Facebook is an amazing and innovative tool… it helps you stay connected with family and friends near and far. You can share pictures with family members and watch each others children grow up without having to actually be close. You can keep track of loved ones stationed overseas or in war zones, keep up-to-date with what friends are up to, follow pages of interests, businesses you enjoy patronizing or causes you believe in. You have the ability to reach masses with one post, to stir emotions in strangers and to bring awareness and support to what’s important to you or even reconnect with lost family members. But even with all of its benefits in expanding communication and contact with people globally, Facebook, I believe has destroyed the art of communication between families.
How many of you use Facebook on a daily basis? How many of you stay signed into Facebook on a 24-hour basis? How many of you get text messages, tweets or some other forms of alert when there is a new post on your page, a response to a thread or conversation you are following or when someone instant messages you? How many are willing to be honest about how much time they spend on Facebook on a daily basis? Is it more than an hour? Several hours? The entire day?
I am guilty of all of the above.
Why do we do it? Because it’s easy and less personal. It takes less time to send a text message than it does to have an actual conversation. It’s less confrontational to send a blast to someone we’re upset with than to face them face-to-face. It’s easier to be brave behind the anonymity of a computer screen than to face someone in person. It’s easier to share information than it is to share feelings.
Facebook told me my oldest son got married. Or rather, my Auntie did, after she read about it on Facebook and she was living in Florida. My son and his now wife were living with me in my home in Tennessee. But Facebook also allowed me to keep in touch with my brother almost on a daily basis while he was stationed in Iraq for two years. Facebook also informed me when he returned home, got married to a new wife and no longer needed my support.
Tonight, Facebook informed me of the passing of my father-in-law, Armando Balifrank Onorati, a man I had met only in passing in 2001. Facebook told me that my father-in-law died just a few hours ago at age 81, and even though I had never talked to him, I feel a loss. I feel sad that I never had the opportunity to get to know the man who was responsible for the birth of the man I have been in love with for more than 27 years. I feel pain that my sons’ grandfather never got to meet them, to talk to them or to see the wonderful job that his son did with raising his grandsons. I feel sad that this man, the reason my children exist at all, never knew he had a great-grandson who lives to carry on his name. I feel pain that my husband and my sons will not know first hand of the legacy and the history of the Onorati name. I feel sad and I cry tonight with the knowledge that an opportunity has been forever lost, a treasure has been stolen and for all its benefits, after being estranged for more than 45 years, even Facebook couldn’t bring a family back together.