THE DAY THAT FACEBOOK MATTERED

TECHNOLOGY AND YOU – GARY KAYEFor more than twenty years we lived in the sleepy three hundred year old town of Newtown, Connecticut.  Even when we moved a few miles away it was still our community.  Our bank, my barber, the cleaners, the bagel joint, our synagogue, a most importantly our friends are still there.  It was a great place to raise three kids.  We’d park our cars in the driveway with the keys inside so we’d know where to find them.  Doors were only locked if we were going on vacation.  In the center of town there’s a huge flagpole in the middle of the major four way intersection.  Every Labor Day every Connecticut politician worth his salt shows up for our big parade.  Before Christmas, lighted candles in sand filled paper bags line a mile of Main Street leading to the Christmas tree lighting in the Ram’s  Pasture where sheep grazed in early Colonial times.  Then on December 14th that all came to an abrupt, horrific end.  Our notion of safety and stability crumbled in a hail of gunfire as one gunman killed 26 students and teachers in the Sandy Hook Elementary School.   But in the hours and days  that followed I found solace in the dozens of friends I heard from around the world who sent their prayers, their love, and their thoughts on Facebook

For my daughter, the cathartic effect of Facebook was even more important.  It allowed her to connect with former school friends who had moved away from Newtown, in some cases more than a decade ago.  And it allowed her to reach out to the friends who lived locally to share the pain, and to reconnect in the physical world as well.

As a journalist, I watched with more than a sense of discomfort as the national media mispronounced the name of our town:  it is NewToWn, and dammit that second “W” is important to us.  By more than that it meant I could tell my Facebook friends how much more Newtown is than another entry in the pantheon of American horror stories.  It let me convey the sense of loss that we all felt, not only for the 27 victims, but for a way of life.  After all this is where many of us fled from New York and even from more crowded suburbs to get out of the line of fire.

Baby Boomers had been slow to embrace social media.  But we are catching up, becoming one of the fastest growing demographics for Facebook and Twitter.  It gives us an opportunity to stay connected, to share experiences, to share joy and pain in ways we never could before.  And even though I have been a skeptic about the efficacy of social media, on December 14, 2012, Facebook helped pull together a world that was falling apart.  And now, without meaning it to sound trite, the notion of a Facebook Friend has taken on a living dimension.

Gary Kaye is the Chief Content Officer of In The Boombox a website devoted to making technology work for Baby Boomers.  He is an award winning journalist who writes regularly for AARP, and others on topics relating to boomers/ seniors, and technology

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