Friday, April 23, 2010

facebook is weird

Or, I suppose, Facebook makes me weird.

I spent too long today Facebook-stalking. Mostly high school classmates.

I'm really weirded out thinking about folks from high school. Though this isn't quite true, it seems now that there wasn't much difference between us then. Less still for those kids I knew from elementary school on. And now, as I peer into their family rooms through the window they left open on Facebook, they just seem so, so different from me. In a way I find excruciatingly painful. (And the fact that it bothers me so, well, that bothers me even more.)

The part that troubles me most, oddly, is that I don't think I would very much care for most of them. They strike me as exceptionally boring people. Formulaic. Caricatures of one sort of middle-aged, middle-class life or another. Suburbanites. People who drive mini-vans, shuttle their kids to dance, watch TV in the evenings, and pour over the pages of IKEA catalogs. And yet, I do all those same things. That is my life, but somehow my life seems worlds away from theirs. Is it? And so I'm left wondering if I'm just as boring. (Though at least I'm not the sort of knee-jerk political conservative an alarming number of these people appear to have become. I mean, in ninth or tenth grade I though the Rush Limbaugh crowd and their politics--if you can call them that--were just terrific. I really did. Then I grew up. What happened to everyone else?)

Even while so many strike me as mind-numbingly uninteresting, you look at these pictures, especially those with families, and they usually look so happy. Their kids look great. Beautiful. Bright. Eager. And so I can't help being happy for them. The kids... Those stinking smiling kids never fail to melt my heart. And if those beautiful, bright, eager children think their parents are the greatest ever, who am I to opine otherwise?

But of course it would be naive to believe they're all happy. Tragedy comes in its various guises. Its experience is ubiquitous, as I often say. "All happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," a passage which I've always taken to be Tolstoy's way of debunking of the myth of happiness (the rest of the novel seems to support that conclusion).

Tolstoy was an interesting person. I think I would have liked to pass some time with that dude.

So I want to talk to these people. People who I don't really know; I only knew the person these people were 18 years ago, and then not well. I want to talk to them either to confirm my hunch (I think) or, joyfully, discover that I'm quite wrong. And why them? Something to do with common experience, I think. They're family, in a sense. So they should understand without explanation. If not really.

On the other hand, I'm too shy, awkward, and judgmental to do it. And of course it just feels ridiculous.

So, because I choose not to act, I'm left only with my thoughts. My fears. And wondering when I'll next get to sit down to the chocolate mousse of a stimulating conversation with engaging people that understand me. Like years ago. When Val and I would sit on the floor, way too late at night, with friends, engrossed in the art of...talking. With no thought of "What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?" The world was beautiful in those moments. Even in its tragedy it was breathtakingly beautiful. God was in it. In the words. In the connection between us. In the being overwhelmed with the frightening grandness of it all.

All this, from stupid Facebook. Ai ai ai...


Scott said...

I have to echo your sentiment. Facebook IS weird. Just last week I hid everyone that wasn't family or a very close friend, and since then I have not visited Facebook nearly so often. It's nice to have those old acquaintances within virtual reach, and the weird thing about Facebook is that I can snoop into their lives in a way that I never did in my youth except with the very closest of my friends, and even then, not to the same degree that they allow me to on Facebook.
When I'm plugged into Facebook, I feel more tied to my past, but FB often leaves me feeling obligated to kindle a virtual friendship with someone I never had a real relationship with. I accept friend invites from people I knew (or supposedly knew) in High School, and I find it weird that I am still interested in what many of them think, when in all reality, they probably don't think (at least about me) much at all.

kg said...

Facebook and blogs seem to be the modern answer for the cry to be. With the obvious exception of close friends and family (who really want to be and stay connected) it seems like these media succeed because there are so many people crying to be -- to be the "good" parts they broadcast. Somehow it gives them substance (however shallow) to befriend all the friends of friends or past history acquaintances. Having more "friends" is somehow an honor?? ! Meaningless rubbish and clutter. Most of Facebook repulses me. I don't use it because it makes me ill. It gives me the same creepy disgust I felt in High School about the popular crowd. Popular on the outside because of what they do or say -- totally hiding the insecurities of what or who they really are -- afraid of being discovered almost. (Of course this is an over generalization.)

When we "peer into their family rooms through the window they left open" I wonder just what distortions we are really seeing? Only the views they are secure enough to show us.

My respect goes to those who express their doubts and shortcomings. Those who question the status quo. Those who express themselves in spite of what others may think. -- and those who reject friend requests. ELG

vfg said...

Ha! You liked Rush in 12th grade.

Your thoughts on the happy kids I loved; I see that, too.

But also that Facebook gives me a weird empty feeling--like maybe I'm not living the right life. Not as in wrong decisions, really, more like so-weird-I'm-so-different. But think they're all different from each other, too.