Tuesday, November 03, 2009

my Facebook problem

Okay – end of kitten blogging for now. I've put one major project to bed for the nonce, & am deeply involved in another, so there's not a huge prospect of my getting back to this "blogging" business very seriously for a while. Indeed, maybe it's just me, but the whole blogosphere seems to have dulled down a bit since everybody & his dog jumped onto Facebook, & started the direct-feed dissemination of what's on their mind, 18 times a day.

I've been on Facebook for I guess a year & a half now. On the whole – apart from the radical time-drain it can become – it's been a good thing. It keeps me in closer touch with some good friends who live far away, it keeps me "plugged in" to the network of poets & academics I'm interested in, & it's put me back in contact with friends – some of them very good friends indeed – with whom I'd fallen out of touch. (Needless to say, I can live without the constant quizzes & games the Facebook world offers; tho for your information, the "Literary Character I Most Resemble" is Jane Eyre.)

Of course it's always grand to reconnect with friends from college, or from graduate school – I'm even Facebook "friends" with a chap who was once in an American lit section I TA'd for in grad school, & who is now himself a professor up in Pennsylvania – a colleague, in fact, of an old friend from my cohort in grad school.

High school acquaintances are another matter, I'm afraid. For the most part we move in different worlds more than two decades later, our lives so different that becoming "friends" would amount to little more than a voyeuristic sniffing around into "what's become of X." And what do you do with a friend request from someone who announces her religious views on her profile page as "FULL gospel-santified [sic], Holy Ghost, want God's most," and her political views as "God's choice (pro life republican)"? (In my case, you don't reply...)

And I'm delighted to know that the species continues to propagate itself (as if we had any doubt of it), but Lordie it makes me feel old when I see people from high school becoming grandparents right & left. Each to his or her own, I suppose: while one colleague comments that "it's just the way they do things in hill country," I reflect that it's not that I didn't have the capacity to become a parent at 20 or 21 – I just would've been an incredibly lousy one. I hope that other members of the class of 198- have made a better job of it than I would have at that age. And same goes for their kids, now launching out onto the uncharted (or overcharted?) waters of parenthood.

I think I prefer the nomenclature other, more career-related social networking sites use: people you're hooked up with are "connections," rather than "friends." Sure, I'm "friends" on Facebook with some of my actual real-world best friends; and that's great. And I'm happy to connect up with anyone who shows any evidence of having glanced at anything I've written, or who's connected in any way with the various creative/scholarly fields I dabble in. Are we "friends" in any real sense? Not really, but it's no different from your connection to that person whose hand you warmly shake every 2 or 3 years at a conference.

And I'm thankful – I suppose – I think, tho I'm not sure – to Facebook for putting me in touch with various subcultures that I'd only heard about, or perhaps dreamed of. For instance: the subculture of semi-serious marginally "literary" hackdom. There's one "friend" out there – I've never met him, never heard of him until he "friended" me – along with about 1200 other people – who posts daily updates of how many words he written on his latest novel, how many short stories & poems he's read (he's aiming for 365 stories per year, 10 poems a day), & how many short stories & poems he's in turn churned out himself.

I've got no problem with über-productivity – if you're writing in one of the genres where that's a plus (science fiction, say, or romance fiction). And I'm all for a steady work ethic; gosh, I'm trying to cultivate one myself. I suspect I read at least 10 poems a day; of course, there's some days I spend entranced in front of 20 lines of Prynne, and others I read 40 pages (& still come nowhere near finishing) something of Silliman's. Perhaps Friend A is throwing away 90% of what he writes: but the stuff I've googled up on the web suggests that he's sending every bit of it straight out to the little mags.

Friend B, on the other hand, is someone I knew back in high school, & always thought of something approaching a soul-mate. You know, geekish isolato, rather intelligent, lots of trouble fitting in with the rather rough & confrontational crowd in semi-rural Tennessee. Lo & behold, he reappears! As a truck driver, twice-divorced father of 4, & barking right-wing lunatic. In the sense of someone who takes what Glenn Beck has to say seriously. Who thinks Sarah Palin's great, & got a bum deal in the "mainstream media." Who's convinced that Obama's a real live socialist, gearing up to lead us into the perdition of a soviet-style workers' paradise.

I think it's educational to have a real live brush up against the noisy minority who get their news from the Fox network; it's given me insight into how those folks think, & where they're coming from. Hint: it isn't pretty. Despite what you may think, it's not deep-seated racism; rather, it's a kind of atavistic fear in the face of the immediate consequences of globalism, coupled with a classic conservative revulsion at shifting social mores.

Luckily, there's football and baseball to distract these folks. (Friend B's irascible political comments have almost disappeared as the seasons have begun; he'd much rather post updates about the progress of a game from in front of the tv than rail against the "death panels.") Terry Eagleton has said on a number of occasions that he'd like to abolish televised sports, as he finds it the number 1 obstacle in the way of a proletarian revolution. Me, I'm thankful for them, though I'm not likely to watch 'em: pro football & the World Series may be the only thing standing between us and outright civil war.


Archambeau said...

I just went looking for the "like" icon to press as a response to this post. Must be spending too much time on Facebook myself.


Vance Maverick said...

My wife and I wondered what would happen if we defriended people. So experimentally, I defriended her, and she didn't get any notification. In principle, she could scan her friends list, checking that it still included all the same people, but that's unlikely. In other words, you can quietly thin out the ranters and other unsympathetics, without raising hackles.

Ed Baker said...

I was for a-wile (sick)
your BEST "frie-wend" on facebook
as soon as I "connected" with my 1958 high-school girl-friend AND my x-wife

I dropped facebook!

please don't take it personally we'll be "friends" for life
:such as it is!

full moon
my only friend

well, send me a
Miami Beach CheeseCake post-card
when you have less to write

Mark Scroggins said...

Yeah, defriending is a consequence-free business. Even better is simply "hiding" folks' updates, so when I have a ghoulish interest in what they're up to I can check in, without having a constant barrage of unwanted things showing up in feed.

Steven Fama said...

Very interesting, and appreciated. I guess I'm about five years behind on blogging, having started but a year ago. Given my seemingly always de-accelerating rate with which I pick up on 'net-stuff, I'm probably five years away still from joining FaceBook. But I'll remember this stuff here if / when I do.

On the Fox channel "minority": you're probably correct about the fear within our fellow citizens, but also -- having just brushed up against a huge awath of such folks during a week-long business trip a week or so ago -- there is also a strong overlay of religion. As in grown up people earnestly discussing, every morning, in groups in public places (restaurants), Jesus and Satan as if they were real people, really here, right now.

Ed Baker said...

and I betcha they were eating between two slices of wonder bread bologna!

best keep your American flag pin and your gold cross pins pinned to your Brooks Brothers 3 piece suit!

and drive everybody else nutz and to their breaking point!

..or to suicide in Miami Beech

both Religion and Politics are bologna!