How I Met My Father: The Power And Influence of Facebook

Hay Babygirl! You may not know me but my name is Mike and I’m ur dad. I searched your name and finally found your page. You look so beautiful and I hope that everything is going good for you. Tell your mom I said hi! I am so sorry for everything and I want us to get to know each other. I hope we can meet up soon. I don’t live in Atlanta anymore, but I’m willing to come down. Hope to keep in touch! -ML


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I remember the exact date that I sat in front of  my computer screen and read those exact words at least thirty times before I could actually grasp what had just happened. I would have never thought that on June 17, 2010 I would log onto my Facebook page (as I did every day) and open my Direct Messages to find an unread message from a Facebook User named “Michael Lewis”. When I saw the username, I froze. I knew that name. I did not know anything about the person to which the name belonged, nor had I ever laid eyes on the face for which that name belonged but I KNEW that name. It was the name of my birth father. The man with whom I had not seen or spoken to in over ten years (or at least that’s what I was told). I hesitated before actually clicking on the message, emotions overflowing my body. What should I do? Should I tell my mother? Should I read the message? Maybe I should just ignore it and delete it all together? If I could have updated my Facebook Status at that exact moment, it would have read P A N I C.

After what seemed like a lifetime of silence and playing out possible scenarios in my head for how this entire situation could play out, I decided that I would open the pandora’s box and read the Facebook Message from my “father”. I was 14 years old at the time. I had just started my freshman year of high school and Facebook served a very specific purpose in my life. Facebook was my way to connect with my family and all my newfound friends. It was my primary method of communication, online diary, matchmaking service (Yes, I’ve been catfished)  and photo scrap book all conveniently accessible and neatly packaged on a screen. I remember making long typical teen-ager statuses ranting about this week’s heartbreak and posting pictures sporting outfits and trends that I now look back on with disgust (like seriously what were we thinking.) Facebook was in a sense my safe haven, my refuge. Facebook was not supposed to be the place where I would have to start on this hardened journey to decide if I wanted to get to know a man that I felt had abandoned me so long ago. On that day, June 17,2010 those 82 words that composed that direct message (from that man) transformed my safe haven into the front line of an emotional battlefield, that I was not prepared to fight on.

Since its creation, Facebook has evolved into a pioneering force for methods of communication, networking, and accessibility across demographics. Not only has Facebook changed the ways in which people communicate, but the ever-changing features and additions to the site, such as Facebook Live & Facebook Messenger have made the site an INNOVATIVE platform in all aspects of life. Facebook has changed the way we interact with each other and has heightened our accessibility. Nowadays a person can find just about anyone by simply typing their name into a search box and adding a couple of exclusionary filters. It is easy not only to find people but also keep tabs on what they are actually doing. A person with a public profile (like myself) gives all Facebook users open access to our thoughts, events we plan to attend or already attended, pictures of how we look and who we interact with.

Many people suggest that the increase in accessibility and interaction is in a sense an invasion of one’s privacy and can lead to the formation of false/ inappropriate relationships. Similar to the way I reacted about my Father’s message, some people are uneasy about the  idea of strangers or other unwanted persons being able to communicate with them or be apart of their lives.  However as Danah Boyd points out in her essay “Participating in an Always- On Lifestyle.” My always-on-ness doesn’t mean that I’m always-accessible-to-everyone. Just because my phone buzzes to tell me that a new message has arrived does not mean that I bother to look at it. I had the choice of whether or not I would open the message from my father. Although it was sent and delivered, it did not have to be received. I could have chosen the alternative and deleted it without reading a single word. In her book Affordances of the Digital Medium, Janet Murray combats this idea of security once again by noting that  because of the participatory nature of Web 2.0 (and Facebook specifically) “Software designers take care to limit access to information and to give interactors control over their own information and knowledge of how it is being collected and used”

For the next three months after receiving his “declaration of fatherhood”  my father and I continued to build a relationship exclusively via Facebook. This virtual interaction made my mother more comfortable, as she was still adamantly against the idea of a family reunion. We sent messages back and forth daily until we finally agreed to exchange phone numbers and met in person.Although, I Met my father  on Facebook in June of 2010. I SAW him for the first time in the parking lot of Cheesecake factory in September of 2010.

I sometimes wonder if it had not been for Facebook would we have ever met at all. If I had never created an account would I still be that little girl who always wondered about her real dad and if he loved her or even looked like her? Luckily for me, I’ll never really know the answer to that question. Now,  not only know the name Michael Lewis but I have built a bond with him, his wife, and siblings I never even knew I had. These relationships would most likely had never happened if I never received that notification on that day and read those 82 words on Facebook.
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