I’ll admit it. I am hopelessly, head-over-heals in love with facebook. Oh, for quite awhile I held back my affection. I’d been burned in the past by social networking sites that promised they could be everything I ever needed or wanted but they never really were – just logging onto Myspace caused the shadows of a migraine to flicker around my vision. But maybe nine months or so ago (or perhaps it’s been a year? Time goes so quickly when one is in love) I joined facebook, obstensibly so I could “friend” my twenty-one year old sister-in-law but really so I could make sure my ex-boyfriends were aging dramatically and disfiguringly. And at first, I didn’t “get” facebook. I mean, so what if I can “friend” people and people can “friend” me? For the most part these were friends I already had in real life, friends whose email addresses were stored in my yahoo or gmail or outlook accounts, friends whose phone numbers were stored in my cell phone. I enjoyed looking through the photographs and I LOVED scrabulous until one day my computer just stopped supporting it for whatever reason, but I wasn’t likely to poke anyone…to do the chicken dance with them or send them a virtual beer or give them a pink heart as an online “gift.” My inner technology critic screamed what about getting together for an ACTUAL beer? but I kept my account because, well, facebook and I were dating. It wasn’t the most successful courtship ever but it had possibilities.
And slowly, those possibilities grew. What began as “friending” people I already spent time with grew into connections with so many of the amazing people I’ve met through blogging, and then finding old professors (or them finding me), and friends from Detroit and then everyone from my old writing group all joined and then friends from graduate school and from college and, dude, the MOTHERLODE, EVERYONE I EVER WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH, so at some point landing on my facebook page now and then turned into a huge time suck, what with new status updates and photos and invitations to virtual private islands and so on and so forth and the upshot is I am now very very busy. Virtually. I am still highly unlikely to poke or prod anybody and I have ignored an ungodly amount of requests for little green patches but I did recently allow myself to be kidnapped by a boy from my sophomore year French class. He took me to Barcelona. I escaped, and kidnapped half the Alpena High Wildcat football team (Roar), storing them in Cape Town. Turnabout, and all of that.
So yes, I can admit to even the friends and family I have who find facebook a distinct waste of time that I do have my own page, but in all of this super-poking, Obama-voting, status-donating, profile-updating craziness I’ve didn’t realize I’d slowly been eliminating one of my mother’s main purposes in life, which is to run into people at the grocery store/church/golf course/gym/Applebee’s, find out what’s happening with their children, and then calling me with the information.
I came to this realization after spending five days in northern Michigan with my parents last week. At least 3/4ths of the time my mom told me something about someone I went to school with….like PR starting his own very successful photography business and KB getting her short film produced and KP’s new baby I found myself wanting to say yes, I know – they totally updated their facebook status with that information! What’s more, I know PR was feeling blue last Saturday but is better now and KB is an official fan of Tina Fey and 30 Rock and KP made chicken pot pie for dinner last Thursday.
I come from a small town, small enough last Saturday that while my mom and I were taking a walk before cocktail hour and we ran into one of men running for state representative she waved him down from a block away to tell him she didn’t like his answer on smoking legislation at the last candidate’s forum but then immediately put her hand on his arm and said “but thanks for the deal on my new breaks” because it turns out he is also her mechanic. And I don’t mean to make my mother a caricature of a small-town mom because she is not – in fact, I often think our town is too small for her greatness and her interests and she would fair far better living in a city – but she is, as my friend’s mom’s are, reliant on word-of-mouth when it comes to the Things of Life – death, divorces, babies, marriages, arrests and arraignments, and etcetera, and she has been both a reliable and entertaining source of information on people I like and those I don’t for well over a decade now. Email could not replace her, because I only had the email addresses of people I had actual relationships with, but sometimes it seems like facebook could, if only because of those status updates that tell me BG is working in a book store and JG finally has a day off work and my best friend is a godmother and my nieces are at a gym meet in Austin.
During the first part of the trip I found myself often wanting to say yes mom, I know AP lost all of that weight and now runs marathons but then she broke out some info that people never update their statuses with…a drinking problem for one person, an arrest for another, and I kept my thoughts to myself. I could pretend I shut up because it was the kind thing to do, but really, until status updates read things like got totally drunk and drove my car into a hunting camp and MJ is fired from his job because porn was found on his computer, nothing will replace my mother, or the mothers in small towns everywhere, who go to their exercise classes and community book discussions and spaghetti dinner fundraisers and share stories – their own stories and the stories of their children and the stories of their friends’ children and then relay it all by land-line to us, and yes, some of it is gossip, and probably unnecessary, but an equal amount, if not more, is information that makes me still feel like a part of the community I grew up in, that has me saying “I am going home” when really I should say “I am going to visit my parents” because Michigan is not home, any more – but through my mother’s stories, so much fuller than any status update, it often feels as though it is. And there is virtual about that.
Listening to: Girl In the Other Room, Diana Krall