We've all heard the cautionary tales. Facebook leads to divorce (are you sure it's not your spouse's wandering eye?). Facebook solicits stalkers (learn how to manage your privacy settings people!). And -- most recently -- Facebook causes cancer (really?). What we rarely learn of are the positive effects of social media, specifically Facebook. Not surprising, given that we live in a society so obsessed with bad news we practically breed it.
As a Facebook user myself (since 2008, thank you), I was as guilty as the next person of consuming the smut -- the absurd untruths splashed on the front pages of newspapers and delivered by Debbie-downer TV anchors across the globe. But I was also dubious. So I set out to do a little research of my own.
With hundreds of millions of users forming a vast web of personal and professional connections, I reasoned, there must be something good resulting. Turns out, I was right. And, thus, was born the concept for my new book, Facebook Fairytales: Modern-Day Miracles to Inspire the Human Spirit -- a collection of 25 true stories emanating from the world's most popular social networking site. Stories that will surprise, amuse, touch, and inspire anyone who's regained a lost friend or been touched by the kindness of a stranger. Stories that will prove to the social media "haters" that the resilience of the human spirit is truly powerful, even online. And that anyone can realize his or her very own Facebook fairytale.
One of the most powerful stories in the book introduces Beth, a young mother from Scarsdale, New York, who connected via Facebook with another young mother, Cathy, from Tallahassee, Florida -- thanks to a mutual friend's status update, which read: I have a friend named Beth who needs a kidney donor. If you have type-O blood, please visit her website. Beth was dying. She'd exhausted a dozen possible donors who matched her blood type but who still weren't compatible and her prospects were growing dim. So dim, in fact, that she feared she wouldn't be able to watch her kids grow up. Fortunately, Beth found her angel on Facebook. Cathy was so touched by Beth's plight and, further, felt it was kismet that they both had daughters named Olivia. She saved Beth's life for no other reason than sheer generosity of heart and soul.
Or, take Seth and Melissa. They'd been trying to conceive a baby for years, having experienced a tragic stillbirth of twins, not to mention multiple cycles of In vitro fertilization. Melissa's sister had even acted as a surrogate, being implanted with Seth and Melissa's genetic material at the same time as Melissa. But nothing had worked, so the determined couple decided to pursue adoption, which can be a very costly process -- both emotionally and financially. One night, on a whim, Seth posted an adoption flier detailing their life's mission to his Facebook wall and through a social networking domino effect, two months later, they took home a healthy baby boy.
The last story I'll mention may not be your typical fairytale, but it does demonstrate how a family in peril relied on the social networking site, not only, to help them overcome profound pain but to further a worthwhile cause in the process. Michelle and Talbot Elkins of Athens, Alabama lost their teenage daughter, Jessica, very suddenly to meningitis the day after Christmas 2007. For over two years, Talbot has used the site as a means of coping with his grief. Each and every day, he's writes Jessica a personal Facebook note as a means of solidifying their bond. He also keeps in touch with her friends through Facebook. In an attempt to pay their good will forward, the Elkinses also created a Facebook page to raise money and awareness for meningitis.
If I've yet to convince you that Facebook can change your life, I encourage you to read the book. There's a little something for everyone. Whether it's the story of Barack Obama using Facebook to win the presidency or an aid worker in Mumbai reaching out to friends and family during a terrorist attack, I'm certain you'll become a believer.
Follow Emily Liebert on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EmilyLiebert