Saturday, January 10, 2009

Confessions: Facebook- Social Relevance

Social media is a new and expanding market worldwide, and as far as I see Facebook is the ruling king of the industry. It is common place to have Facebook come pre-installed on a tablet or smart phone or be book marked on a new laptop or PC. My eyes were really opened when Facebook came pre-packed into my XBOX360. The message is simple: Facebook is here to stay.
I questioned if that was really a good thing or just an enormous waste of time. I am not some techno fear ridden dinosaur that doesn’t understand the difference between a doughnut and a droid. I just like taking a close look at the trends I involve myself with. Facebook was a safe haven when myspace got entirely too obnoxious. Facebook maintains relevance as twitter is overwhelmed with celebrity blarney on an epic scale. I am a fan. I will go so far as to LIKE Facebook.
I don’t maintain a Myspace page anymore. Myspace seems to be all about promoting goofy little flash based games and the music industry. I enjoy music, but not enough to put up with all the annoying baggage that comes along with Myspace. To me that makes it not worthwhile. Apparently, most of my friends feel the same way. Most of the people I know that are online are on Facebook. Myspace also seems to be about young idiots hooking up. I am young and stupid but not that young or stupid.
The funny part about me and social media is I don’t really do the whole social thing. I don’t spend time with friends except for my wife who takes the title of best friend. I spend a little time with my immediate family and certainly with my daughter. Facebook gives me a way to get to know the people around me better without too much of the whole face to face mess. I can get to know people I would term as associates without too much investment of my time and little risk. The ones that are nuts and I need to avoid out themselves, and more importantly the real quality people turn into friends.
Even this blog turns into a type of relationship with my Facebook friends. I sincerely hope people stumble across my rants and raves by accident, but really what I have to say here is about putting a piece of myself out into the world. I show how my mind works while giving away a little piece of my soul. The pictures on my Facebook page are a reflection of that idea. I will grant that they are also a a symptom of my complete and total narcissism. I love me and I want everyone else to know and love me… from varying degrees of distance.
While lazy socializing and flattering my ego was what got me into social media and Facebook it is not what keeps me there. Like most people I work quite a bit. When I am not doing to day job I have about a million money making or career advancing projects to tend to. Along the way I spend time with loved ones. I also spend about 10 hours a week with my feet running on a treadmill or lifting weights.
That means that most of the meaningful banter between my friends happens via Facebook. Sure, I could give out my cell number and let people call and text me when they want to, but that puts the power in their hands. By limiting that interaction to Facebook I can pick when I want to interact and how long I want to do so. The people then who have my number are the most important people in my life right?…. not necessarily.
That came to me very powerfully recently. While I was managing the Weigel’s in Corryton I got to know a few hundred people (maybe more) by sight and in most cases by name. I made friends with some of my customers and most of my employees. Were I to sort through my friends on Facebook I would say more than half come from some associate there or the other.
I didn’t think much of it when my friend and former Employee Zach’s Mom Jenny added me. I had talked to Jenny a bit in the store. She seemed funny and nice. Pretty soon I started seeing comments from her on nearly everything I posted. I commented back. We chatted back and forth normally in a mean spirited but fun way. Jenny became a part of my daily ritual. She was suddenly in my thoughts and in my day without me ever really stopping to think about it.
I left the Weigel’s a year ago December 27th. I live in the Corryton area, but I don’t really hang out there or do any socializing. I haven’t seen most of the people I once saw every day face to face in a year. Facebook made a nice way to stay in contact and soften that loss.
When I heard Jenny had died very suddenly I was first shocked and then very sad. My heart went out to Zach and his sister Morgan both of whom I think the world of and talk to when I can. I felt her loss in a real way. She was someone I knew though not well. She was someone I counted a friend. I hurt and I grieved… still am honestly.
The full force of her passing didn’t slap me between the eyes until I realized she hadn’t made a comment on my Facebook in a few days. That is probably horrible and stupid and wrong. My friends lost their mother, but the tears came to my eyes while I was being a smart mouth online. I actually sat with my computer in front of me and felt the full gravity of Jenny’s death as keenly as if it were a friend I saw face to face every day…. because that is what she was.
Most of our conversations took place on Facebook. We laughed and joked and gave each other a hard time while never thinking about the weight of that truth. (At least I never did) For the least year and a half or so I talked to her most everyday along with a hand full of others online. I can say very honestly those little simple interactions meant the world to me. I mourn Jenny’s loss and from it I have taken the value of the online friends I still have.
The truth is we all become temporary passengers in other people’s journey of life. Some interactions are more powerful and beneficial than others, but they all do matter. That is a frightening and enlightening thought that has fundamentally changed part of who I am. It is easy to say something nasty or disregard the fact that at the other end of the keyboard is a real person who has real feelings and a real soul.
Rest in peace Jenny. Thank you for what you have taught me, the kindness you showed me, and for giving me hell as long as you could. I truly miss you. I dedicate this post, such that it is, to your memory and also to all the people who are my friends and family online and off. To Zach and Morgan, if you take the time to read this. Forgive me for sharing a story that wasn’t wholly mine to share. If you guys need anything, reach out and I am there.

If anybody reads this and wants to lend a hand or a kind word to the family- message me.

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