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.