Thursday, November 19, 2009

When It's Time to Face the Face

I have friends who have expressed surprise at the fact that I have "embraced" the concept of social networking sites. Notwithstanding that my "embrace" has been something slightly less rigid than that of two middle schoolers at the 7th grade Valentine's Day dance slow-dancing to "Endless Love" and significantly less passionate than those two same two kids at the junior prom bumping and grinding to "Milkshake". Actually, it is the surprise expressed by some who know me that has - in fact - surprised me.

With scant few exceptions I live my life with the rest of the world at (as a bare minimum) arm's length. And I am not satisfied to use my own arm as the measuring stick. Nope. I like an arm with some honest to goodness length to it. If you are not going to go big, then why go at all. Right? And I suspect that in the collective heart of most of us who utilize an outlet such as Facebook do so in large part because it is clean. We control those with whom we interact and the amount of interaction we have with one another. It is the Home Office for Artifice. We are afforded the means to drop in and out of the lives of others in whom we are interested whenever we want to. We can view one another's photographs, remark on one another's great life adventures and assess one another's progress to date from the comfort - no the safety - of our own homes or offices or wherever.

I have noticed a great number of folks who do things via "Facebook Mobile", which I must confess I find a bit unsettling. Principally because I have no idea how to do it but secondarily because I can envision the future client I shall have to defend who caused an eleven-car accident on Route 17 North because he was updating his Facebook status "stuck in traffic again :(" on his I Phone or Blackberry when he veered into oncoming traffic. You think I am kidding? I would wager a year's salary that by this time next year I have handled at least one such case.

At the risk of being misunderstood, I enjoy the ease and convenience of Facebook quite a bit. While it unnerved both of them I am sure - Suz always having been the more vocal of the two kids - Margaret and I both joined the Facebook generation and ended up as friends with both Rob and Suzanne. The process involved a series of negotiations that ended up with a Code of Conduct that follows faithfully the Vegas model but it eventually got completed. The two generations give one another a particularly wide berth on-line but each knows the other is out there.

In addition to finding an easy way to add to my kids' future psychotherapy bills, Facebook has proven itself to be an effective way to reconnect with folks long lost across the ether of time. It has been helpful in organizing events for groups of friends as well. For all of those reasons, its enjoyments have outnumbered its annoyances for me. In large part, it works for me because.....well, because it works for me. It helped me find and/or pointed me directly towards the overwhelming majority of folks I have connected and/or reconnected with on-line. It has been a great relationship for me: I have done little and reaped the benefits of its work.

Lately though I have noticed a darker, more sinister side of this entity. It seems that every time I sign on and access my "Home" page I have a snarky little suggestion or two in the upper right hand corner. Usually it is something beseeching me to "make Facebook a little better for....[insert name here]", imploring me to talk to someone because "you and [insert name here] have not spoken on Facebook in a while" or recruiting me to help make a particular individual more "popular", "[Insert name here] does not have many friends, help him/her find more."

What? Memo to the fourteen year-old kid who undoubtedly created this monstrosity and has made more money from it while sporting a mouthful of baby teeth than I will make in my lifetime: I am not interested. Me and others like me are "socializing" here perhaps because we are too damn lazy or too damn disinterested to do so with one another in person. Or - and I could be the only person who suffers from this infirmity but I suspect I am not - we have neither the time nor the means to see face-to-face all of our family and friends whenever we want to, which makes running into them on-line a boon for all concerned. Regardless of why we choose to be here, little Facebook fellow, what the hell makes you think that while I am there - doing nothing productive - I want to be recruited to do a bit of pro bono work for you? Let me disabuse you of that notion right now.

I struggle - often without success - trying to figure out out how to make the real world a better place for those I know and love. I would not pretend to have the skill set to improve someone's "Facebook world" (although here is a start - either stop playing all those god damned games or combine all of them into one so that goats and goldfish are armed to the hooves and the gills with weapons galore, busting caps in the bejeweled asses of one another and all of the other residents - celebrity and otherwise - of mobster city). Moreover, while I have been rightly accused of having a gargantuan ego I am not deluded enough to believe I have the power to make one person befriend another. Nor do I have the bank account to do so.

Oh - final memo to little computer guru Facebook creator: it is true that I have not spoken lately to Margaret Bozzomo Kenny lately on Facebook. I think the fact that I do so every morning and every night has allowed us to stay sufficiently connected. Thanks for putting her on the virtual milk carton for me but you can disband the posse. I found her just fine. It turns out she was never lost at all.




John M. Swails said...

It's funny you should mention the whole reconnect thing. In my latter years I am finding some memories are best left sweetened and in the past, seasoned with time which has successfully filtered out any negative realities to leave what we want it to have been... Hidden that is, until you run into a memory on something like facebook, complete with pictures from the past and anecdotes much more accurate than your own. Suddently in the midst of all that accuracy you realize your memory didn't get everything quite right. You weren't that popular, school wasn't that much fun, in fact, school was depressing most of the time, the school bully took joy on your daily humiliation, that car wasn't a Camaro but a Pinto, and the closest you came to having a girlfreind was your mother's best friends daughter on a forced movie date.

No, in my case, my tommorows have been much better than my yesterdays and I rather like my selective memory, besides, spending too much time in the past tends to slow forward motion so even if yesterday was as good as I remember, just think of how much better tomorrow will be!

That being said, I do love running into those one or two memories I got right that are so great, they remind me of the spectacular moments of happiness (albeit short) that made wading through the rest worth while.

God Bless you Adam,

John M. Swails

Adam Kenny said...

That is a wonderful sentiment beautifully expressed. Far more eloquently than I could have hoped for.

Stay well.