No, dear Ruthy, I cannot explain in a few words! When have you ever known me to explain anything in a few words?
But I can try to explain in a slightly larger number of words, and I will try to be as concise as I can.
1. In the beginning the whole thing seemed particularly silly to me and I couldn't understand the point of it. As you say, we could just e-mail. But people were friending me (I originally joined because dear neighbor Susan S. (Hi Susan if you are reading this!!) invited me to join, and she in turn joined because her daughter Torrey was spending a few months in France and rather than writing e-mail to individual people was going to post things on her Facebook wall), and since they were my friends friending me I figured I'd go with it.
2. What I said above about Torrey is one thing you can do on Facebook - in fact it's very much ike a blog in that way, you can publish a bunch of stuff and other people don't have to feel individually singled out that they must read it, you're putting it there and it's people's choice. Also you're not sending to a big massive e-mail list.
3. But then there are also individual connections, and you can write little notes back-and-forth. And here I really didn't get the advantage over e-mail. But it turns out that you can be friends with people on FAcebook and not know their e-mail address! And you can write public notes to other people that their other friends can see even if they don't know you.
4. I play word games on Facebook which I adore (too much, and I am trying to cut back)
5. There are all kinds of little things and activities and ways of connecting (people "poke" each other [which is apparently a friendly thing] but they also send each other little objects and tokens, all virtual, and then there are webs of connections and keeping track of everybody's birthday - your birthday can be on your profile though our cousin John is trying to get around that, and then you can keep your own birthday calendar (and I am noticing that Cynthia's birthday is day-after-tomorrow, happy almost birthday Cynthia!!!, which I may not have otherwise been completely on top of) - and there are relative web connection applications, which some of our cousins have been asking me to connect to but I haven't seen my way clear to doing that yet).
6. People put pictures up, which is nice. I have not done this.
7. People do a "Twitter"-like feed of what they're up to. So I know about our cousin Edie shoveling snow, and playing word games, and her husband Mark getting hurt (he's all right now it sounds like); and another friend was going through a job search and her fiance was far away and so I could see about how her various interviews went and how she was keeping in touch with her fiance; and things like that. Twitter if you don't know about I am a terrible person to explain. My family here does not get it. I am trying to understand these things. I think part of the idea is that it shouldn't have to always be such a big event, the communicating, it can be the background fabric of lives that you are seeing - if we were all closer to each other we would be seeing.
So . . . I am probably the second-worst person in the world to try to explain all this (I don't know who the first-worst is but I'm sure there's somebody) but I thought I'd try. All you Facebookheads out there (yes, Deb and Ellen, this means you) want to tack on comments???
I think, Ruthy dearest, you may have to just try it. I don't mean you should try it, just that in order to get a sense of it you have to feel your way into it. On the other hand, if you don't like to hang out on the computer, and you have zero time (which I know is the case) it might not be the greatest thing. Try it some summer when you have more time???