that can have such a profound impact on SO many? Lives have been altered permanently by it. Marriages have been forged. Divorces have occurred. Jobs have been lost or gained. People have even DIED because of it. And yet, many continue to use it nonchalantly, never thinking about the ramifications of their words, thoughts, or actions on it, especially our teenagers and the younger generation.
I remember my first time. I was living in Liberal, Kansas and it was December 2008. My old Alltel LG cell phone had died, the same one I’d had for over 5 years. At that point in my life, I didn’t even know Facebook EXISTED. I went to the local cell phone company, thinking I’d just get a replacement for my LG, a newer model perhaps. As fate would have it, turns out the cost of that phone was $20 MORE than this other phone the salesman was showing me. Something called a Blackberry. Curious, I decided to give it a try. After all, it came at a time I didn’t have access to a personal computer and with my trusty “Crackberry”, as it came to be known in time, I had UNLIMITED access 24 hours a day!
So, one morning in early 2009, as I was exploring the myriad of options this little thing in my hand called a Blackberry had, I discovered Facebook for the first time. I didn’t have the first CLUE what it was or what I was doing. But, once I “signed up”, the WORLD exploded upon me! First, I get this thing called a “friend request.” “Wow”, I said, “I know HER!” “I went to high school with her over 30 years ago in Southern California!” The rest, as they say, is history.
Before long, I’d been “friended” or asked to be “friends” with a number of people; old classmates and family alike. By the time I returned to Elkhart, Kansas in June 2009, and with the kind assistance of one of my first “friends”, a lady I’d gone to high school with, a lady I hadn’t laid eyes on for over THIRTY years, I’d learned how to share photos, how to access YouTube, and with a simply click of a button, I could share any song I wished on my wall. And then I discovered “notes” on Facebook on my own, a convenient way of expanding my thoughts beyond “status updates”, since that particular Facebook application is limited to 420 “characters” per update. THAT’S when my life truly started changing and when my words, thoughts, and feelings were being sent out over cyberspace, impacting dozens of friends, many of whom began saying what I was sharing INSPIRED them. Feeling inspired myself, I continued to write. And then a family friend came into the scene. My mother’s cousin from Kansas, my first cousin “once-removed”, began sending me emails that contained inspiring messages and videos. I shared those, too.
Later that summer of 2009, my friend and I were chatting one day on yahoo instant messaging, the same friend who had shown me so much earlier that year. After reading one of my notes one day on Facebook, she sent me this message: “Do you have ANY idea just how many people you are touching with your words? I could sit and read what you write forever.” Before long I recall saying this to her one evening quite late as we were “chatting”: “I don’t know WHERE it comes from. All I know is something BIG is going to happen, something MUCH bigger than Facebook.” Little did I realize just how prophetic those words were.
Fast forward to today. The friend I once had has moved on. So have I. That's life and I'm grateful for the help she gave me. In just a few short days, April 9th, 2011 to be exact, “Gusto”, the Facebook “page” I created, will be one year old. There are over 800 members of that page who come to see and hear the messages I try to convey. Messages of hope. Messages of inspiration in a world otherwise seen as often cold, complicated, and confusing. The associated website and blog called gustoramblings.com is also about to reach its first year of existence. People representing 47 countries around the WORLD, well over 5000 page views in all, have read many of my “Ramblings”, including this one. Why?
Obviously, SOMETHING is happening, though I’m still learning and growing. Still discovering what this is all about, this “thing” called Facebook, the “Gusto” page I created, the website/blog where I can expand further into the far reaches of my soul’s thoughts and feelings. All I know is I have this insatiable NEED to reach out, touch, and possibly INSPIRE my fellow brothers and sisters in this world through the gift God gave me in the written word. As a result, I reached another life-changing decision recently. I’ve decided to turn another page in the book of life. I’m taking all those thoughts and feelings I’ve expressed on Facebook and on my blog and turn them into a book for mass publication. A book whose sole purpose is meant to INSPIRE others. To show them that nothing is impossible and everything IS possible, when we open our hearts and minds.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this chapter. Do YOU remember what YOUR first time was like? More importantly, what’s different, if anything, about HOW you use Facebook today? Granted, after reading my example, I’m sure many would say, “Well, I don’t have THAT much time to spend on it like YOU have.” My response? “Oh, really?” I know for a fact, many of you use a TREMENDOUS amount of time on it, perhaps even more than you realize. The difference is in HOW you use it, whether it’s being used merely as a means of self-pleasure, staying in touch with family or friends, or simply fun and banter. My whole point of this piece is this, and again, I realize some of you may disagree. Facebook is one of the most POWERFUL means of mass communication man has ever created, if not THE most powerful. And since WE use it for free, then by definition, WE have an inordinate amount of power and impact we have on our fellow man with what we choose to share on it with our “friends.” Every time you post something, every SINGLE time, whether you get a little “notification” or not from someone saying they “liked” it, laughed about it, or commented on it, I GUARANTEE you probably 75% of the time or MORE, no one ever responds to it. Yet, EVERYONE sees it, reads it, and FEELS it.
There’s more. All of us can think of examples of people using Facebook as a means to further their self-interests. But there’s a key difference between merely writing about ourselves and using it for the benefit of others. All of us can think of friends or someone we know who uses Facebook for the latter and greater purpose. For example, a good friend of mine from Kansas created a page separate from his personal one, so that he could promote and advocate agriculture in his home state as well as nation-wide. One of my sisters is also part of a nonprofit organization in Kansas whose sole purpose is to preserve, sustain, and promote rural culture, not only for Kansas, but also for other areas of the country. She and the members of this organization have their own business Facebook page that strives to accomplish that noble goal.
Think about these things the next time you post something on your wall. Do you wish to be known as someone who is one-dimensional, perhaps even sophomoric and disingenuous? Or do you wish to be known as someone who is making a positive and lasting impression on others? Someone who is using Facebook not as a means to merely pass idle time, but as someone who rather chooses to serve others? Something to ponder.