Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keeping in Touch

{ *'s are defined at the end of the post for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about}

I haven't been in a "fastest growing" sector of a demographic in a long, long time. Now, however, I am apparently quite trendy. According to Inside Facebook, women over 55 are the fastest growing sector of the Facebook "audience".

Initially, Facebook was as foreign to me as Twitter is today. The Big Cuter was amongst the first to join, back when you needed a college email account to belong. The Little Cuter borrowed my .edu address and she, too, by her senior year in high school, was publishing information about herself on-line. TBG and I didn't do a very thorough job monitoring the content; we spent more time worrying about her social life in the real world than we did with her on-line activities. Facebook seemed "classier" than MySpace, and the problems with MySpace had not reached the critical mass they later assumed. We were very clear about not revealing specifics, and she was old enough and mature enough to be trusted. After all, she would be leaving for college in a few months and then all bets were off. If we hadn't inculcated good behavior into her by the age of 17, we were hosed no matter how much we pried. Were we giving ourselves an easy out? Perhaps. But parents have to trust their instincts and so we let it ride.

During their college years, it felt intrusive to create my own Facebook page. Cyber-space was their bailiwick. Except for frequent reminders about drunken posting, I stayed away.

Once the Little Cuter left the Big 10, though, she invited me to join. She was tired of having to email her photographs as attachments if she wanted to share them with her parents. My Picasa account was easy to use, but it was an additional step. So, I bit the bullet and created an account. Figured out quickly that without a picture I looked like a weird-o.... and then I had to find a picture. My brother drew a pink goatee and glasses on a picture of himself taken in 1959 (very very cute!) and posted that. I've seen pictures of pets and off-spring and various forms of flora and there are some attractive avatars floating around in the 30-something demographic. I opted for a shot that reminded me of happy times and moved on to the next decision.

How much information do I reveal? I started small - home town, college alumni group - and I'm still not sharing much. When I decided to add "married" to my status, it popped up on my friends' walls* as "is NOW married". The Cuters were quick with questions regarding their legitimacy and wondering why they hadn't been invited to the ceremony. Guess I should've included it in the first place, huh?

For a long time my only friends** were the Cuters. Random adults from my past would occasionally friend me*** but I rarely logged on unless there were new photos to be seen. Over time, I began to notice that other women of a certain age were making reference to their Facebook pages. I realized that I'd been thinking of which picture of G'ma I'd put on her Facebook profile when she moves to her pod-castle and has help to check it out. As my 40th high school reunion draws nigh (and yes, some days it does feel as apocalyptic as that reads!) I'm receiving friend requests from people whose names I have to look up in my yearbook before I ignore**** them. (There's a psychic victory inherent in denying access to my life to people who didn't give me the time of day 40 years ago. Let them ask. I'm not replying.)

My family and real friends, though, are a treat to follow. I share bits and pieces of the lives being led by my nieces and TBG's cousins and I'm constantly amused. Speeding tickets, baby pictures, vacation memories and complaints about rainy days and lost cell phones and crowded buses are windows into the lives of people who are separated by distance but held close by love. They're the kind of random details you pick up by osmosis over the dinner table or the backyard fence or on the car-pool line. They are immaterial and irrelevant and mundane and I love them.

Early in the decade, the Big Cuter's favorite professor allowed us to sit in on one of his lectures on de Tocqueville. Citing the Frenchman's fascination with the American obsession with joining groups, he opined that this feature of American life was being destroyed by cyberspace, by the forming of electronic instead of human connections. Even then, and especially now, I beg to differ. I'm not talking about Second Life or role-playing video games; I'm talking about my real self using the ether to connect with my extended family and friends. I'm not hiding behind anything, I'm out there with them. And they are out there with me. We know more about each other than we would if we weren't reading about each other's adventures. But it's more than that. It's asking and being allowed in. It's letting your friend define herself and showing you that definition. It's closeness over distance.

And it's fun.

*wall - the home page to which notes are appended as if the wall were a bulletin board
**friends - those with permission to view my site
***friend me - ask for permission to view my site and be listed as my friend
****ignore - reject the friend request without having to do anything more than click ignore

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