Sunday, January 4, 2009

Not Face to Face(book)

Just the other day, I was finally convinced to join Facebook. My friend tempted me with embarrassing pictures from high school that she refused to show me unless I joined up. Anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for this kind of thing. The prospect of seeing just how skinny I was comes in a distant second to wanting to know who in the world would have a picture of me? I don't remember people taking pictures of me, I wasn't the kind of person you took pictures of, whatever that kind of person was. It isn't until quite recently that pictures of me have become common place (and quite frankly, I take most of them myself).

I am utterly confounded by Facebook.

All of those people from the past suddenly at my fingertips. What does one say to all of them? Through this journey of mine I have discovered that I have very little to say. To now have to come up with something to say to so many people is daunting. We haven't seen one another in years and in some cases, decades, but that does not mean there are decades of things to talk about. When you reconnect with people for the first time since the Bush Sr. administration, what exactly do you lead with? There have been careers begun and ended, new careers embarked upon, returns to college, marriages, divorces, children, illnesses... it is a lot to cover with one person, let alone an internet full of them! When does it become too much information and too large an audience? Too interactive?

I started to think about this blog. Is this too much? Most likely not as I suspect I am the only one reading it at this point (feel free to prove me wrong on that!). There is no limit to what I can write here, no editor other than the inner one. I only have to say something once and as many people as deign to stop here can read it without any more energy output from me. One person can ask me a question, and all the others can read my response. I can flush out an idea and explore it fully, without interruption, whereas on Facebook, everything seems to come in fragments of speech and interrupted thoughts interjected at random intervals. It takes a lot of concentration to see past the icons and declarations of 'friendship' and invitations to take quizzes about 'What Kind of Woman Are You' (apparently I am kind and compassionate but allow others to stomp on my feelings, uhm, yeah.).

All of this leads me to wonder what inter- relating to people is coming to mean? People tell me about how easy it is to keep up with people by logging on to social networking websites, but how much are we really experiencing? Who puts up truthful, multidimensional, fully realized information about themselves on a website? We edit what people see by only posting the 'good' picture. Who really talks about the hideous argument they got into with their spouse and instead gloss over it by posting about this weekend's cocktail party? Who has a cup of sugar on the internet? There are no pictures of my heinous stretch marks out there!

I keep walking away from Facebook, puzzled and somewhat lost, even though it is populated by many, many dozens of people I know. My 'conversations' with them, feel hollow and without the vitality of our face to face interactions. More like relationships with word blips than the individuals who wrote them.

Perhaps I am simply outdated. Will I ever feel comfortable in this medium?


The Jolly Crank said...

Ha-ha, totally--this virtual friendship thing is weird. My much younger sister-in-law actually uses the term 'facebook friend' and I still don't quite get the connotation (I think it means someone who is not really a friend). The most useful thing I have found with Facebook is that for those friends that I don't get to see/talk to as much as I used to (perhaps they moved away)when we do talk, there's less time spent on catch-up because I have, peripherally, been updated all along. That said, I for one, will never "feel comfortable in this medium." But I don't want to be.

Adrienne Johnson said...

I work with a number of people who are younger than myself- at my grand age of 38, 25 year olds have become a mystery. They have no memory of a time before computers and video games and cell phones. I don't understand their common language, or how half of this stuff works. I watch them spend hours in front of a screen at work (I would yank the damn thing, but it is not my call) looking one another up, 'chatting' about nothing, looking at pictures of friends in their underwear at parties... I don't get it.
I fear I have become an anachronism.

William/The Author Of * said...

true all that. i hate a cell phone and dunno why i love my blog so much. i thought it was stupid prior to april of '08.

suppose now i've a connection of sorts. for me its less then that, its what i've got to work with.

anyhow, more time outside doing things with two hands and/or my legs and eyes aloft


tinarama said...

Loved this post. I joined Facebook recently too and have been cautiously navigating the space ... embarrassed at how fascinated I am by it – at my age, 43, shouldn't I be mature enough to think it's all just a little silly? I've been working up to a post about the whole experience on my own blog, which I have NOT linked on FB and which I never invite anyone to read. I've been blogging for over 10 years now and yet the idea of my blog life (which has always been fairly anonymous) cross-pollinating with my Facebook life (which knows my real name and has pictures of me and everything!) fills me with horror. It's all very interesting though, and I do love the medium ... though I draw the line at text messaging! Anyway – I found your page via some bike site you commented on & just wanted to say hi. Cute bikes too, by the way! Love that beautiful Japanese bell.

Adrienne Johnson said...

tinarama- Cross pollinating. I am right there with you. I have gone to great lengths to keep some anonymity in all of this. So then I started to think about who I was trying to hide from and what I was trying to obscure.

I came to this place entirely by accident. On one of the few days that I could watch afternoon television, I happened to turn on 'Oprah'. I am not an Oprah fan but there was someone on that I was interested in, so I tuned in. At the end of the show, there was a promo for her upcoming Eckhart Tolle bookclub. She advertised it as the 'world's biggest classroom'. I was intrigued by a web class (there were 10 in all) that would allow for a world wide audience and decided to join in.

Through reading the book, A New Earth, and participating in the class and on line discussions, I found myself being introduced to more and more and more information that would not leave my head. Without any intention to do so, I completely altered my way of thinking and living- very suddenly and I am still recovering from it.

These kinds of journeys are intensely personal and can be frightening to share. That was what I was trying to hide- my fear of what other's thought, my fear of what I was becoming (very silly, really, because all I am 'becoming' is aware of what I already am), my fear of rejection and ridicule...

I still don't advertise my name in some places, Facebook being front and center there. I have no fear of what other's think at this point, but I still have people I don't need in my life despite that.

All that said, I am sooooooo excited to see people I have read on other sites and am very greatfull for your comments! Please feel free to drop in any time!