Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Priceless Gift From Facebook

Last night, Sage and I watched The Social Network on DVD. For those of you like me who aren't movie buffs, this is the story about the beginnings of Facebook and the lawsuits that followed. Mark Zuckerburg had the most brilliant idea of the decade, creating what is now the second most popular website in the world, being outranked only by Google according to mostpopularwebsites.net. The movie shows just how quickly Facebook gained popularity among Harvard College students, and eventually the world.

Facebook has permanently changed how people across the globe interact. We no longer have to go to bars, parties, or the local Barnes and Noble to meet new friends. We can stay at home, comfortable in our PJs, and seek out friends through the screen of a laptop. We become addicted to checking facebook updates at least several times a day. There is even a phone app that keeps your friends' status updates always close at hand. Events can now be electronically sent with the push of a button to everyone on your friends list, and those friends have the option to invite other friends, eliminating the need for hand written and mailed invitations. There are many people who feel that Facebook's risks outweigh it's benefits.

I am a Facebook user myself. Yes, I have the app installed on my Blackberry. Yes, I check those status updates a minimum of 10 times a day. Yes, I have created events and didn't (gasp) send out proper invitations. I confess I am an addict. Facebook has benefited me in more ways than I am able to list in this short blog. I have reconnected with people that I haven't seen since school. I am able to keep up with what is going on in the lives of distant relatives who live far away. I have been able to quickly reach many more people than I would have otherwise, regarding important news or issues.

The greatest thing that Facebook has given to me happened a few short months ago. I moved to Tacoma, Washington when I was 18 months old and lived there until I was eleven. In kindergarten, I met the person who would become my best friend. Her name was Cathy Antilla. The first day of kindergarten, she and I became fast friends and were inseparable. Her mother and my mother became best friends as well. We went to Point Defiance Zoo, to Never Never Land, and had countless birthday parties and sleepovers. All that would change when my family moved back to Danville, Virginia.

Cathy and I kept in touch through cards and letters. I would write a letter on my special stationery that my mother bought for me (complete with gold sticker seals for the backs). My mother would then address and stamp it for me and would put it in the mail. At eleven years old, it was much easier to have your mom do those pesky addressing tasks than to have to keep up with the address and do it yourself. I'm sure that is how things were done in Cathy's house as well, which is why all of a sudden, after writing each other for almost a year, her letters abruptly stopped coming. I knew her father had died only a couple of months after we moved. What I didn't find out until years later, when we finally got access to the internet, was that her mother had passed away as well. I missed Cathy tremendously, and searched for her on many occasions through Washinton State School websites, places like Myspace, peoplesearch.com, and whatever other means of search I could think of. I searched for my friend until just this past November.

I typed her name into google search once more, just like I had a million times before, but this time I found Cathleen Antilla on Facebook. I was ecstatic! I immediately sent a friend request. We talked to each other on the phone for a minimum of an hour that night. I made plans to go to Tacoma to visit. I was so thankful for Facebook.

I sent Cathy a letter. I sent a Christmas card. I sent a birthday card. I sent another letter. I left messages on her wall and her email. Cathy wasn't responding again. I found this odd, but didn't give up on my friend. She was just as ecstatic as I was. I waited.

I received a call in February. The caller was Cathy's husband, Felix. He informed me that he had some news to tell me. He asked if I was sitting down. I immediately sat, but inside I already knew that something terrible had happened. Felix informed me that on January 9, 2011, that my best friend with whom I had only briefly reconnected, had passed away from a massive heart attack at 42 years old.


Facebook gave me the opportunity to catch up, if only momentarily, with my best friend. If it had not been for Mark Zuckerburg's brilliant idea, I would likely never know that she had passed. I would never have the closure that I so much needed.

Mark Zuckerburg, thank you.

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