Sunday, December 28, 2008

There was this baby shower

And me and my mom were, nominally at least, in charge of throwing it. It has been a dicey Christmas around these parts, so we were not looking forward to the stress of the mingling.

But I'm glad we did it. It was a baby shower for an old, old friend--and she seems well. Plus, she is one of my three best friends from high school, and the other two showed up--and that was my favorite. They are all beautiful and accomplished, doing smart things and taking care of lovely families. After the shower, all four of us went to dinner. We drank margaritas and laughed and gossiped about the people we used to know... which leads me to a topic I'd like to re-address: Facebook.

I am obsessed with it. And we talked about it quite a bit. Because, as you may or may not have noticed, dear reader, people be gettin on facebook. Over the last three months, I have friended, de-friended, and re-friended many an old friend/acquaintance/lover. And, despite the ease with which we ridicule those-who-would-be-cyborgs, there is a certain seductiveness to the electronic drama that is facebook.

So, these four dear friends and I (one of whom I am in touch with again ONLY because of electronic things) discussed the benefits and drawbacks of good old FB. Below are a few of the highlights:

Pros:
1) It is like an electronic grappling hook to the past--digging into memories and giving us some leverage.
2) It makes friendship seem easy.
3) It allows for virtual contact with people we might never have seen again.
4) The format (chat, status updates, messages) gives us time to seem clever and funny--sparring verbally with others who seem clever and funny.
5) It includes zombies.

Cons:
1) It is like an electronic grappling hook to the past--digging into memories and giving us some leverage.
2) It makes friendship seem easy.
3) It allows for virtual contact with people we might never have seen again.
4) The format (chat, status updates, messages) gives us time to seem clever and funny--sparring verbally with others who seem clever and funny.
5) The unfamiliarity of the communication style makes us harder. We say sharper things more often because we are not standing next to warm human bodies. We need to learn the body-ness of this beast before we imagine ourselves to be experts.

{I was going to make all five be the same both times, but honestly, I'm pretty certain that zombies are an unmitigated awesome.}

This facebook juggernaut is a double-edged sword, pal. As unavoidable as it is slippery, it is a techne, a world-changing rhetoric. I am so thankful for FB in many ways--the reconnection factor (for about 5% of the people on there); the closeness of it (my students and I can communicate via FB in much cooler ways than used to exist); and the bendiness of it (that's right, I said bendiness). I am also wary of it.

But it sure does make for some yummy dinner conversation.

1 comment:

Rob said...

I have noticed that over the past year, you really can't have a social event without discussing Facebook. It is everywhere you go... At first I was really involved in these conversations and then I got bored of them and wanted people to talk about things that don't include status updates, wall postings, and friendship requests. Now, though, I'm with you. I'm back to being a bit obsessed with it...

You are completely right. People be gettin on Facebook. It feels like we are witnessing a real shift in the way we communicate information about our lives and our interests and challenges. Email moved up to more instantaneous communication with people who lived far away (and next door...) and I think that it shortened our communication style. Hit the main points. Be clear. Use emoticons. Cell phones moved us to living with/expecting constant access. Facebook seems to be combining these things... Not only are we easily communicating with people who live far away--but we are expecting to be constantly communicating with them.

I love you assessment, though. We need to learn the body-ness of this beast. I am remarkably uncomfortable when co-workers or other acquaintances comment to me about one of my status updates--like they saw me pale and flabby wearing a speedo at the beach. Obama's speechwriter had to make a public apology for a picture posted on Facebook. Almost everyone I know defriended a person that they once liked during this fall's political season. Through wall postings, I found out that an old old friend of mine is fighting cancer. Last week, I went out to dinner with a cousin who was in town and I haven't seen in nearly twenty years but we became Facebook friends.

I'm not sure how they are connected--except that they illustrate what I perceive to be the body-ness of this beast.

Friendster and My Space had the same potential--but they never crossed the threshold to replicate real life. On those, it was only a few of your friends who were on them. Nothing that you did on Friendster impacted daily life--and any way, how could people knowing that To Kill A Mockingbird is your favorite book impact daily life?

On Facebook, though, I am (re)connected to people from high school, my old Baptist minister, parents of old friends, cousins, co-workers, old co-workers, people from my church, people I know from being drunk at bars, one-nightstands, and my partner. My online shenanigans are not just visible to a select few people or a specific cross section of my life. Connections from all facets of my personality are represented and my actions (like in real life) have an impact on all of my different connections.

I started off on Facebook guns blazing--but then (because the weight of it was starting to get to me) I stepped back. I stepped back from Twitter and from blogging and all of these things because I didn't feel comfortable wearing the emperor's new clothes all the time.

It seems like this could be it, though. I think that the only way we (I) can cope with it is to embrace the beast and figure out the body-ness as (I) we go...