May 14, 2013

Facebook would've been good for my grandpa

By all accounts, my maternal grandfather was a very social man. Like me, he was an entrepreneur—he owned business after business, buying and selling them like they were nothing but also putting a lot of hard work into them. I just recently found out that he and my girlfriend's grandparents were very good friends many years ago. And that comes as no surprise—he seemed to know everyone in our little hometown.

As he got older, though, my grandpa slowly withdrew. After he was diagnosed with cancer and alcohol became a large part of his life, my family and I saw him less and less. He lived alone—accompanied only by his dog and his thoughts. I am certain that that contributed to his depression and the overall decline of his well-being.

My grandpa died in 2004. He didn't own a computer, and as far as I'm aware he had never used email or anything related to the Internet. Conversely, I've been involved in some sort of online social networking for years. Email, this blog, Facebook, Twitter—they're a much bigger part of my life than the telephone or TV.

So even when I'm here, alone with Shadow, somewhat withdrawn, I'm not really alone. People like you read what I write, and you respond. I stay in touch with my friends and acquaintances, and sometimes I know more about what's going on in their lives than in my own. I can simply lurk and feel part of people's days, or I can inject the occasional reply or snarky comment, depending on my mood.

I feel connected, in a way my grandfather didn't at the end of his life. I think he really would have benefited from something like Facebook or Twitter—some means to stay in contact with his friends and family. It's a new thing in our time, this ability to dip into and out of the lives of people we know—if we choose—to remain the social people we want to be, even if our bodies won't let us do so easily or frequently face-to-face anymore.

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