Photo: Joshua Hoehne

In Defense of Facebook

Two environmental authors converse about how socials—despite all the pitfalls—can be powerful tools in defending the planet


One of the most well-trod dinner conversations of our era, surely: The ills and dangers of social media. How platforms foster fake relationships, waste time, lower self-esteem, and oh, those problems with algorithms, privacy, information bubbles. And that’s all true enough. 

But my honest response? My eyes dull, I drift off, I think of you. You’re real! Facebook has birthed this deep friendship, kablam expanded my connection with diverse writers, assisted us both in advocacy for climate and social justice, and fostered meaningful change in my life. 

Of course, I have dinners with friends in their corporeal form at my actual wooden dinner table. Some are coming over tonight. No doubt the topic of social media and its evil presence will come up, ha! And for a moment, I will drift away, think of that photo of you in a red dress, arms out, facing a deep canyon, your back to camera, as if you are saying, “Look! Come see this with me!” I’ll think to myself, “I love that woman.”

I don’t care what they say. Overall, to me, social media a gift. What think you? 

For the wild,




Good morning Laura!

Several months ago, I watched a documentary everyone (on social media) was raving about called The Social Dilemma. Interestingly, it opens with someone doing a Google search on climate change. Toward the end, a former Facebook employee says, “This is checkmate on humanity.” And other former employees of similar organizations state that if we keep engaging with these platforms, the next phase is civil war. It was no less intense than a horror movie or apocalyptic drama. What bothered me was that while the film was trying to show how social media manipulates us, it used the same tools of fear and single-person opinions to do the same. 

In one of my favorite essays, Wallace Stegner writes, “Everything potent, from human love to atomic energy, is dangerous; it produces ill about as readily as good; it becomes good only through the control, the discipline, the wisdom with which we use it.” 

I think of how poor my life would be without social media. How many beautiful pictures from friends I would never see, the words of poems I never would have known, the opportunities I could not share, and the connection to friends I would have missed. Groups like the Social Distance Powwow buoyed me through the pandemic. Facebook groups dedicated to owners of dogs with vestibular disease gave encouragement when my dog had her first attack. And then there is this friendship with you, a constant light. By the way, I am going to use that article you shared last week about “doomerism” and climate change in a class I am teaching about hope.





What’s on your mind today? Facebook asks me.

Hope. The yearning for it, the teaching of it, because, also on my mind (as ever), is climate chaos and this one beautiful blue ball.

On my mind is a particular raging wildfire, news coverage of which is scarce. I suppose I could blame my news sources for not covering environmental issues, especially those in the West—and I often do!—but also, let’s be honest, they have a lot of other news to cover. The world is a mess—that’s on my mind! But this particular wildfire has gotten almost no coverage—it’s blazing in a nonwhite community, after all. What of the locals? What of the smoke impacting all our lungs? What about the nonhuman creatures and their habitat? 

Our planet, our planet, our planet. That is my mantra. It is our ethical obligation to stop hurting her. So, for instance, in photos from friends, I learn what’s happening and where, and from reputable links provided by these regular people on Facebook, I find updated science on prescribed burns and how necessary and essential they are, despite the public’s distrust of them. I can include this all in that novel I’m writing, Playing with {Wild}Fire, because I hope to be part of the cultural conversation around switching people’s point of view. 

So, what’s on my mind? Citizen science. Reportage from the people. On my mind is social media’s ability to respond to crisis often better than any other news source. 




Hi, friend.

I hear you! Imagine being states away from your mom while a wildfire was burning at her backdoor. As the Cameron Peak Fire got closer and closer to my childhood home, I became terrified—so many memories live there, I wanted to go home. To be with her. To stand on the roof with a hose. To protect her and the place I turn to for shelter. To make certain she got out. When we talked on the phone one evening, she said she could see flames. Oh, Laura, it is so hard to listen to my mother tell me she is scared and not be able to help. She is eighty-five. And it was during the height of the Pandemic. I Googled for information, and though there were maps and data, it was hard to decipher. It was the daily Facebook posts and live broadcasts the U.S. Forest Service offered that finally provided information I could understand. That page, along with pictures friends in the area posted, made me feel less helpless. And those same friends checked in on my mom, and sent messages and videos, just as we do. I feel so grateful that science and technology, in all its forms, can help us live better. Sometimes.




Oh, CMarie, 

Horrible! That same fire—the largest in Colorado, setting record after record—had bits of trees landing on my house. As it happens, you grew up so close to me, though we never knew each other until adulthood, and via Facebook. But your mom’s home is near mine, and we suffered all those bloody noses, hacking coughs, cortisol levels sky-high, as high as the billows. It was terrible for all of us. I feel for you, and your mom, and all of us trying to reach out to one another.

Without social media, I’m not sure how the community would evacuate horses and goats and dogs. Without a doubt, social media has changed the way we handle disasters. And how we view those disasters. 

Related: I hear that “Slacktivism” is a problem—ya know, when you replace taking actual action with a social media post. A person “likes” something, considers it good. But it looks like that’s not how it works. Greta Thunberg’s research, for example, shows that people who interacted with these topics on social media were indeed more likely to participate in climate strikes. 

We need more strikes in this country. Of that I feel sure.



Hi again, friend.

Thanks for the note about Greta. I hadn’t read her thoughts about social media. I think that as a middle ager I forget that social media is such an important part of the younger generations’ lives.

And thank you for your comments on the photos I posted from my hike with Caleb this weekend. The French Creek area is one of my favorites on the Payette National Forest. I know it was kind of a bummer to add pictures of the stream temperatures and dead Sculpin but this is what happens when temperatures rise two degrees above normal. It’s easy to show all the good on Facebook, but I feel like we must balance it. Here in high Idaho, the reality is our streams are getting warmer. I couldn’t believe it, When I measured the temperature, I thought the thermometer must have been broken. 71 degrees is too hot for Salmon. They will die. 




Dear CMarie,

Sharing truth matters more than ever these days. I have to wonder: What would happen if good ideas were shared more loudly? My mother listens to Fox radio and those guys are loud. What if all the reluctant and reticent thinkers out there were a little less quiet? Would we have more truth tellers, more truth? I don’t know. 

We do know, critical thinking skills are required in life—and those come with education—and since we’re both teachers, we value all forms. So I’ll say again, despite the ills, I continue to believe socials are more powerful in this regard than some think. It’s a passing on of knowledge. We should be loud about that!

Speaking of, can I tell you one of the most powerfully loud reads of last year? Your prose poem entitled “Land Acknowledgement.” Which. . . I found on Facebook. As you know, I recently read it at a conference, and it got a standing ovation, and why? Because your writing opened hearts and eyes and minds.




Just a quick note of thanks for sharing “Land Acknowledgment.” I am proud of that piece and glad I have a platform with Inlander. I know some of my words are provocative, but it takes a bit of provocation to invoke change. . . and not just in this region, a woman in Ohio saw your re-post of the column and wrote me a message of thanks. I’m glad The Colorado Sun has your voice advocating for the planet! These challenges we face are global—I’m thankful socials allow us to connect on a global level.

Forgive me for taking a while to reply, I was camping in the Wilderness to disconnect and reconnect with the ground.  I hope that you understand why I drop out from time to time.



Dear CMarie,

I hear you on the pauses. Everything in moderation. Wise use. It leads me to ponder other ways we balance this medium: Do my personal relationships in my hometown suffer because of Facebook? Naw. I’ve never cancelled a walk with a friend so that I could scroll. Like all of us, I’ve endeavored to figure out who I want to spend time with, in person or from a distance.



Did I ever tell you that I met Caleb on the internet? It’s true. I can’t imagine not knowing what I know about fish and place and climate and love because I met him. He was two states away when we connected. My dad was a craftsman, he stressed the importance of the right tool. I try to remember that Facebook and the internet are just that—tools.



I did not know that’s how you met, CMarie! Ha! I love that you found love.

Speaking of love: Today I’m waking up, drinking my coffee, and I pause to glance at Facebook. I see a post from my local group, where there’s a missing chicken and hay for sale. There’s a really good poem from a former student. An update from a relative. A post from a friend in New Zealand about the heat. And a post from you, that you are giving a reading as part of your writer-in-residence of Idaho. And here is a list of the books on my couch, all suggestions from Facebook: Goodbye to a River by John Graves, In the Wilderness by Kim Barnes, and Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight by David Gessner. 

These are some of the loves in my life. 

CMarie, you are a Real Friend: we have laughed, vented, learned from one another, supported one another, traveled together. This is what real friends do! And we keep advocating for the places and people we care about. I see that you’ve got a fundraiser for your birthday for Indigenous Scholarships, for example. Anything that brings that to my attention deserves a defense. 

A mutual friend or two, a click of the button accepting a friend request. That’s what started this all. I remember reading your posts and thinking “Who is this brave bright soul?” That was years ago. Look at us now.


Read more writerly correspondences in Orion’s Together Apart series.

CMarie Fuhrman and Laura Pritchett teach together at Western Colorado University, where CMarie directs the Poetry MFA and Laura directs the Nature Writing MFA.