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Facing off with Facebook - Ronda Rich

It wasn't my idea. In fact, I was so opposed to it that I had to be forced into doing it. I'm still not a happy participant.

My literary agent in New York, dear friend though she is, insisted that I become part of the Facebook community. At first, I ignored her. Then, when she persisted, I played along, pretending that I really was going to do it. Then, when every conversation or e-mail between us ended with, "I still haven't found you on Facebook. Have you done it yet?", I knew that I might as well give up the ghost of resistance and play along. After all, it had gotten to the point that I felt like a child avoiding her mother harping over chores.

About the same time as my dear agent was pushing, my friend, Karen, was becoming happily addicted to Facebook, singing its praises. She, too, wouldn't leave me alone about it, so all things considered, I gave in.

My main arguments had been that I wasn't interesting in spending time to learn how. I had other pressing matters. Secondly, whenever my agent argued that it was a great way for friends and fans to keep up with me, I explained that I write a weekly newsletter, free to anyone who signs up on my web site. It's a diary of the previous week, and much more extensive than a few words here and there on a social networking site.

Despite my initial steadfast opposition and stubborn resistance, I have found Facebook to be useful. Like everyone else, I have made surprise, almost miraculous connections, with people. Take, for instance, the former colleague - actually he was my boss - from USA Today, who is now an editor in Mississippi.

He saw my photo on the Facebook page of the Mississippi Press Association during their convention and found me. I was downright shocked. I couldn't believe that he even remembered me from over twenty years ago.

Then, one day, I found something I really liked about it. People began having threads of conversation - meaning they were stating their opinion - about a column I wrote concerning the use of the word "hush" in the South, as opposed to "shut up." Every time that someone posted a comment, I received a notification.

It was fascinating. I didn't post a comment, but I watched it for a couple of days. My goodness. It never crossed my mind that such a simple observation would touch a raw nerve with people. These participants - some barely known to each other - bonded strongly, enthusiastically over their mutual agreement that "shut up" is vulgar, crass and lacks class.

Each told stories from his or her own experience. One recounted having her mouth washed out with soap by a neighbor who was babysitting when she had told another child to "shut up." Another preached both the law and gospel as she railed against the obscenity of the phrase.

Another column that got the Facebook friends up in arms was the one about writing thank you notes, and the lack of them in today's society from young people. Now, let me just tell you: People out there hate the use of the words "shut up," but they downright despise the lack of gratitude in the form of a written thank you.

One woman wrote that when she did not receive a thank you note after months, for an expensive graduation gift, she phoned to ensure it had been received in the mail. "I'm writing your thank you note," the mother said. "He'll never do it, so I'm writing all his thank you notes."

Another declared, "When I don't receive a thank you note for the wedding gift, they do not get a baby gift."

So, Facebook, indeed, has been helpful and resourceful. My agent was right.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.