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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Facebook: Is It Good or Bad?

I spend way too much time on Facebook, and I often feel overwhelmed by the stories about terrible cruelty to animals, the slaughter of elephants, lions and other African wildlife by 'trophy' hunters, and killing contests in the U.S. to see which team can kill the most coyotes or foxes in a given period of time. I have stopped following several pages simply because I was overwhelmed by all the cruelty and death.

But I also appreciate the fact that through Facebook, I can stay in touch with friends in Russia, Turkey, Kenya, Botswana and Ukraine -- many of them friends I met while traveling in those distant lands. I can offer my sympathy when something bad happens, such as terror attacks in Turkey and Kenya, and I can send encouragement as my Botswana guide prepares for his year-long trip to the United States. I can admire the photos of my Russian friend's dacha (country house) and gardens, and I can learn about Ukraine's on-going civil unrest from a Ukrainian friend who shares my love of golden retrievers. And I can enjoy the travels of other friends I met while traveling.

Facebook also allows me to sympathize when on-line friends lose one of their beloved dogs (many of my friends I met through our common love of golden retrievers), as well as celebrating birthdays and good times with them through cyberspace. I share the exciting news about my daughter's graduation from cosmetology school and her success in passing her state exams for licensing. I also use Facebook to share information -- both good and bad -- about the ongoing fight in Africa to save elephants and rhinoceros from extinction due to poaching, and to spread information about the plight of wolves in America and other countries.

So, is Facebook good or bad? It certainly has a wide-reaching impact, with billions of followers around the world. It can brighten my day with a shared cartoon or video, and it can bring sobering news.

I guess, like most things in life, it is neither good nor bad. It is what we choose to make of it. What Facebook is not is a substitute for real human interaction. It is not a forum for anonymously attacking others or spreading hatred. It is not a place to post pornographic videos or photos, or adds that say "Hi! I'm Jessica. I'm 22. Please send me a friend request." in the middle of a discussion about another topic.

I think the positives of Facebook and other social media outweigh the negatives, as long as we remember to live our real lives more than our on-line lives.