If you met me at a party, you’d notice my laugh is the loudest. I’m extremely social. Yet this fun time Charlotte has had a whole lot a nada for the social networking. I figured Twittling and My-facing were perfect ways of busily avoiding intimacy like the plague. I wanted no part of that universe made of desperate ego maniacs with short attention spans. The over reaction gave away the doubt beneath.
Like so many people of a certain age, I defensively declared I had no need for this Facebook phenomenon. Perhaps this was a knee jerk reaction to new-fangled technology making me feel stupid. Both fear of the unknown or of assimilation by the Borg are still fears. I have heard many fearful declarations to this specific anti-alliance. And sometimes we encounter our destiny on the way to avoiding it.
I was writing and publishing articles online and chose to rise to a new terrifying challenge of creating my blog. I fully understood I needed to socially network for this cause. And I was anxious. This was the ego-maniacal unnecessary and unacceptable activity. And my precious privacy was hard earned. But I was seduced by the ability to pontificate to an enraptured audience. My ego “liked” this. Therein lay the carrot.
I asked my (very popular on Facebook) friend to convince me to join Facebook. She said flatly, “Three years from now, Social networking will be a given and this conversation would be ludicrous.” Just do it. Everybody’s doing it. She reassured me no one could see or speak with me there without my permission. Vampires need an invitation to come in.
So my angst and I joined the Facebook extravaganza on Friday May 20th, 2011, at around 2PM. I was typing away about my fab self in my profile when, Wham! , I get a friend request… from an ex-boyfriend? One of these search buttons must be for all the people you’ve schtooped. I don’t hate this guy but I had no plans to ‘party hardy’ ever again in a tavern of his choice. I rode out the panic and nausea and you know what I did then? I “friended” him. Because that was what this exercise in mass marketing and conquering fears was all about.
I returned to the FB flame on Saturday, finally found the link back in my spam folder, and, Wham! , it happened again. My all-time biggest crush ever from long ago and far away was requesting my friendship. My present husband was the long awaited exception to this boy who gave me hope when I wanted to give up on men altogether. I felt guilty for even reading the benign message from crush-man. In a ten minute span, I went from stunned to giddy to devastated. Of course he was married and had two beautiful children. I shut the computer down. Either these Facebook people were a specific kind of crazy or I was missing something.
I queried fellow members about the true meaning of the Facebook “friend”. Die hard FBers were bewildered by my bewilderment. It was a true friend who said she too had been freaked out initially when she joined. Now it’s her nighttime ritual. She kindly added that, in an ideal world, I would be allowed my fantasy crush forever. So it’s still me, I thought. I endeavored to try again and to pursue this friend-making thing with zeal.
After a month, crush-man became a human being. As his actual life continually popped up on my news feed, I was able to release him from my heart to his happiness. Simultaneously and slowly, I sent “friend requests” to people from schools, social gatherings, neighborhoods, and workplaces of my past and present. As I connected with more people, I began to see my real deal.
This precious privacy I’d clung to and coddled was also known as isolation with a capital ‘I’. I‘d chosen to hide my life, ashamed for growing old and fat because, you know, I was the only one getting old and fat. Who’s crazy enough to deliver themselves on a silver platter for the judgment of the free world? Apparently me.
I had worried about dredging up past resentments with this reconnection with people from my past. Instead, I found myself cheered by them. Our lives connected in unexpected ways. I caught important news I would have missed, like the birth of one friend’s twins and the loss of a beloved old cat for another. Snail mail cards went out immediately. I saw that Facebook is friendship “light”, a safe way of sharing without having to invest much. Showing up outside of this medium is how you solidify the “real” friendships.
As similar pieces of a larger machine, we need to connect to fellow human beings. I recognized how it’s not always about me as the interconnected web of humanity was scrolling up my screen. This online community cleverly coaxes people out of dark corners, away from the whisper of past shames, to a place where they are empowered to speak and be heard. I was blown away by the hope this deceivingly simplistic medium brought into my life.
Gratefully, I reconnected with the used-to-be-me, one person at a time in a memory lane parade of where I’ve been and who I’ve become. I missed the girl these people seemed to still think well of, or at least didn’t dislike. Today, I’m still timid at requesting the friendships of complete strangers but I’m gaining courage. Remember, I have a baby blog I have to feed.
When the next ex-boyfriend found me, I was ready. I asked why he had friended me and he professed he wanted to see if I was doing well. I sensed he also wanted to show me how well he was doing. Maybe, when they put my name in that search box, my ex-boyfriends sought the closure and self-forgiveness I had yet to seek. Or maybe I was a good schtooper. I am good with either possibility.
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