I've been using Facebook for a year and a half and it has increased my sense of community immeasurably. Indeed, all of cyberworld has done for me what my time in academia couldn't, and as a matter of fact refused to do--given me good friendships in writing.
I don't mean to give the impression these new friendships are my first such friendships but they are reinvigorating. I joined a poetics listserv first and then dug into Myspace. Both seemed such nervy actions to me, at the time. I remember the moment I decided to use my first and last name on Myspace. I held my breath and clicked the mouse so that all the world could access "Sarah Sarai."
I was no longer hidden or hiding. I quoted a phrase from an acceptance letter, "cute and profound...and different" Blackbox, which I thought accurate enough in describing me and my writing. I set up links, tried to remember the HTML I'd had to learn when I was a Web producer (really, an editor).
The odd thing is that through the listserv, less so with Myspace, I learned of poets who lived in New York City but travelled in different, uh, stanzas than I did. I had quit writing poetry (long story) and took it up or it took me up about five years ago, and so I hardly knew anyone. No book. I was no one.
My letter of introduction was my cyber contributions, comments I shared on the listserv and my Myspace presentation. Then came Facebook, with its little photos and, in its glory days, room to romp, to interact in an approximation of real time by way of comments.
I've now met enough people through Facebook--in the flesh--to know I can trust my instincts. People I find a delight on Facebook are the same in life. I'm not saying there isn't a need to reckon with the flesh when we meet--to assimilate our emotions, our bodies, our intensities. Certainly anyone meeting me in person has to realize I'm more than clever.
But it has worked out. New and real friends, shared interests (most of my friends on Facebook are poets, a few are fiction writers, the rest are true and dear friends), a match. I've learned more about long-time friends and about warm acquaintances through Facebook. Yes, you're right. It's a time suck.
But also verification that the little bits we write about ourselves, about politics, about poetry, family, our cats, movies, Gaza, Obama, poverty, life's insanity express who we are. The word can be trusted.