Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Five Months Into Facebook

It's been just over five months since I re-entered the Facebook universe. My main reason for doing so was that I wanted to track the progress of my then-expectant friends, who are now the proud mama and papa of 12-week-old twins. And because I have a Facebook account, I get to see pictures like this -

Seriously, I've probably accumulated an hour's worth of moments just staring at this photo, grinning. When people at work get stressed out, I say, "Hey, check out these babies," and they generally disintegrate into goopy puddles of awe and affection. This photo is, officially, the cutest shit I have ever seen.

Therefore, I am comfortable saying that this Facebook journey is a definite success and I have no regrets about getting back into this potentially dangerous time-sucker. There are other good aspects and not-so-good aspects, which I will list in my own peculiar order (beginning with an obvious "good" one) -

You get to see how long-lost people are doing My favorite example is J, whom I babysat from the time he was about 8-10 years old. He was a great kid. He and his single mom had this very cool, mutually respectful relationship. They worked out problems together. Watching him was a cinch because he was such a nice, mature youngster. I even got him to clean his room a couple times. I didn't remember this until recently, but sometimes he would spaz out and run around the apartment with a toy saxophone, shouting, "I'm gonna be a jazz man when I grow up!" The reason I remember that now is that I found him on Facebook and he's a jazz saxophonist, living in Austin, doing really cool artistic projects in one of my favorite cities. Of course, his being an adult totally messes with my mind and reminds me that I'm much older than I want to feel, but I'm thrilled to see that he has turned out so well.

Having said that Facebook society and real world society have little overlap That's true for me, anyway. And it isn't a totally bad thing. I have many FB friends that I want to see only online. And then there are the faraway friends that I would rather see in person, though I will gladly take this social format as an alternative. I guess I'm disappointed because I naively thought that "friending" cool people on Facebook would lead to me seeing them more often in real life, but that hasn't happened much. I've made so many vague plans to "get together sometime" but the truth is that it takes coordination and effort for two people to meet and hang out, with or without Facebook. The medium doesn't do much to facilitate real-life reunions. Also, I've noticed that when I'm on Facebook I don't tend to interact much with the people I see frequently in real life. But when I do banter with those commonly seen peeps on FB, we don't talk about those interactions in face-to-face reality. Isn't that weird? It's like we're all keeping the same dirty secret. But it isn't dirty, so why is it secret? I have a theory...

Most of the things we discuss are inane I notice this when I try to tell Dan about something that "happened" on Facebook. Dan continues to resist FB, but sometimes he'll get curious when he hears me guffawing as I stare at the navy blue bannered screen. And before I know it, I can hear myself trying to explain why so-and-so's comment about my comment about the link to that one Youtube video is HILARIOUS, but I'm cringing at the sound of my own voice, for the joke is no longer hilarious when I say it out loud. Those funny FB moments always seem to fall into the "you had to be there" category, except there is no there there (literally). How can one have a spoken conversation about this stuff? You can't. And that's fine. I can only hope that my everyday conversations will continue to sound nothing at all like a Facebook thread. Smiley face.

However, I do enjoy that The medium makes it really easy to offer kind words I think I have a knack for writing thoughtful and encouraging messages to other people and I'm grateful that Facebook offers a forum for that warm, fuzzy stuff. At least once a day, I find myself wishing someone a happy birthday, or telling them how cute their kid is, or congratulating them for a work or school-related feat. I strive to choose my words creatively, but mostly I try to be honest about anything extraordinarily positive that runs through my mind because that's the stuff that's worth saying, in person or on Facebook. I know how good it feels, like last week, when my godparents' daughter (whom I haven't seen since 1983) randomly told me that she loves my profile photo of my wedding. That made me feel great.

Though sometimes, I admit I crave the attention too much This is the stickiest aspect of Facebooking and the one I am most wary of tackling. I feel weird revealing this part of myself, but I do it on the blog because I suspect that others feel the same. I don't think I'm the only one that gets that little rush of excitement when the globe icon to the left of the search field is lit up in red. Are people talking about the thing that I said or shared? HOORAY!! Or are they talking about that random thing that I "liked"? BO-RING. When's it going to be about me again? Or worse yet, why isn't the globe lit up in red? Doesn't anyone care about my link to that HILARIOUS Youtube video? (Though I did not produce that video, my taste in "linking" says so much about me.) Sad, but true, Facebooking has made me more narcissistic, and I don't want to foster that part of myself. So I'm engaging in a very stern internal dialog. I'm lately doing a better job of remembering that this medium is fine for trying to spread some good will (by way of kind words), but that I shouldn't expect much in return. That isn't to say that I don't receive kind words from others - I do, frequently - but the very expectation of it sets me up for disappointment. Because it never really is enough, is it? All this digital attention is like drugs. The more you consume, the more you want it.

Having said that I'm grateful to Facebook for bringing me more blog readers I started blogging on Myspace about four years ago. One of the things I didn't "get" about Facebook was that it wasn't set up for blogging. I held onto the Myspace blog until early last year when it became apparent that no one was there. So I moved to Blogger, gave the site a tad more focus and began writing to an audience of Dan and a few random friends. I didn't realize that I could link to my blog when I set up the FB account in January and had no intention of doing so even after I figured out how this stuff works. Thanks to my best friend S (father of the twins pictured above), who politely asked if he could share one of my posts, I got over my shyness and started actively promoting this on Facebook. I've received so much thoughtful and encouraging feedback as a result. That's some digital attention that really means something to me. Obviously, I put a great deal more thought into these posts than in a 1-3 sentence news feed bit, so the comments on this blog (as well as the ones on Facebook - admittedly, it's more user-friendly than this googly mess) mean so much to me. Thank you to everyone who has left me a comment, even the person who claimed that I was "dressing up" Michael Jackson's pedophilia. The enormous satisfaction I get from just writing this stuff is truly amplified by your feedback.

Oh, and thanks to anyone who says something - in person, to my face - about this blog. Or about my cute pets, or about my wedding photos. I salute you, Talkers of Kind Words. Someday, I want to be like you.

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