Friday, February 13, 2009

Facebook: What's up with that?

It started innocently enough. I set up an account ages ago and promptly forgot about it until an acquaintance from high school (a good friend of my sister's) sent me a friend request. I accepted, and we chatted back and forth and admired pictures of each other's kids. She was adorable then and even more so now. She warned it could be addictive. Fiddlesticks, I thought. I am a blogger. But of course she was right. I now "do" both (I've resisted Twitter for fear of overexposure). 

And ever since I've been noodling over the difference between the two. Is Facebook just an abbreviated form of blogging? In Facebook updates one gives a one or two sentence description of what they're up to or what they're thinking. Easier than writing an illustrated essay, I guess, and not as nearly as revealing. Maybe Facebook is the blog for people with commitment issues. Or time issues. 

But although there's certainly overlap, for me there's mostly different audiences. Blogging has mainly been a way to connect to people I do not know "in real life" (IRL—I'm becoming slowly hip to these internet abbreviations). What initially sounded like a weird and unnatural thing has turned out to be a wonderful thing: People connect over shared interests through writing, with those interests often spanning boundaries not only geographical but political and personal. And every once in a while it spills into another level: an email, a phone call, lunch.

For me Facebook has been more about connecting with people I used to know—and some of them hardly at all. There's been a virtual explosion on Facebook of alumni from my high school, and I've also reconnected with people from past jobs and graduate school. Who knew that conversations began thirty years ago, some of which we seemed unable to finish at the time, can be picked up so easily? Questions answered, ambiguities cleared, new connections found. Over the holidays, a few classmates and I did a Facebook fundraiser to raise money to send a former classmate fighting stage-4 cancer and his eight children to Disneyland (yes, they're Mormon; and, no for just that moment their prop. 8 stance did not seem to matter). Would people wire money to people they had not seen in almost thirty years? Amazingly, they did. Many of us now watch this friend's progress, happy that we solved a small problem but checked by the knowledge this family has much in front of them that we cannot take away.

Last weekend one of my Facebook friends died. Rollan Kim was one of the bright stars of our high school—not necessarily one of the popular crowd but someone everyone liked. In all my memories of him, he is laughing. He went to Harvard, then Wall Street, then business school, finally landing in Silicon Valley after fitting in some good world travel and a gig as a bike messenger. I loved reading his status postings: Rollan is doing the foxtrot, making his kids homemade mac and cheese, thermaling with hawks. He died Sunday in a paragliding accident, his body found tangled in his gear floating off the San Mateo coast. His Facebook page is still there, with a link to a page memorializing his life. Of the memories and pictures people have shared, this is my favorite:

Who wouldn't want this man playing the ukulele at their wedding? I'm so sad he's gone (especially for the three children he leaves behind) but so glad I got to see what a bright and sparkling life he had.

To friend, or not to friend—that's what everyone is talking about. I read a comment posted by someone from high school who lamented to to a friend "So-and-so is really trolling. I hear he just got divorced and is friending everyone! How gross!!" It made me sad that someone would say something so unkind and juvenile, I hope not realizing that the person to whom she referred was friends with the owner of the page where the comment appeared and so could have seen that comment. I don't recall that he said two words to me in high school either, but we're not in high school any longer. I say cast the net wide and friend them all. You might be surprised by who someone is now and by what you have in common. You can always delete them later. 

16 comments:

Jen Yu said...

Girl, I'm sorry about the passing of your classmate. The good thing is that he knew how to live life and to it's fullest. Good for him and I'm just sad that he couldn't continue doing so for many more years. I don't know how I'd find time for FB as I have trouble enough keeping up with other blogs (and my own for that matter). Are you blowing town this weekend to shred? We just hit some runs locally - some fresh pow - ooohooooohoooo!!!! :) xxoo

Midge said...

Your friend looked like he knew how to enjoy life!
I think facebook and bring out the high school side of people. Personally I set up my limited profile so those people can see very little about me and add all those old acquaintances who I don't mind them knowing the basics about me but they don't need to know too much. Then I let my closer friends see my full profile.

Always Organizing said...

I so sorry to read about the loss of this lovely man.

ANFQ said...

I have actually touched base and reconnected-- or should I say intially connected--with some folks that I'm now very sorry I was never friends with in high school...for me it's been a great way to put perspective on some awkward teenage years.

Purple Flowers said...

Your classmate looks like he was full of life; what a glow on his face. Although his death is tragic, one can say he was doing what he loved. I wonder how many people have died doing what they loved to do.
Just a thought.

NJDecorator said...

Amen, sister!

ElleBee said...

Great post! I'm having a blast reconnecting with friends from HS and college, as well as some colleagues from previous jobs. So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. That picture truly does speak a thousand words...happy memories.

A. said...

As ususal: Well said!

And I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. It sounds like he lived a very full and vibrant life, and touched many.

Mary Coleman said...

I'm so sorry about your friend, Cindy. I know what you mean about blogging and FB! But I've gotten to know several bloggers through FB and it's been a blast.

Skinner said...

Hey Cindy, yeah, I'm sorry to hear about your friend. It's really sad. I also totally agree w/ u about FB. I'm having a bunch of fun reconnecting w/ old friends. I love people, and I'm enjoying them thru FB. I also really enjoy your blog. It's a real treasure.

Solar Powered said...

great post...very thoughtful. I'm a non facebook, non twitter person but you definitely helped clear up my cyber questions :)

Ginny said...

First of all, I'm so sorry about your friend. It is so difficult to go through death in someone so young.

Second, I set up a Facebook page 2 years ago and just this week, I got 2 friend requests from local people. I think blogging is the way to go because I can express myself more. Yet, Facebook keeps me connected in a minimal way. I guess that is what you just said in your post.

The Mrs. said...

That is so sad. He seems like he lived life to the fullest! Facebook bums me out a little because random people I was barely friends with are all over me!

gwendomama said...

WE sure have more to discuss about FB than whether or not to friend someone, eh?


PS: The word verification for this comment is 'fiesti'. I am sure it is a special cyber-psychic nod to my superpowers. Plus, since it isn't spelled quite correctly, it can refer to 'feisty' or 'fiesta' and I'll take either.

Petunia said...

That is so sad about your old schoolmate.
I, too, sometimes cringe when I read what other adults write on someone's wall in plain view of the world! FB is still a little weird to me.

KatieGirlBlue said...

I'm so sorry. Very sad news.

I experienced something similar right after I joined FB - the loss of a high school classmate, of an old friend.

I was very comforted, after Aaron's death, by the community - albeit online and all in our jammies - of old friends and even old high school rivals Facebook afforded me. Yeah, I debated whether to befriend the girl who made my 4 years at GSHS feel like 12, but I did, and I found that when things went sad, it was nice to see her face on my screen.

Again, really sorry. Big hug.