My very wonderful, complicated, smart, but not- smart- about- everything, 19-year-old housemate pulled me into the Facebook era. Just a few days ago. I now have a Facebook page which I will not–at least not now, share or link in any way to this blog. There are both practical and literary reasons I have opted for at least some degree of anonymity here. Setting up the Facebook page seemed to me like a complicated set of decisions and a process. He accomplished it all in a few minutes as I was getting ready to leave the house. Minutes after he did the initial set-up –I think fewer than four minutes– I had 12 Friend requests. 12. My housemate was visibly impressed with this instant response and I must admit, I am sensitive to this– it takes something to visibly impress him, at least for someone my age. I was proud.
He sees me here at home, with my daughter– packing lunches, cleaning up the kitchen, playing hard with her, nagging her, getting ready to go and coming home from work, schlepping groceries up the stairs. There is a lot about my life and particularly the depth and breadth of my connections to other people; to many different communities of friends and beloved people who are not visible from evenings with me here at home. And although I often feel deeply lonely, I am close to a lot of people. I am close to some people in ways you only can be at a certain stage of life. People who were part of my world when I lost my father. People who have lost jobs, parents, spouses, even children and whom I have listened to, cared for. People I’ve worked with for 15+ years now.
Once the page was set up, I promptly connected with one woman I was close to in high school. My initiative. I submitted a Friend request. I sweated for a day or two about whether she might reject me– as in “not Friend me” back. After a couple of days, she Friended me back. Whew. She is someone I was close to for a particular period of time, not throughout, and someone who had loads of both clarity and integrity. Not the easiest thing to come by in my book– either then or now. This correspondence pleased me a lot– maybe I’ll see her again when I return to my hometown, where she has recently returned after years far away on the west coast.
But as a few days passed and my attention was pulled to sit for longer periods at the computer to look at Facebook, I felt lonely and distracted. I couldn’t focus on this blog. So I started to write a post about why I hate Facebook, about what is wrong with Facebook. Not a particularly profound thing to say for someone my age. I will give you that right off the bat.
Then I remembered the Beatles. I was very, very young–when the Beatles rose to astounding popularity in America. I actually remember many things about the rise of the Beatles’ stardom but I remember two things in particular. One was that I loved their music. Loved it. And I still do, especially the earliest stuff.
I also remember being aware, even though I was a child, of the strange and near hysterical level of upset, of vitriol, hatred even, on the part of some adults about the Beatles’ (yes, for the time it was) “long hair”. Long hair on boys. I think even then, I wondered how adults had so much time on their hands as to be so wound up about something that was really as irrelevant as the hair cuts of four young men, boys really.
And I did like the Beatles hair, but that isn’t the point either. While I could write about gender and gender roles and create an analysis of why in the hell so many adults were so deeply bent about the Beatles’ hair, the connection between that time and my at least partial reaction to Facebook is this. I think I should do a little more listening before I become one of those ranters about younger people’s’ culture and innovations.
I am not saying, “I’m too old to have credentials to weigh in.” No. I do get to actually think about it– use my own mind. I don’t believe that once you turn 30, or 40 or 50 you lose the right to think and weigh in about things that affect younger people. But maybe I should listen and watch and learn how this works for a number of people before I write an essay with a conclusion.
With respect to some of the important things on my mind; the liberation of young people, an end to racism, a shift in things so that people don’t have to struggle so deeply with preventable things– like poverty–depression, other crises– I know our ability to solve these problems is dependent on each of us having deep, real, personal, human connections. Deep connections that take real time. So in the end I may decide that Facebook is more of an impediment than it is a true connector.
But as I talk to my younger friend about how he uses Facebook, and as I watch him text constantly, but never spend a minute watching TV– I figure I have more to learn from him–as he does too, from me and my dozens, probably hundreds, of friends. Actual, real friends.
And just one more thing, predictably. For the record. Paul, George and Ringo– all on Facebook.