The View From Western Colorado

11/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Welcome to the Grand Valley of Western Colorado, a land of many contradictions. Jaw-dropping scenery is interspersed with numerous oil and gas patches. A semi-arid landscape, this area relies on the magic of irrigation and still manages to produce some of the best peaches, corn and wine in the country.

People here are very friendly and community-minded, but consistently vote for politicians and policies favoring independence from the awful beast of big government. Registered Democrats are a distinct minority.

As more people move into the area from California and the distant Eastern states, the area is inching toward beliefs many around the U.S. take for granted. The global warming hoax is a frequent topic of letters to the editor, while recycling and water conservation are just starting to gain a toehold.

Being a progressive, liberal thinker can be a lonely proposition in my part of the world. That's one of the reasons I have taken such a shine to Facebook. I may be a Johnny-come-lately to Facebook, affectionately known as FB in the shorthand that characterizes FB posts, but I have developed a deep appreciation for social media.

I have to say I didn't really understand the phenomenon until I gave it a whirl. I finally decided to get with the program because my daughters and all of their cousins indulge. Living in Western Colorado on a tight budget doesn't lend itself to much travel, so I wanted to be able to see photos of all those cute babies and mobile rugrats without waiting for my local daughter to log in to her FB account and show me the latest.

What I got went way beyond photos. In fact, I believe FB may fill an essential role in our far-flung culture where most people do not live in multi-generational households. Hillary said, "It takes a village to raise a child." She didn't mention that village can be a virtual one.

One of my nieces is stationed in England with her husband and two small children. She is a U.S. Air Force pilot on special assignment with the Brits. Her husband stays home with the children while juggling photography and internet work. He makes time for FB because it is a support system and his "friends" have great advice for child rearing when he is in dire straits. It's amusing to see his mom put in her two cents and reminisce about when he was little.

My nieces, nephews and their spouses all rely on their FB virtual community for quick response to any kind of problem. Their generation consists of 12 cousins on my side of the family and they are able to keep in close contact through FB. A quick chat with a relative can bring an uplifting sense of perspective even on a bad day.

FB has also revived the long lost art of witty repartee. I had almost forgotten the joys of such clever conversations until I began regular chats with several especially alert and bright relatives from the younger generation.

When I made the jump from a 2001 Dell PC to my nifty new Sony laptop, I was able to get technical advice from my brother-in-law's little brother. Granted Doug and I hadn't communicated for almost 40 years, but FB is such a friendly, casual place, the lapse of time was no problem. Now we are BFFs and chat or Skype every day.

I have also reconnected with a small group of high school friends with whom I have had no contact since we graduated from Miami-Killian in 1974. It's amazing what interesting lives everyone is living and where people have settled.

Where I live, about midway between Denver and Salt Lake City, sometimes feels more than a little isolated. This liberating tool allows me to touch base with a broader range of people from around the globe. When I feel like the only one alive who thinks climate change is real and we need to live mindfully to perpetuate our species, I can log on to FB and be reassured I am not alone.

I have joined "Groups" filled with other human beings who passionately care about the very things I think are important. My favorite group is one called Non-Consumer Advocate. I can also share information about books and actually chat with someone else who has finished reading a book I just read.

Researchers have found "connectivity" to be one of the strongest predictors of happiness. Using that reasoning, it is safe to say Facebook users should be especially ecstatic. So give FB a try. There is no need to be depressed because when you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go to Facebook. Take it from someone who knows in Western Colorado.