..Kathe Kokolias..

I Believe in Facebook

I admit it: I'm an old-fashioned kind of gal. Slowly and reluctantly, I embraced computer technology; it wore me down like a persistent lover who would not go away. While in grad school, I was introduced to the word-processing feature of the computer. In no time, I mastered the cut and paste command to move text and delighted in being able to dash off research papers easily. Prior to that, I would write my reports on a yellow legal pad, cut out sections with scissors, position them on the dining room floor, and scotch-tape them together into a patchwork scroll. Sometimes I would write one paragraph per index card that I then numbered and arranged in cohesive order before typing up on my red Selectric typewriter. To make a duplicate, I inserted a second sheet of paper separated by carbon paper. How I dreaded making a typo!

Soon after the advent of e-mail, I grudgingly had to admit its merit, although to this day I prefer face-to-face communication or talking on the telephone. Snail mail, the disparaging term for what used to be the norm, is a lost art. When I turn on my laptop, I cringe to see 65 new messages waiting to be read, which I regard as bills demanding to be paid. I have turned off the voice message, "You've got mail." That sound alone makes me anxious.

It was my then three-year-old grandson, Zach, who taught me how to log on, send, and save mail when I signed up for AOL 15 years ago. A few years later, after my husband and I had moved to Mexico, being able to stay in touch with loved ones via e-mail minimized the pain of separation and also cut down on expensive phone calls. And then, Facebook came on the scene-an innovative social network that provides a way to simultaneously keep in touch with multiple people. I would be able to reach all my friends, or strangers who wanted to be my friends, by posting a message on my own wall or writing on someone else's wall. My friend, Karen, whom I've known since the sixth grade, would call from Manhattan for our weekly Sunday evening chat and give me reports about my grandchildren and some mutual acquaintances that she'd found on Facebook.

"It looks like Sara had a fun time at her field trip. If you'd get on Facebook, you could see for yourself," she'd say, trying to entice me. "And you'll never guess who I found-some of our old friends from Lansingburgh High."

"That's great, Kare, but it's just not for me. Besides, why should I join when I can get all the news from you?"

My ten-year-old granddaughter, Sara, showed me her Facebook account, how to download photographs to share and how to set privacy parameters, although I wondered if they really worked.

"See how easy it is?" she asked, promising that she'd help me choose a photo for my home page.

I was weakening, tempted, but still not convinced. That is, not until my phone rang late one night about eight months ago. It was my brother, shouting as though his cell phone had failed, and he was trying to communicate with tin cans and a string like we did when we were kids.

"I found Teddy," he gushed. "Or rather, Teddy found me!"
"Slow down, Chuck. Are you talking about your son, Teddy?">BR> "Yes," he cried, "It's a miracle."

In 1975, Chuck had married a classmate of mine from nursing school, and they had a precious son whom they named Teddy. When the baby was two years old, Chuck and his wife divorced. From that day on, none of us were allowed to have contact with Teddy-not my brother, not my father whose heart was broken, not me or my children, or anyone else on our side of the family. Teddy was lost to us. And we all mourned as if there had been a death.

After 32 years, Chuck and Teddy (now called Ted-34 years old, husband, father of two, Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, helicopter pilot-no longer a Teddy) reconnected. Ted had been trying to find his father for years. It was only when Chuck joined Facebook to keep in touch with high school chums from his 40th class reunion that Ted was able to contact his dad.

Today is Ted's birthday, and I celebrate having him back in the family fold. So far, we've only spoken on the phone and exchanged e-mails, but next week, I'll be flying to Virginia Beach to see him, meet his wife Lauren, little Sophia, and baby Teddy. Chuck will be there too.

No surprise, then, that I acquiesced and linked up with family and old, as well as new, friends. It's unlikely I will ever be mistaken for a die-hard fan-I don't play games, join groups, or take quizzes-but I love seeing the latest photos of the people I care about and getting a glimpse into their lives. And I enjoy repeating this tale with its storybook happy ending, only slightly revised, "and that's why I believe in Facebook."

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