Thursday, December 29, 2011

Social Networking: Is it really so bad?

You hear from them all the time: the Facebook haters. The people who lament that the internet destroys friendships and forces relationships to become shallow. "Nobody knows how to write a letter anymore!" "People only know how to communicate via Facebook and don't have a clue how to act face-to-face!" Etc., etc. There's some element of truth to this, of course, and if you're like me this element of truth will occasionally send you on a trip down Guilt Lane. But what most of us fail to realize is that THINGS don't make us who we are. Who we are is our own responsibility. If you are a crappy friend, it's not the internet's fault; it's yours. You'd be a crappy friend without the internet too. If someone is immature on Facebook, they're going to be immature in person too. Narcissistic people are going to be narcissists with or without the internet.

But there's still the question, "Is America's Facebook obsession a bad thing?" In some ways it is because it provides a convenient outlet for stupid people to have an audience they don't deserve. But there's a simple solution to that: don't be that person's audience. Blaming the internet that you have idiots on your friends list is like blaming your couch that you're overweight. =P But is Facebook bad for relationships? Most people think it is. I happen to disagree, but today I had a breakthrough as to why. 

As anyone who is on Facebook knows, the owners of Facebook like to change the layout a lot. And every time it makes a drastic change, you have a section of your friends list acting like it's the end of the world, and occasionally someone threatens to leave Facebook over it. One of my acquaintances threatened this today, using the usual self-absorbed excuse, "If people really want me, they know where to find me." Okay then. I hit the "unfriend" button. 

The incident caused me to think about why I'm on Facebook and why I love Facebook. I love Facebook because it's the easiest way to keep up with all my friends and family, many of which are long-distance now thanks to military life. I have a big family and a lot of friends. I don't have enough hours in my day to call, text, email, or hand-write letters to everyone I know, want to keep up with, or am trying to get to know (because I just moved to a new city and don't know a soul). It's wonderful to have Facebook as a place where I can see what everyone's doing on a daily basis and see pictures of their lives. When it comes to family and close friends, I still want to talk to them on the phone, video chat, or chat online privately when there are more personal things to discuss. So in that regard Facebook hasn't destroyed my relationships, and also, without it there are a lot of people who would've dropped out of my life completely because there is only so much time. This is why I am always going to have Facebook no matter what the layout looks like. None of their changes have made it impossible for me to talk to people, so no matter how annoying a new layout might be, it doesn't affect my big picture.

One thing people tend to forget when they dream about the days gone by when people wrote hand-written letters and spent so much quality time together is that people didn't move around so much back then. As it got easier and easier for the average person to travel and move their lives to different parts of the country, means of communication had to get easier and faster to keep up. In the "old days," most people grew up, got married, and settled down in the same town as their family and friends. Those who left either had to keep in touch through a slow postal system or drop off the planet. If I lived in the same town as all my family and friends, would I need Facebook? Probably not.

Growing up, I never had local friends. I did, however, have a lot of long-distance friends, aka pen pals. I loved to write letters. I could crank out a 10-pager with no trouble. It was fun. But let me tell you, it was no small feat keeping up with this much letter-writing. I would spend many hours a day trying to keep on top of my correspondence with my friends. This worked pretty well when I was between school and actually doing something with my life. Once I got a full-time job, letter-writing stopped. How was I to keep up with an 8-hour job, family, church, exercise, and personal time if having friends meant I had to write at least one letter a day? So that's when I started using the internet to keep up with people. And now, when we move every few years and get plopped down in a brand new state where I know nobody, Facebook has been a huge blessing. Many people who I now consider dear friends I never would have met if it wasn't for Facebook. As a result, it's very hard for me to understand the mindset that Facebook is just a website. To me, Facebook is people. Suddenly announcing you're deleting your Facebook (especially over such silly things as not liking its layout) is telling me, "You are not important and I can drop you out of my life with a click of my mouse." 

So, I think it's time people stopped lamenting society's changes and learned to make it work for them. The internet is nothing but a tool. It is your responsibility to use it wisely. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Cruise!

Last week was our amazing cruise with Andrew's parents and sister. We had a fantastic time! This was the first cruise for both of us and we decided we'd definitely go on another one.


* The food. It was amazing! I am not a huge buffet person (mostly because I can't ever eat enough to do them justice, haha), so dinnertime was my favorite. Delicious and unusual appetizers, dinner entrees that made you feel like you were eating at a 5-star restaurant in New York, and awesome desserts. Now that I think about it, I'm mad at myself for not taking pictures of the dinners and making a blog post just about them; it was foodie heaven. But I did manage to get my hands on the recipe for the dinner I ordered the first night; as soon as I find the wine that the sauce calls for, I'm going to attempt to recreate it.
* The shows. Besides the ship's singers and dancers, they also had a comedian, a juggler, an impressionist, and a professional ballroom dance couple. They were all spectacular, and I think it's awesome you get to enjoy such first-class talent included in your ticket price.
* Haiti. My favorite port was Haiti (although the competition is kind of skewed since our Jamaica stop got canceled due to the stupid weather). It was beautiful and relaxing, and since it combined beach + mountains + sunshine, it's definitely a place both Andrew and I could agree on as perfection. ;-)
* The service. I'm pretty sure our dinner waiters and the bar waiters have ruined me for all other waiters! They were fun, interesting, perfectly attentive, and had a great sense of humor, even if they didn't always get our American jokes (I'm convinced they only understood a third of what my father-in-law said, haha).

Anyway, it was a great week. I have a nice tan (and some sunburn in some places of course) and some beautiful mementos (all from Haiti, which had the best local handmade items):

By the way, one weird/disturbing thing happened during dinner one night that I keep seeing in my head and I wish I could get it out. We were in the middle of dinner in the dining room when we heard a woman scream. It wasn't the "Eek I saw a mouse!" kind of scream; it had a horrid, scary tone in it that immediately brought the whole room quiet. Then I saw a couple half-dragging a young woman (obviously their daughter) away from their table, trying to get out of the room. Their head waiter was trying to help them and the woman started screaming to her, "Help me! She's a witch!" over and over and pointing at her mom. It was horrible to watch. They eventually got her out of the room. She was obviously mentally ill and I've never seen anything like that--it was like something you'd see in a movie. I felt so bad for her parents, although if I had a family member who was prone to psychotic breaks I doubt that a cruise would be the kind of vacation venue I would pick. =\

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 
5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 
7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son ; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 
8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 
9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 
10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid ; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people ; 
11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 
12 "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 
13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 
14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." 
15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." 
16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 
17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 
18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 
19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 
20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.