Friday, April 4, 2014

Consciously Coupled

We are not divorcing. Or separating. Or even particularly fighting more than we usually do. I make an April Fool's Day post on Facebook about Himself's and my decision to “consciously uncouple.” The reaction is surprising. A few people don't get the joke at all and send condolences and platitudes. The first few sentences are plausible so I understand that most people have to read a bit and remember the date before catching on. What is remarkable is that most people find it completely conceivable that I would actually announce this via Facebook. The medium has only existed for ten years but now it's the world's water cooler. I have 270 Facebook friends. Minus the zero you'd probably get close to the number of people who I actually socialize with. Divide that 27 by nine to get the number of friends to whom I would make an official announcement of a pending separation. But, for many, social media is a sea change and suddenly it is natural to share even the most intimate of intimacies.

I enjoy Facebook although sometimes it feels like a chore to log on a couple times a day and scroll through the newsfeed to where I left off before. Facebook has indeed reconnected me with some people who'd fallen by the wayside and has led to some really nice in-person reunions. I have also been able to connect with people who have in-common weird interests and this too has led to some very satisfactory human contact. There are a number of friend requests I have accepted for the sake of politeness only. A few of my obligatory friends are over-posters. Some post inanities. I have blocked a handful of people who over-post inanely. Mostly though I feel an obligation to at least glance at whatever the 270 folks, who either I have chosen or who have chosen me, have to say.

There are people who use Facebook exclusively for self promotion. They post frequently about their accomplishments and their childrens' accomplishments but never take the time to notice anything anyone else posts. I make friend requests to writers and musicians that I admire. A number of these artists are really generous and I get a lot of good reading and music tips. Almost without exception, the artists whose work most blows me away are the most are gracious and modest in the Facebook universe. Once in a while someone I know only because I like their work responds to one of my posts and I get jazzed.

I am conflicted, due to the proliferation of dirty laundry and idiots, but I think Facebook is a blessing for the socially awkward. It is almost always easier for me to engage on Facebook than at a cocktail party. Himself, the introvert (he will post below a link to the article that avers that this is a bona fide condition and not just an excuse for bad attitude) gets a lot of satisfaction from being able to exchange ideas without the ordeal of genuine human interaction. For me, a number of people show their true selves better on Facebook than in the flesh. There are posts that are smart and provocative and beautiful pictures. Facebook, at best, is a wonderful form of self expression, diminished only by the selves that, in my opinion, shouldn't be expressed.

Social media is indeed a new frontier and a lot of people still don't get it. Or maybe it's me. I “friend” a well known writer, not because I am a fan of her work (I haven't read it) but because she graduated from the same college as I did. She has nearly 4000 Facebook friends. The girl posts things that astonish me. On Valentine's Day there is a picture of her with her husband and I paraphrase the caption, “This is a great guy even though we were broken up for a while.” Lately, she has surgery and apparently a lot of time on her hands pre and post op. Why in the world would a person think that 4000 people are interested in scads of hospital pictures and detailed descriptions of procedures and outcomes? The writer notes in a post that her physician has advised her that she is too stoic and he encourages her to complain more. Apparently he is not among her 4000. Facebook, for all its value, is one of the greatest enablers of narcissism in the history of mankind.


I guess having a popular Facebook post was my only accomplishment this week. I hope it's not needy or narcissistic to expose this here towards the end. An accretion of minor disappointments has had me in low spirits. I mention this not for attention or comfort but to make a point. Himself's Irish Catholic disposition renders him completely ineffectual at any sort of optimism. Usually I counter this to near Pollyanna proportions but once in a while it's difficult to shake my own sureness that the glass is half empty. The night before he returns to New York I watch TV in bed while Spuds cuts his dad's hair. Task complete, Spuds plops on the bed next to me, dirty shoes and all. I have some prison show on. I have no memory of what we talk about as we loll there. This stays with me though. I am able to tap the physical sensation of intense rightness and it gets me through the week. I end my writing, as I usually do, feeling better than I did when I started in. I never know when, or why, I'll have one of the happiest moments of my life.



7 comments:

My own Damn Blog said...

I am a former overposter. Now I know better. I hope the few items I choose to share with the public are to your liking.

My own Damn Blog said...

BTW: I never in a million years would think you would seriously announce an impending divorce on FACEBOOK. But then again, TMI abounds on the interwebs.

Layne said...

Wasn't referring to anything emanating from "My Own Damn Blog" with regard to overposting. How else would I have seen Asia? xxoo

Bob Harper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Harper said...

A couple years ago a Zadie Smith article in NYRB captured the FB problem best for me. The dumbing down of being the star of our own digital reality show - the piece of shit around which the world revolves. This is, in a sense, the neural realpolitik of solipsism, but extruded in data presentation that is monetized to expand market targeting so wealth is leveraged to the oligarchy (ok, that's probably me, not Smith). But the flattening, the wearing down of nuance and depth in order to fit in code...I hate facebook. I check it mostly every day. And the glass is as half full as it is half empty... both thoughts that arise and pass as clouds of unknowing.

Pat Saperstein said...

Thank you for explaining our relationship with Facebook so astutely. I too check in assiduously, but would prefer not to have news of workouts and every little sniffle or sore throat from 600 people. And don't get me started on the guy with the lipoma.

John L. Murphy / "FionnchĂș" said...

Duly, I post the article link to Jonathan Rauch's piece, one of the most popular ever on The Atlantic. "Caring for your introvert". I liked that scene the last night Spuds was home: I left you two upstairs to have some "quality time". You and he just kicked back, chatting...

I do log in daily to FB but as needles in haystacks, I do pluck out material I can glean to share with my students, if one in a thousand feeds. I confess FB is a chore as much as a pleasure, but I duly post and comment and like.

There's one person who hates me and confuses my contrary Irish Catholic nature for bigotry and voting for fascism (he and I post on another person's posts; that person born the same day/ year as me, which needs its own phrase), and even that antagonist earned on April Fool's Day, no foolin', a thumbs-up from me when he posted a comment I agreed with. So, look at the wonders of our social media community: we create enemies and make friends far away.
I guess there's a lesson. xxx me