Ducque's Eye View
My name is Ducque and I am a Facebook-aholic. Like all practicing addicts though I think it’s a good thing. Except for the HOURS I have spent Bejeweled Blitzing (but that’s another story) I believe my time on FB (that’s what those of us who are “in the know” call Facebook) and MySpace (MS) has been well spent. I’ve read articles espousing that the artificial connection networking links give us, is a poor substitution for flesh and blood neighbors sharing watermelon over their white picket fences. I’ve heard about entrepreneurs, criminals and spamsters using “social utilities” for their own gain. While that is undoubtedly true, so far it hasn’t affected me. I don’t mind skimming ads and skipping applications in order to have the real time connection with people across the world.
For me FB and MS has pulled together some of my various lives. I have found or been found by people I knew through the angst of high school, the experimentation of college, the “wildness” of San Francisco, the child raising Portland years, and even some Coos County acquaintances with whom I’d lost touch. How cool was it to learn that a member of my junior high jug band is now a cartoonist for Alley Oop, one of my Camp Fire girls is now a news producer, and that my niece is adopting a baby who will share the same name as my son? And all of my “friends” have similar stories of reconnection!
Yeah, I know in many ways the connection is shallow and “tweeting” or “poking” my “friends” is silly. I read Kurt Vonnegut 40 years ago and I remember granfalloons. (A granfalloon is the fictional region of Bokonism created by Kurt Vonnegut in his 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle. It is defined as a “false karass” or immagined community. In other words it is a group of people who outwardly choose or claim to have a shared identity of purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless. The most common granalloons are associations and societies based on shared but ultimately fabricated premises.) Some of my FB “friends” are defintely superficial relationships, people with whom I would otherwise have minimal contact. But even with those I now have little in common it makes me smile to see their Hawaii pix and I appreciate their response to my prayers request.
Both despite and because of the obvious similarity between interent networking and granfalloons, I remain a champion of these “places for friends.” The immediate contact offered by being on line at the same time is a vital force. Cyberspace buddies have been there for me in the middle of the night when we both have insomnia. During a recent family emergency word was spread via instant messaging much more efficiently than long distance. Speaking of families, mine is large and spread out. I am not organized enough to find paper, pen, envelope, stamp and get to the post office all in the same month. I get cauliflower ear from too much talking on the telephone. But through FB I have enjoyed the sweetness of getting to know some of the nieces and nephews as people with daily lives that encompass more than funerals and weddings. I like “stalking” my adult children by knowing what kind of beer Boychild is drinking or how Ducqueling cut her finger.
When I google “connection” in the dictionary I find words like relationship, link, context and communication. Hanging out in a virtual “network” has given me all of that. I have been able to re-establish and sustain relationships, some that have spanned decades. I am able to link with different interests as well as with my own stages of growth. I am reminded of the context in which my personality has developed: from childhood, through rebellion, into a stab at normalcy, through a period of despair, and finally settling into my coming of age as a mature and content “older adult.” Looking at the faces of my “friends” I am blasted with flashes from my own past. I feel more unity and less fragmentation as I try to make sense of my life.
I believe it is a good thing to know who we are and to remember where we came from. When I was a ducqueling under six years old my parents lived in an empty downtown hotel. My siblings were a lot older than me. The only time I saw other small people was when I went shopping, to Sunday School or to family gatherings where something called “cousins” attended. I never had a baby sitter, let alone preschool. There were no neighborhood kids to play with. Suffice it to say I was socially delayed. Finding my own kids babysitters on FB has been a joyous exoneration that I wasn’t totally a bad mother. I gave my children the privilege of growing up with two special girls who are now fine young women who still love the little kids we all once were.
In the isolation of growing up alone I had a lot of time to watch others interact. As I continued to grow I practiced trying on personalities much as one does clothes in department store dressing rooms. Throughout college and marriage and back into divorce and solitude there have been so many different lessons and people along the way. Out of both my little girl longing and dreaming as well as my adult living and sharing others stories I developed intuition and empathy that are cornerstones of connection. Sharing my friends “conversations” on their “wall” gives me a valuable and convenient insight into what is going on with others today.
It has been hard but necessary to say good-bye to “real” friends when I take a new path with my new learning. Somehow mysteriously through the magic of FB I have been given the gift of being offered that connection again while enjoying the privacy of my personal PC. Connection is a kind of knowing about what is inside of another. It is more than just face-to-face therapists trained truisms uttered in the right tone and tempo. You are connected to someone when you really do feel their pain or share their triumph. And FB’s “notifications,” status changes and instant messages give me immediate access to “what’s on their mind,” but more importantly what’s in their heart and soul.
So while watermelon and white picket fences are nice, I think they might be overrated in a real time world.
I really, really like reconnecting and connecting with the people who glue my life together. And I would really, really like to hear from you as well. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know what you think about Ducque’s Eye View, this particular column, and what you would like to read about in the future. Thanks so much to those of you who have already spoken to the questions below (Email the Ducque, April, 2009.) I also am hearing that health care is important to you. Let me know if the health care system is working for you. If you think it’s broken (as I do) please share your experiences. Let me know how you would like to see it fixed. What do you think of universal health care?
previous columns from the ducque