Sunday, January 1, 2012

Friends, Facebook and All That Jazz

I had two great conversations with women friends yesterday—a cousin-in-law and my husband’s best friend’s wife. Afterwards, I wondered to myself, why don’t I do this more often, because such conversations so feed my soul and connect me to the human family.

The first convo was a Facebook chat, both of us typing furiously to share our thoughts. The second was a conventional telephone conversation, not FaceTime or Skype. I offer my heartfelt thanks to these women for their friendship. May their days be richly blessed with fulfillment, happiness and joy, and may their nights be peaceful, soft and fanciful.

On the Myers-Briggs Typology, my indicators are ENTP (extroversion-intuition-thinking-perception). I have found, though, as I have grown older, my counter-balancing introversion is coming out, and I need a lot more “down” time to recover from time spent with others. That might also be a result of how much more I invest myself in others than when I was younger, how much more willing I am to be present to another’s joys and pains and not turn away, but rather, to engage.

I think that for some of us lucky ones, as we grow older, we also gather strength from the journey, and that strength empowers a vast empathy and compassion that we lacked in our youth. I don’t know about you, but my youth was consumed with ego and financial survival, trying to gain a stake in the larger society where I was often an outsider and marginalized.

All the electronic media and social networking tools definitely are making an impact on my psyche and my habits.

I carry an iPhone – everywhere, usually in my pants pocket, so that I have it even in the bathroom, where I play Words with Friends. I have whittled my computers down to a MacBook Pro laptop and am totally weaned – forever – from any Windows-based computer of my own. I have eschewed my husband’s offer of a hand-me-down iPad, because I’m at the limit of my capacity to consume personal technology. A hand-me-down iPod lies unused on the coffee table, since my iPhone and laptop contain all my music. Soon, the laptop, through the Kindle app, will also contain all my books.

My Web browser opens automatically to Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, my blog, AOL, and iGoogle. I’ve got another dozen or so Web pages bookmarked for quick access and view my checking accounts online daily. I haven’t balanced a checkbook in decades, says this former banker. I only read news online via online newspapers, news journals and news compilers. I subscribe to numerous news and cause email subscriptions, and I really value the Facebook posts that lead me to articles I wouldn’t otherwise find on my own. I confess that I don’t view nearly as many videos online as my Facebook Friends post, because I’m impatient, preferring to read the story rather than to view it.

I find Facebook, which is my main social networking arena, to be at once both intimate and offputting. I remember “Short Circuit,” a 1986 film about an anthropomorphic robot named “Number 5,” who constantly demanded more input. I feel like Number 5 when the news feed on Facebook slows down like it usually does on Saturdays and Sundays. Many of my Facebook Friends are associated with the church, and those are the days when their attention turns to church activities like preparing sermons.

I know that I frustrate some of my Facebook Friends, because I leave my computer on all the time, except when I’m traveling with it. I’m often not at the computer even though Facebook says I’m online, when they ping me to chat. I especially apologize to my Facebook Friends from Africa who are awake when I’m asleep and away from my computer.

Facebook raises conundrums for me. Can one be voyeuristic when others are being exhibitionistic? I admit to viewing the Info and Walls pages of Friends of Friends sometimes out of curiosity, especially if I have heard stories of those Friends of Friends from my Friends.

I think that it’s possible to develop a sense of the subtleties of what people are feeling when they post on Facebook, in the same way that experienced drivers can sense what the driver in front of them is going to do without any overt signals being given. So, I have claimed Facebook as my mission field in the sense that I chat with many young people on Facebook in the middle of the night about life, love, despair and all that jazz. These young people inspire me with their passions, dreams and complex lives. They compel me to continue my activism about things that matter.

What a glorious time to be alive! Welcome, 2012! Bring it on!

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