I was drinking with an old guy one night last week at the J&M Tap.
Normally when I say that, it's code for, I was drinking alone.
But the other night I was definitely the lad in the room. It was kind of nice, actually.
I spent the first hunk of the evening trying to explain to the sixty-something why "perfectly intelligent, otherwise seemingly sensible kids" these days wear tattoos, sometimes in places that can't be easily hidden by clothes. We talked about that at such length and with such grandiose boozy vigor that the old guy concluded that there's nothing else to be done but to explore the subject through a feature-length documentary film.
Done, and done.
Next up, Facebook. A new and reluctant Facebooker himself, the old fellow held forth with a common critique of the site, which for purposes of conversational specificity, came to center on a little video story I posted on Facebook of a motorcycle jaunt I took over a recent weekend.
Who gives a shit what you did over the weekend?
We were talking about Facebook "friends," and I was telling him how I've been "friending"—these terms hit the old guy like belly punches—media people and political movers and shakers, so that I can use the connections to promote Vital Speeches of the Day.
You think Bob Edwards gives a shit about your fucking motorcycle trip?
No, I don't. I was forced to explain that I am not thinking of Bob Edwards at all when I post a thing about a weekend motorcycle trip.
But Bob Edwards has to look at the stupid motorcycle video anyway, doesn't he?
I'm thinking about my friends and family, who might like to know I had a fun weekend.
What on earth compels you to tell all your friends and family you had a fun weekend?
I changed my tack, and said I find Facebook a cheerful and reassuring place, where I can find people I know warbling, mostly happily, about their lives. Pictures of the kids, thank yous for good parties, ballgames they're looking forward to, nutty projects they're involved in and grape camps they just came back from. Internet service down and then back up (yay!), funny thoughts and, yes, the occasional motorcycle video.
With Holtzlike patience and equanimity, I explained that I read what I have time for, I ignore what I don't and I loosely keep track of how my Facebook friends are doing, feeling comforted to know that my occasional posts reminds them I'm alive and having some happy things happen in my life too.
I don't think in terms of having to read every banality everyone posts, and I don't give quizzes to find out which of my friends is reading which of my posts.
So you're putting stuff out there to your friends but you don't care who sees it or who doesn't.
Well that's sick! It's fucking sick. I'm telling you, it's SICK!
He was really shouting, and the bartender gave us a look.
"He's very upset," I apologized.
"About Facebook," I said.
But as with his unanswered question about why everybody wears tattoos now whereas just one generation ago tattoos were for sailors and truck drivers, the old guy has a point. (Old guys often do.)
When Bob Edwards, G. Gordon Liddy, Chuck Todd and Tucker Carlson have to wade through my motorcycle videos which I've posted not knowing or even caring who among my friends, family and colleagues would watch it—but obviously hoping some of them would—something has fundamentally changed in the way human beings relate to each other, and the way they see themselves.
Hell, maybe it is.
Eileen B says
If it’s sick, then I’m really infected. Now, if you’re looking for a sense of being on Facebook, yeah, that’s a recipe for sickness. But if you’re USING Facebook for the purpose of connecting with family and friends, I don’t see anything sick about that.
David Murray says
Well, that’s part of the issue though, Eileen. As writers, connecting with people through broadcast communication IS a huge part of our sense of being. Was I “connecting” when I put the motorcycle video out there? No, I was kind of broadcasting. Wasn’t I?
Eileen B says
Well yeah, but, yeah, I guess I post my columns on there too. But I have tried to keep Twitter for professional/broadcasting and Facebook for more personal. But you’re right…the line gets blurred sometimes.
Joan H. says
Facebook, for me, is more like the annual Christmas letters, except you get updates along the way: photos, videos, invitations to join things, like a book group or a bonfire. It has a lot of goofy stuff, too (what IS Farmville or whatever it’s called?), but is that any more goofy than me inviting anybody who shows the least interest to come over for our Saturday night dealer’s-choice poker game?
I was laid off from my job two weeks ago, something that has never happened to me before in my 40+ years of work. It’s disconcerting and scary. But every day I go check in Facebook, and see that people I care about are going on as usual, sharing joys and woes, news that gets them on their bandstand, random thoughts. And it’s so reassuring. It’s like being a little kid in Michigan again, when all the aunts and great-aunts would share coffee and cookies and chatter, and the men would gather in the barn for a beer and to complain about the weather or crops or to brag about that milk-producing cow. It’s homey. It’s like having family, regular family, not 2009 family.
I like reading about your journeys, watching your videos, knowing that you captured your child and headed into an adventure. I don’t have a whole lot of “important” people on my friend list–at least, they aren’t there because they’re important; I am blessed with a few friends who wander into the limelight now and then.
But they’re first and foremost my friends. They’ve encouraged me, publicly and privately, and I feel more supported and connected than I have for years. Facebook, of all the social media tools, is the one that is the most personal, and the only one I cherish.
So there’s the view of my little world in the golden autumn of Knik.
David Murray says
Joan, first, I’m very sorry to hear about your job. But it really informs the sentiment you express here. I too have found Facebook comforting during the recession. Reassuring to see unemployed friends putting one foot cheerfully in front of another (and enjoying a beer or a ballgame or a book along the way), and of course happy to see news when they inevitably got jobs. (As you will, of course.)
In such times, I do think Facebook makes us feel less alone–whatever else it does to make us feel and behave like amateur celebrities, or various ways that may appear sick and confusing to another generation.
You would not have gotten me to say that a year ago. But I say it with confidence now.
Enjoy this golden autumn, Joan. Summer will come again. And we’ll be here in the meantime.
Yossi Mandel says
The sun rising every morning is no indicator that the world continues its run as usual. Grumpy old men tell us everything is normal, proceed as usual.
Ron Shewchuk says
Just had this fight with Kate only a couple of days ago. “You used to bike. You used to read. Now all you do is diddle on your computer. Why is it so important to tell a bunch of people you hardly know what you’re doing or where you are?”
Didn’t have an easy answer. But I get the same kind of comfort from this stuff as you do, David. The world really is changing, and who knows right now if it’s for the better?
Tim H says
Here’s another reason. I follow this blog because I’m a communicator, and I knew that DM can write a bit. But because of this blog I now know that he groks motorcycle touring, and best of all, has the chops to write about it.
Steve Crescenzo’s blog has “it” too, and come to think of it most good one do: they show you the person behind the words.
Consider boingboing.net and icanhascheezburger.com. They consistently reflect a certain point of view, and if that POV suits you, you’ll bookmark or feedlink or subscribe or whatever.
And they never say “a decision was made to …” or “it is recommended that …”
p.s. Good luck Joan H; the corporates downsized me too.