Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January, a month of contemplation. And facebook-dodging.

I used to dread January. Being stuck in the house, the frosty air, the draft coming through the cracks in the doors and windows, and never getting the heat set just quite right.

But now I look at it like this: I don't have to pull any weeds, because even though they're still alive, the frozen ground has cemented them down. I don't have to feel like I should be out cruising around in my car enjoying the wind whip my hair into knots; instead, I can sit in front of the crackling fire with my family and watch a movie together with smooth knot-free hair. My freckles are fading from less sun. I get to spend more time reading through cookbooks and garden tomes. I don't have to cut the grass every week. I mean, my husband doesn't. :)

Continuing on with the stillness theme from Christmas Eve, it's a time for reflection on my life. I seem to have a lot of these, actually. I guess that's good, since I can't really seem to get it right and backslide every so often. Time to check myself. Thanks, good old January.

I'm going off the "grid," so to speak, to welcome back the real world--the sky, the stars, seed catalogs, writing, knitting, music, trees, my house, kids, husband, job, appearance (haha)--you know, that which I should be focusing most of my attention on, away from the constant jibber-jabber of social networks. I've temporarily ditched my facebook account so I can figure out what I really need it for, what purpose it is serving in my life, and how I can turn it around to a good thing from what it has become for me: a nuisance/time-waster/forum for old friends to hit on me/opportunity for coworkers to recite my posts verbatim at work in jest/agent of hurt feelings between relatives/bearer of frequent obnoxious outbursts by me.

And so goes my love/dear john letter to facebook:

Dear Facebook,

I'm still not sure if I love you or hate you. I let you into my life about a year ago, when I was trying to figure out if what my teenage daughter was doing with her friends was either illegal or dangerous or both. She refused to "friend" me for awhile, so it was just you and I and another wayfarer on my sad little one-friend list.

But then the infatuation started. As I slowly searched out people I knew, random names from my childhood appeared like a pyramid scheme, one name leading to ten more familiar people. Excitement blossomed into giddiness as I was befriended (or is it refriended?), over and over again. I felt validated as a person. The funny thing is, I didn't care for some of those people back when I knew them in real life; but no matter, we were all adults now, right? Surely the grudges from 20-something years ago would be instantly dissolved as soon as I shot them a few emoticon smiley faces(:-D). Who could resist such cuteness?

But, dearest one, it seems like you're trying to take over my life. You occupy my thoughts more than the leftover Christmas candy that I stashed up high where the kids can't reach. You're blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. And I think I'm getting early carpal tunnel syndrome because of you.

How does that saying go again? Something like 'parting is the sweetest sorrow?' Maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe I've got you all wrong too. And maybe someday I'll give you another chance. But for now, I need to get a real life. You're no longer sustaining me with your imaginary zoo world, and I'm afraid that I may have killed half of my animals off.

Until my next log-in,

Now, as it is, facebook has become the future of family feuds. My husband's family had it out publicly because pizza was served for Easter. I've seen long relationships start and end (as in "have a nice life"). I've read as people seriously contemplated the existence of their mental health and spouses complained about one another. I've watched closely as married people (who weren't married to one another) unapologetically flirted. And I've perused more drunk photos than I can count.

What I'm wondering then...is it appropriate to post what should be intimate--such as words of regret, love, sympathy, and support--on a web page that unrelated people can read? Is it proper to hash-out family arguments over whether one should eat pizza or ham for Easter, when my old high school acquaintances are privy to all of those silly debates?

Facebook has become a show, and I have unwittingly and unwillingly become an entertainer. People actually look forward to reading the ridiculous things I write. This has led to somewhat of a celebrity mentality--a false popularity, an ego skyscraper built upon quicksand, a fool's gold of friends. But do they like me for me, or for what I am posting? This is a question that I have agonized over. I've put more energy into trying to find the answer to this than what it is worth.

What makes me feel most insecure and high-schoolish about facebook is that you can lose a friend at the click of a button without so much as a goodbye. "Nice re-meeting you for the past 3 months after 25 years, but you're really not
that interesting. Yeah, I'm sorry that your grandpa is sick and your husband spends too much time ignoring you. I don't want to read that stuff though, and some of your musical choices really suck. I like it when you're witty, but you don't do that enough. Goodbye." If only we got something along those lines of an explanation. But we don't.

Some of my readers will counter by saying "I don't really care about those people on facebook--they're mostly from my past, and I stopped talking to them years ago." So why bother posting anything at all? And why do we call them "friends"?

The internet is slowly redefining the entire concept of friendship. A facebook friend is the public equivalent of a pen pal. However, there is no obligation to respond. And most people don't care if you do or not. The difference is that emails and letters require time and work and a commitment to staying in touch with a person.

I don't want my important friendships to be public. And I can see, as I look back on the past year of social networking, that most of them are not. Yet some of them are skirting gossip status. And what about the others--those "friendships" that rely on updates and wall posts? Well, those say both a lot to me and about me, and I need to figure out the best way to handle them. While I'm thankful to have found some of these long-lost people, I am still old-fashioned when it comes to relationships. And I hope upon all hopes that private, personal communication never goes out of style.

But maybe I'm looking at this from the wrong angle. Perhaps facebook is nothing more than a fun website to take quizzes that answer the eternal questions of "Which rock star was I in a past life?" and "How many lovers will I have?", and surveys about your friends such as "Do you think so-and-so farts silently in public?". If so, then it has definitely been a worthwhile ride. :-)


walk2write said...

Boy, am I glad I read this post before I made the awful decision to join Facebook. Do you think blogging is different somehow? It's easy to get sucked into spending hours reading and commenting on blogs. But then I get so much out of it, way more than just entertainment. Inspiration, perhaps? And I hope that I give at least as much as I get.

Clementine Moonflower said...

Wow, I'll probably get sued by facebook for this post. Oh well. I don't have much for them to take from me! And they aren't getting my sarcastic attitude, which seems to be my greatest asset sometimes.

Blogging is DEFINITELY different. There are so many types of blogs out there, and many of them are educational. Everything is what you make of it, but my opinion on facebook is that it is too easy to get sucked into embarrassing yourself amongst everyone you've ever known in your life. I've also seen many relationships destroyed there, and not just marital ones. I don't want that to happen to me. I know my limits, and I need to respect them, as hard as that can be.

These issues don't come up with blogging. I can write my heart out and not care who reads it, because I'm really only doing this to leave to my kids. There is no ego involved. But facebook is like a high school reunion on the distance plan. Everyone wants to look good. There's more false bragging and posturing than I can stand anymore.

Then there are the people that are all about complaining and crying about how bad their lives are. I'm a compassionate person, but that gets old too.

I think that, overall, the constant inundation of people's thoughts that show up on the facebook home page are just driving me a little batty. With blogging, you can choose to go to someone's web page or not. What I said to my friends on facebook is that it has become information overload.

I certainly appreciate that you read my blog and leave comments! Inspiration is definitely the right word to describe what reading other blogs means to me, including yours :)

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