Making Friends, Part I

Two weeks ago in Boston, Geoffrey Mutai ran the fastest marathon ever with a time of 2:03:02. He blew by the standing world-best time by 57 seconds.

I don’t know if Mr. Mutai spends much time on Facebook but Sarah Greene of St. Albans does.

Ms. Greene also ran the Boston Marathon. She used Boston to kick off her goal to raise funds for the American Stroke Association by running a marathon in each of the 50 states. She ran her first, the VT City Marathon, a couple of years ago as a member of the ASA’s Train to End Stroke in honor of her grandmother. Her Gram had suffered a massive, debilitating stroke that left long-lasting physical and cognitive deficits.

Ms. Greene is using the Facebook to get in touch with friends to coordinate her marathons, have some peeps to come to cheer and support the cause, and to find place to stay on her journey.

Making friends.

“We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world,” an insurrectionist said in Cairo.

Social media. It is our source for news. It foments revolutions. It is our source for lovers. It advertises brands. And it is the place the friends of our friends hang out.

Of the 32.7 hours per week Americans spend online, 22% is spent on social networks. That’s all? Twitter averages about 40 million tweets per day. (I did find the multi-tasking statistic fascinating: 57% of Americans watch TV and surf the Internet simultaneously.)

People meet on the ‘net all the time. They
get together, go out, have dinner, then,
you know — horrible axe murder.

Back in the Stone Age, when Usenet was the only “social network,” I met axe murderers I could never have discovered any other way.

Usenet is one of the original online systems. It started in 1980 at the University of North Carolina and at Duke more than a decade before the World Wide Web. People post “articles” that spread to groups on Internet servers around the world. Unlike the restricted friends lists in many social networks today, anyone can read and post to most newsgroups.

One writer I met on a newsgroup and later in real life was born in the former Yugoslavia, grew up in Africa, and was living in New Zealand in the time before she moved to the States to marry another writer in South Florida. They now live in Washington state. As it turns out, I’ve met a lot of reprobates at one time or another. My closest friend, Elizabeth “Liza” Arden, lives in the southwest. Peeps from Georgia and Michigan, a cop on Lon Guyland, a game developer from England, and a medical examiner from Maryland all showed up at a party in Pennsylvania. I met a Canadian who taught at UIC but has retired to Tucson on one of my trips to Arizona.

That leaves the virtual friends like the good Quaker girl from Wisconsin, a seismologist who returned the other day from Haiti, the ESL teacher in Korea, a musician in England, the Chicago nurse who emigrated to Israel, a whole raft of fruits and nuts and engineers and ordinary folk in California and Florida, a homeless man in Texas, a woman in Germany, and even a fellow in southern Vermont. And those are just some of the people I like.

So, Dick wondered, is Facebook the equal of Usenet for meeting new people? Will Sarah Greene succeed in her marathon quest for contributors and supporters?

Stay tuned.

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