Writer’s Block: The Good Side of Facebook

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

If you’ve been paying attention to the news the last few months, then chances are you might have seen some of the bad press our most ubiquitous social media company has been receiving lately.

I’m talking about Facebook — that behemoth of a technological marvel that serves as one giant bulletin board, scrapbook, virtual family reunion, political debate forum, cooking class (surely you’ve seen all those Tasty videos, like I have), library reading room, time capsule, rolodex, answering service, event calendar, and so, so much more.

It seems like lately Facebook has been more of a negative presence in our lives than a positive. Like how CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg recently testified before Congress about the shadowy and nebulous organizations that have collected data we willingly (mostly) shared with the company in order to perhaps use it for nefarious purposes.

Or, like how people from across the political spectrum seem to somehow become more emboldened and more rigid in their beliefs, even when commenting on a politically-oriented status update of a casual acquaintance. For some, it’s gotten to the point where they’ve had to mute, unfriend or otherwise change their settings to ignore some of the most vociferous people.

Sometimes, it feels like Facebook can be an echo chamber of sheer cacophonous noise — like a tolling of discordant bells clanging loudly in your ears, or a riot of color strobing with panic-inducing speed before your dizzied and weary eyes.

But, I think Facebook is only those things if you let it be. If you listen to the doom and gloom commentaries of people who are paid handsome sums to sit on national television to share the most bombastic Chicken Little opinions they can think of.

I think there’s still a lot of good to be found in what is one of the oldest and, thus far, longest-lasting social media networks we have.

Last week, when I spoke of the wonderful birdwatching opportunities that have abounded lately, one thing I didn’t get to mention was how Facebook has united the local birding community, whose members have been absolutely abuzz all spring.

It’s been on one Facebook community page where eager bird watchers have generously shared beautiful photos of the spring migrants they’ve seen, along with educational factoids about them. And it’s because of that that I, like others, have been able to marvel at the dozens of bird species which have passed through the Rio Grande Valley, even on days when I can’t make it out to places like the Convention Centre myself.

Then there’s the community help pages where locals and visitors alike can ask for recommendations and advice on anything from the best place to eat a certain dish, to a handyman who can work on large appliances, to advice on fishing.

If you look hard enough, you can find a criticism of almost everything. And Facebook is definitely worthy of some of the criticisms it has received. But, for me, I think the social network still retains a lot of value. I am thankful for the communities it has fostered here in the Laguna Madre region, especially, and look forward to learning more.

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