A Lengthy and Heartfelt Post, for Those with Time!
I have a personal Facebook page with a small number of friends. 125. I don’t know what a normal distribution of friends looks like, but mine is:
- Hometown and High School Friends 33
- Co-Workers and Former Co-Workers 27
- Relatives 26
- Church Friends 23
- Online Friends 5
- Rom’s Friends 4
- Other 6
Lots of my favourite people are not on Facebook, and I have to actively keep in touch with them by other means. The nerve of them 🙂
In pre-Internet days, I would have found out news about my hometown and high school friends through visiting my parents, running into their friends (the parents of my friends) or occasionally seeing them at community events or other public places when I was in town. My brother and sister would tell me who they had seen and what they knew.
I grew up in a family of 5, and had 13 aunts and uncles, and 18 cousins. Until I left home, a big part of our family life was getting together with them at our homes or at family reunions, which were planned via short, expensive long-distance phone calls and through Christmas cards: “See you next summer on the August long weekend!”
That is the traditional way – everyone was tied to a place. You would be drawn back, or never have left. It was a good feeling to go “where everybody knows your name,” but of course, there was also gossip, and grudges, and old reputations that could never be changed.
After I left home, I spent 10 to 12 years writing regular personal letters, mailing them, awaiting a reply, and writing again – a cycle that took about 3 weeks. The anticipation of a letter, and the opening and reading of it, is a feeling that can’t be matched. It was so tangible! Each correspondent’s handwriting and doodles and printed photographs revealed so much about them.
My early emails were really letters that were typed and sent. It was a long, long time before emails devolved into short, business-like bits of information. I suppose that started with the advent of texting. I have turned into one of those laughable decrepit people who texts their own kid in this format: “Hi Link…Love, Mom.” Despite being advised this is “not done,” I guess I crave the formality of referring to each other by name. And to distinguish myself from the hundred other texters who don’t. Maybe that is vanity. I’m your mother – acknowledge me, dammit!
So, Facebook. I was a reluctant joiner. I hesitated to put my full, real name out there. What if people I barely remembered or barely liked asked to friend me? I didn’t want to broadcast my life to people I wasn’t close to, but I didn’t want to hurt people’s feelings by snubbing friend requests either. On the flip side, it was satisfying to announce big changes and get instant replies from real people. Ultimately, I’ve never been able to balance that trade-off.
It’s partly a generational thing. Anyone born after 1990 grew up with the Internet and with having a public persona. For me, that came much more slowly, through anonymous blogging, first on MOG and later here on WordPress. I’ve always been a private person in real life, and blogging at length about a topic suits me better than trumpeting my joys and sorrows to an average of 338 greater or lesser friends.
You know me. I did a little analysis of my Facebook friends:
- I have seen 55 of them in the past year
- I have seen 28 more of them within the last 5 years
- I have 35 Facebook friends I haven’t seen in 5 years or more
- I have 6 Facebook friends I’ve never met in person, but feel safe with!
You might think a good strategy would be to de-friend the people I haven’t seen in decades. But quite the opposite appeals to me. I have deep friends-in-the-heart whom I never get to see, but I still treasure them. And I have acquaintances I see every week that I have no need of keeping up with!
I have developed a rather sick passive-aggressive strategy. I log on to Facebook once or twice a month and read up on what my friends have been doing. I like and comment on whatever catches my eye and is current that day. I wish happy and belated happy birthdays. I never update my status. And then I disappear for another 3 weeks. Maybe the postal schedule suits me better 🙂
I have chat turned off (as if I would want to talk to actual people!) and I never get any messages.
I had a big shake-up this Fall when I realized that my love-hate relationship with Facebook just wasn’t working. First of all, I have a former colleague I hold in very high esteem, who is a Facebook friend, and whom I haven’t seen in several years. We read each other’s blogs and I feel we are quite simpatico. This person contacted me at least twice when they were in town, wanting to meet up, and I missed out both times – because it was through Facebook messages – which I never even remotely thought to check. Talk about “kick yourself” moments! I do know there is notification for Facebook messages but I had received some pesky, ignorable messages in the past, so I thought it would be more of the same!
But then the real kicker. I was speaking with my sister a couple of weeks ago and she told me about the sudden death of a person who had been a teacher and mentor to both of us. My sister thought I already knew. Neither of us had seen her for many years, but we enjoyed reading about her talents and influence on Facebook. I was surprised and upset, and I thought I could at least express my condolences online. So I proceeded to her Facebook page, only to find out she had died more than two months ago. I was mortified. It’s bad enough that I often miss the birthdays of my Facebook friends.
But to not even notice when they die?
My #1 goal for 2015 is to actively stay in touch with people who matter to me. And if the people in my life use Facebook, then Facebook will be one of my methods. It is time for me to use it as the tool it really is.
I am therefore pledging to:
- Log onto Facebook and catch up on everyone’s news regularly – at least twice a week
- Comment on and like my friends’ updates so they know I am “listening”
- Follow up on big news – real joys and sorrows – with closer contact
- Post status updates – at least twice a week (gulp, this will be hard for me)
- Post pictures, because judging by how happy I feel when I see others’ photos, maybe they will like mine too
And for those who are not on Facebook – or who don’t love it – I am pledging to make personal phone calls and write personal emails and even post a handwritten letter now and again.
I have reviewed how to categorize my friends and to limit status updates to certain categories, such as “family” or “close friends” (kind of like Google+ Circles).
On a personal note, I have been living a bit of a double life for the past 5 years because my kid Link has not been “out” to everyone as a genderqueer and transgender person. But now they are! And that gives me the opportunity to be my true self more, online and off. That makes me “out,” too.
I have a Facebook page for An Exacting Life which I use only for pushing out notifications of new posts. My loyal and few Facebook followers can expect actual updates there, too!