Over the Christmas holiday, I was talking to a young man I know who works for Facebook. He said that he ultimately wanted to go to graduate school so that he could be of service to people. I told him that he already is: Facebook is an incredibly valuable service. It allows me to keep in touch, at very low cost, with a large number of people I’ve known for years and dip in and pay attention when I have time.

Later I was thinking about it further and I realized that I had understated its value to me. Especially in the last month (I’ve gotten active on Facebook only in the last few months), not only have I gotten in touch with old friends, but also I’ve connected with lots of young people whom I’ve “friended” through other friends. Among these young people are economists, libertarians, and antiwar activists. Also I’ve connected with a few Tea Party people. Sure, people sometimes talk about trivial things like what they had for lunch, but they usually talk about more important things. And it’s so easy to skip the trivia and hide Mafia games and all the other silly stuff.

Then I saw something on a British web site today that blew me away. It’s about a former Guantanamo guard who regretted that he had participated in holding innocent people in prison. He went on Facebook and found two people who had been released and whom he thought were innocent. Read the story and watch the video. It’s moving. Without Facebook or something similar, he wouldn’t have been able to do that.

Update: HT to David Stewart.