DEBRA-LYNN B. HOOK: Like a good neighbor, Facebook is there

By Debra-Lynn B. Hook/The Orange County Register (MCT)

A few weeks ago I developed a nasty 24-hour bug while home alone.

“Yukky, yukky virus,” I rolled over in bed and typed into my Facebook account. “Feel bad, tummy hurt, want mommy.”

The response was immediate — everything from positive energy, to hugs, words of advice, prayers and even cyber Reiki from as far away as Memphis, St. Paul, New Orleans, Chicago and Atlanta.

My outlying FB compatriots couldn’t bring me chicken soup in bed. But with my laptop humming beside me, I felt the healing mother love of 17 friends nearby, holding a cool — albeit invisible — cloth to my head every time I retched.

This, then, is the best of Internet social networking.

Not teenagers ROFLing, or twenty-somethings posting 833 profile pics, not advertisers cashing in on the juicy cohort of college students for whom Facebook was intended — but women helping women, like so many modern-day Laura Ingalls Wilderses, only without the wagon train.

“I need a Magic 8 ball for a gift,” wrote one of my friends. “Anybody know where to find one?”

“I need an electrician,” wrote another. “Who can recommend?”

“What’s for dinner? I can’t for the life of me find anything to cook,” said another, immediately eliciting compassionate concern, along with several tasty recipes.

Poke fun at us if you want. These are not faux relationships that Facebook naysayers decry as anathema to true intimacy. Nor do I find Facebook to be a variant of heroin, all of us FB addicts neglecting kids and jobs while trying to beat each other in FarmVille.

Because of Facebook, which can travel into the most intimate settings via BlackBerry, iPhones and laptops, I knew last week within a couple of hours that one friend’s granddaughter had been born, while another’s mother had died.

I also learned how to make strawberry pie and that at least one other mom that day was struggling with her children growing older.

“Mid-life report: Where are my babies?” she wrote.

Women thrive best when they are in community. In a far-flung world defined by upward mobility and scattered extended families, by fragmented lives and hectic schedules, Facebook provides instantaneous connection with other women equally eager for relationship. We spread wide the net on the Net, offering our thoughts about Obama’s health plan and photos of our kids, circa 1996. And with 372 contacts from our elementary school days ’til now, something always comes back.

“I don’t usually post philosophy without attaching it to something tangible. But today I just need to say: Life is a roller coaster,” I wrote on one particularly challenging day.

“Life is a roller coaster — until it stops,” wrote one friend.

“Mine is more like a tilt-a-whirl,” wrote another.

“Tell me about it,” wrote another. “My infant is in intensive care at the hospital, having just had surgery for a heart defect.”

This last FB entry came from a man — yes, they can be part of our community, too — a former college roommate of my husband’s who now lives in Hong Kong. I notified my husband, a reluctant FBer who nonetheless logged on and posted best wishes to his friend. And there you have it. A connection at an especially poignant moment that would not have been made without the feminine side of of Facebook.

There are lots of bad things to say about this wired-up culture we’ve got going in the year 2010.

But when a woman can type in a password and in five seconds be hooked up to hundreds of other women around the world who can answer or not, as they are willing and able, and when those relationships continue to develop to the point that people are meeting for coffee like one new friend and I are next week, that’s not culture gone awry. That’s enterprise and progress. That’s making the best out of what you are given. That’s women.

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(Journalist Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since she was pregnant with the first of her three children in 1987. E-mails are welcome at dlbhook@yahoo.com.)