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The New Face of Friendship: Has Facebook Replaced the Backyard Fence?
By Barbara Hannah Grufferman, March 21, 2014 07:00 AM
I grew up in Brooklyn at a time when there were many sets of parental eyes watching over us. Riding bikes, playing stoopball or jumping rope on the sidewalk, we knew, without having to think about it, that we were safe.
We also knew that if any of us did or said something deemed less than civil, it would get back to our mothers (or whoever was waiting at home, and there was always someone waiting at home) before we set even one foot inside the front door.
We called it "fencing." Fencing was the process by which one neighbor would tell another neighbor, who would tell another neighbor, who would tell another neighbor what was going on - all with one arm positioned casually but meaningfully (and sometimes menacingly) over the fence.
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Fast-forward to now: cellphones, emails, texting, websites, tweeting, blogging, instagramming. There are so many ways to share. For sure, "fencing" still exists, but not like it once did. Facebook in particular has added a whole new dimension to our lives, and especially for those of us over 50. Our minds immediately turn to teenagers when we think of Facebook, but the fact is, much of the growth of social media is being driven by women over 50. Why?
Women have always loved sharing and connecting. How many times have you waited for a bus, only to hear the life story of the woman next to you before the bus arrives? (She heard a bit of yours, too, no doubt.) It's a natural, easy thing for us - and always has been. While many women over 50 are using social media to kick-start their social lives after a divorce or being widowed, others are interested in connecting to encourage, support, applaud and learn from one another.
I encounter women on Facebook every day who are starting businesses or seeking advice about an existing venture. Without hesitation, throngs of women respond with support, ideas and suggestions. True girlfriends - every single one of them.
I check in with my Facebook friends several times a day. It gives me so much pleasure to know these women - most of whom I may never meet face-to-face - are a part of my life, cheering our collective efforts to create, in our own small ways, a better world for women over 50.
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One woman who has been helping to create a better world for women for many decades is Suzanne Braun Levine, founding editor of Ms. magazine and a frequent contributor to aarp.org. In the short video below, she talks with me about the importance of friendship in women's lives.
Until next time, remember this:
We can't control getting older, but we can control how we do it.
For more tips on living your best life, check out my book The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More and subscribe to The Best of Everything After 50 video series on the AARP YouTube Channel.
Photo: Hulton Archive/istock
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