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Does Facebook expand or contract your world?

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The other day, I opened Facebook to find a status update from a writer friend. In 244 words, she explained that she needed to convert we "friends" who were reading this update to "fans." She explained that she had just been "too open"  in accepting friend requests and now was shocked -- shocked, I tell you! -- to find that people she had accepted as friends were actually, you know, sending her updates about their lives (vs. just silently just basking in the glow of hers).

"I just want to know what's going on with actual friends and family," she explained, prompting a rush of comments pleading, "Oh, I hope I'm your friend." "Please don't delete me." And, "But your posts make my day."

Brett Will Taylor, the game-day face. Photo credit: Jason Krupa

Brett Will Taylor

"Is this what conscious uncoupling feels like?" I chimed in, all the while wondering how Gwyneth Paltrow had gooped her way into my Facebook universe.

The whole thing got me to thinking about how, for some, Facebook has morphed from a tool that expands their worlds into one that contracts it.

I know folks who will only befriend close friends and family members. Or only people who can grow their business. Or only people who share their views on every conceivable topic from politics to religion to civil rights to hipsters.

"I refuse to be friends with anyone who judges me by my skin color," declared a white friend of mine this morning.  A 30-something Irish guy, he says he was tired of black people telling him that he did not understand what it meant to be black. He has lost 3,465 friends since noon so, if you're not busy, would you mind friending him? Just, please, when you do, see him as more than a white guy.

Me? I'll be friends with anyone.   As Rumi says, "the world is dense with greeting" and, well, I just love "hellos."

I see Facebook as my town square.  It is populated with a motley crew of prepsters and hipsters; shamans, atheists and Baptist ministers; Republicans, Democrats and anarchists. I've got short-tempered moms and breast-oogling dudes. I'm I'm friends with my high school English teacher as well as a guy who teaches how to perfect sex acts.  Some friends can barely string a sentence together, while others have appointed themselves members of the grammar gestapo.  Of course, I also have the self-absorbed selfie-holics (no, I do not need to see a picture of every meal you are served), but also  Zenned-out, wide-awake beings of pure consciousness (well, until you take away their pot).

I've only met about half of them in person, but I love them all.

Why?

Because they expand my horizons. Like my friend who, each and every morning, posts about this art show or that artist. Half the time I don't understand what point the art is trying to make, but that's okay, because the other times I do.

Because they challenge me. Why, just yesterday, a friend asked what movie title would describe your last fart.  That was a tough one.  I chose "Titanic" (it was not a good day).   Equally weighty inquiries come from friends who disagree with me on everything from meat vs vegan (color me "bacon"), gay marriage, MSNBC vs Fox (same dreck, different aisles), free will (the idea not yours truly), and whether living a conscious life is a kumbaya luxury or our truest purpose (and the only way to get off the merry-go-round of societal conditioning).

Now, I'm not easily challenged.  Some would call that stubborn. As&holes.  I prefer to see it as I've become much more intentional in how I see and show up in the world, so it's harder to shake me.  But, when someone does.  Well now, that's when the fun begins.   Because when you allow someone to pry your fingers off something you hold to be so true, you get tossed into the unknown .  And that's where the growth lives.

Easter BullyBecause they remind me to laugh.  Next time you're taking the day too seriously, just cast your eyes over to the right.  A Facebooker sent this to me yesterday.  I don't even like bulldogs.  Or Easter.  But it made me burst out laughing at precisely the moment I felt like throttling a client for wreaking havoc with my well-planned schedule.  

Screw that.  As a Facebook wizard likes to remind me, "We're here in life to have a ball."  Now, please wipe the coffee off your computer screen.

Because they remind me to be human.  One of my friends loves to share those posts about "Problem X is so huge and so misunderstood and I bet 99% of my friends are so uncaring that they won't repost this to prove me right...and wrong."  I react to them the way I do those equally obnoxious "My child is an honor student at blah" bumper stickers.    A few weeks ago, my day began with one of my friend's whines about, I don't know, the plight of bulldogs whose owners humiliate them in embarrassing costumes.  I just rolled my eyes and scrolled on past.

Later that day, she posted a request for prayers.  Before my eyes could complete their roll, I read that the prayers were for her.  She had cancer.   I've never met her and am pretty sure I wouldn't recognize her if I did, but before I left the house, I lit a candle.

For her.  For all of us.

Because, as Maude once told Harold, we're all the same species.  And who wants to restrict what we can learn from each other by drawing the drawbridge up on our world?  "Come one, come all," I say.  Well, unless you want me to play FarmVille, because that just ain't going to happen. I do have limits.

Even with my own species.

Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie.  He now shares his stories at Brett Will Taylor: A Storyteller and his Stories. Follow him @bwtshaman.