Facebook Fairytales: The Power of Social Networking
By Emily Liebert
April 07, 2010
When I first joined Facebook in the summer of 2008, my intentions were strictly voyeuristic. I read other people's posts, spent hours perusing photos and even "checked in on" (read: stalked) a few exes and their current significant others. It's hard to resist. I was not, however, inclined to report on my minute-to-minute goings-on: I drank a soda. I changed my shirt. I took a breath. It seemed like too much information to disseminate to my growing number of "friends."
But, before long, like every other user (all 400+ million), I got sucked in. Facebook became a part of my daily—even hourly—routine. It was like a new, healthy addiction, and gradually I began sharing my own status updates.
As someone who's never been particularly adept at anything technical (I'm not a member of MySpace, Friendster or any of the others, and to this day, my tweeting is kept to a minimum), I soon began to contemplate the cultural impact of social networking, specifically Facebook. It occurred to me that there had to be some amazing stories evolving from this vast web of viral connectivity. Sure enough, I was right. And thus the concept for my new book, Facebook Fairytales: Modern-Day Miracles to Inspire the Human Spirit was born.
Facebook Fairytales is filled with captivating narratives of 25 real-life stories culled from interviews with Facebook users who've used the site's many applications to find—for example—an organ donor or biological parents, to relay messages to loved ones during the Mumbai terrorist attacks and to save a teenager's life across an ocean. The overriding theme of these stories, I believe, is that the generosity and resilience of the human spirit is truly powerful in cyberspace.
But why? Why are people inherently kinder, more magnanimous, more inclined to help others on Facebook than they are in everyday life? What makes Facebook stand out above the other social networking sites (it's crushing them all, by the way)? Why is it that every time I pick up a newspaper, flip through the channels on TV or surf online, all I hear is "Facebook this" and "Facebook that"? These were questions I continually asked myself throughout the process of writing the book. They were also questions I asked Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg when I interviewed him for the foreword.
Mark's answer: "Because everything is so real." He pointed out that there are various social networking sites where people share information, but none of them is as authentic as Facebook. "That makes it human," he insisted.
Naturally, I agree. And I think there's a lot more to it. Facebook is a community. It's essentially a 400-million-person self-help group, where people can go to offer thumbs up, share good news, report on important developments and upload photos of their family and friends. Whereas regular email in-boxes can be jam-packed with pressure-inducing messages, I've found (and have learned the same through extensive research and polling) that interactions on Facebook—both personal and professional—are typically much more upbeat. In a society where everyone's always "super busy," "swamped," "harried," "overwhelmed" (name your heavy adjective), Facebook is a happy, healthy place. An escape, if you will, from the many stressors we're exposed to in our daily lives. For this reason, it seems to foster a happy, healthy attitude.
And this happy, healthy attitude is powerful, magical even. It's changing people's lives in ways they never imagined possible, as is evidenced through the stories in Facebook Fairytales.
One of the most significant examples of Facebook's profound positive influence is Seth and Melissa Edlavitch's story, "Waiting for Baby." After years of battling infertility, including a host of unsuccessful treatments and a failed attempt at surrogacy, in addition to a tragic stillbirth of twins, Seth and Melissa turned to adoption. Faced with the prospect of mounting bills and an extended wait time, their dream of starting a family became a daunting one. Until they turned to Facebook.
You'll have to read their "fairy tale" to find out how the world's most popular social networking site had a hand in their happily ever after. I hope their story will inspire and encourage people to "pay it forward," as so many hundreds of millions of users around the globe already are.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, this is just the beginning for Facebook.
Something tells me the 25-year-old wunderkind knows whereof he speaks.
Emily Liebert is an award-winning, internationally published writer and the author of Facebook Fairytales: Modern-Day Miracles to Inspire the Human Spirit, her debut book. Her first novel, Conversations with Friends, is soon to follow. Find more about her writing at EmilyLiebert.com.