I have friends who hate Facebook. Whenever anyone mentions it, they don't even try to hide their disdain, remarking scornfully that they'd never allow people to know so much about their lives.
I respect that, and I'm starting to understand that there are basically only two types of people in the world: people who embrace Facebook and people who think it's a super-colossal waste of time.
Here's why people who think it's a waste of time are wrong.
A little background: I was attracted to Facebook because A. I'm a writer and habitual chronicler of events; B. I think in stream of consciousness, which is a perfect fit for social media; and C. relationships are important to me. Facebook hasn't been a disappointment; I use it to keep up with real-life friends, stay in touch with people I knew long ago, and cultivate new acquaintances with similar interests.
Kent fits into category C. He's not a real-life friend, but I have no doubt that I could show up in Earlham tomorrow -- which I might do, Kent; you never know -- and have a magnificent time traipsing through the town appreciating local history. If any of you watch Pawn Stars, Kent is Rick -- a Renaissance guy who knows something about everything. (And he's also funny and a dog lover, two attributes that make him a "win" in my book.)
So when Kent started a Facebook page called Lost Des Moines, I immediately asked if I could join. I'm a Des Moines-history buff, and I quickly was drawn in by photos posted by Kent and others of places that my father might have known in his younger days, but have since been felled by the wrecking ball. The discussions on the page deal with historic preservation, local buildings of historical significance, and people's memories of those places.
A few days ago, membership in Lost Des Moines began to grow exponentially. No one knew what prompted the spike, but the growth was fun to watch. With each new name came a new memory, and before long, people were having long, spirited conversations about everything from the old Jewish Community Center to long-forgotten ballrooms and amusement parks.
A few people also began talking about the physicians of "old" Des Moines -- the ones many of us baby boomers visited during our formative years. It seemed many on the site had been patients of a Dr. Corn, and they proceeded to talk in flattering terms about the care the gentleman had provided.
Suddenly, a woman who was new to the site popped up and said, "I'm here with Dr. Corn right now. I'm reading all your comments to him, and he's enjoying them so much."
It turned out the woman was the granddaughter of the now-quite-elderly Dr. Corn. Comments immediately turned to "Please tell him hello from Barb, whose broken arm he set in 1958," to "Please give him a hug for me. I'll always remember the way he took such good care of my brother when he was very ill." The granddaughter then responded that Dr. Corn indeed remembered little Susan or Leonard or Peggy, who then were transported back in time for a poignant few minutes.
I'm sure everyone who happened to be in on that conversation ended up feeling warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of a kind old gentleman who had given so much to so many, bolstered late in life by the knowledge that he had made a lasting difference in the lives of the children for whom he cared.
Kent and I chatted briefly -- via Facebook, of course -- after the conversation about Dr. Corn had ended. We agreed that we had witnessed a special moment, and what had transpired was Facebook at its best. And of course I found myself thinking of my dad, who hadn't really understood Facebook but would have so enjoyed the memories sites such as Lost Des Moines can provide.
As those of you who are reading this via Facebook know, the site is so much more than it's often portrayed. Yes, I see posts about so-and-so drinking too much and am drawn sometimes into meaningless conversations about a TV show. But for me, Facebook is about the kind of interaction prompted by my pal Kent when he dreamed up Lost Des Moines.
I have the utmost respect for people who want to guard their privacy; there are times, I'm sure, when I should be a tad more careful with mine. But if those of us on Lost Des Moines the other night had been worried about our privacy, chances are Dr. Corn never would have known how loved he was. In return for a few more nights like that one, my anti-Facebook friends can make fun of me all they want.
My own former pediatrician, Dr. Marion Alberts, who's been a lifelong friend of our family. He's almost 90. Doesn't he look great?