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Hallo again to all.

Our reader survey is brief and we only ask about once per decade. Please?

Anglicans Online hit a milestone last week—5000 likes on Facebook. Yes, five thousand of you took the time out of your busy schedules to click the 'Like' button next to our name on an unaffiliated social networking site. By starting our Facebook page two years ago, we hope we have brought Anglicans Online to new audiences, and reminded many of our regular readers that we’ve just published.

Facebook 'Likes' are similar in many ways to Facebook 'friends'. For those unfamiliar with the medium, people on Facebook can connect with friends, relatives, colleagues, and strangers, and share updates, writings, pictures, and life events. Sites like Facebook are often accused of being time sinks—places to play games and wallow in self-pity while looking at pictures of your friends more interesting and more successful lives rather than living in the world and experiencing it first-hand.

Those of us who work for Anglicans Online all have different relationships with Facebook, ranging from two staffers with over 700 'friends' who use the site for work, staying in touch with faraway friends and sharing family photos, to others who rarely log into the site at all. It cannot be denied however, that use of social media has changed not only the definition of friend but the means by which we communicate with friends.

Correspondence is by no means a new medium for keeping up with people of course. Files of letters fill archives worldwide, dating to antiquity, and social network theory has been used to trace communication even in ancient Rome. But the speed and ability to target a wide audience to disseminate information has created an almost opt-in system. We remember a time when a few relatives held out on installing telephones, yet were upset when they didn't get family news as quickly as others.

We had our own trial with this recently, when a spouse was in the hospital for several days (now completely recovered, though taking it easy). Other than a few calls and text messages (employers, family members) all information was disseminated via Facebook. If you did not check Facebook, you did not find out directly. Our own priest’s wife called us incredulous that we hadn't given him with this information;he had learned it from a fellow parishioner via Facebook. They later discovered their answering machine was broken. Having hundreds of people lifting us in prayer (and leaving food on our doorstep) was comforting and provided strength.  Knowing that we could focus on each other and on getting well rather than contacting directly everyone in different times zones and countries made the ordeal far easier on us.

Some were in a snit at being left out of the chain, but all we could say is that by not using this medium, they removed themselves from the conversation. (Why they thought it was appropriate to be in a snit during this sort of ordeal is a different issue altogether). However, it also left us with a bit of an uneasy feeling about putting this much stake in a service of a private corporation that has stockholders and needs to make a profit.

Wedding photos, birthday wishes, views of the sun setting over the ocean, shared but told through the lens of a low-resolution photo on the website of a publicly traded company. Revolutions in the Middle East have been organized on Twitter—the microblogging site that will soon be archived in the Library of Congress. Passion plays have been live-tweeted. Relationships have been started and ended. Town criers, published banns, newspaper obituaries, public baptisms, and epistles were somewhat-reliable means for spreading information in the past, but in our modern spread-out overly hyper world there was an obvious need for something faster that could reach more people.

One can rarely know for sure how many posts, hopes, dreams, and wishes are shared with a person or organization’s followers, algorithms are strange things that few of us understand (and are often proprietary).

For now, though, we will pack up our laptop and go outside to walk in the brisk autumn weather, as it is in our part of the world, with our now mostly-healthy spouse and watch as the leaves change colour and fall to the ground.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

18 October 2015

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