Thursday, 28 October 2010

The gawking, the stalking and the (non) talking: Confessions of a torn Facebook user

As promised, in this entry, I’ll share my take on Facebook and why I was only sorta on it. And this is as of right now. Hey, you never know! (Was just about to put a hashtag on that #YouNeverKnow – then I remembered where I was.) My feelings toward it might just change by next Tuesday. (Don’t ask!)

Well, there’s a good place to start. Feelings. I dare say, too many of mine were being engaged in the idea of making “Facebook friends” (quotation marks intentional) and connections. One of my girlfriends, whom I’ve known for more than 25 years, heard a smidgen of my angst the other day and summed it up quite nicely, “You are too weird!” All I could say was, “Yeeaaah.”

I joined Facebook sometime in early 2007, I think. My Facebook friends count now? About 46ish – in any case, it’s under 50. Essentially, three groups comprise the count – High School Alma Mater; the Alma Mater where I did my BA and the Alma Mater where I did my MA. The remaining connections are family, relatives and a few offline friends I’ve known since childhood.

I get that many people are interested in looking at pics of friends from Adam. The whole picture/thousand words thing does make sense. And it is fun to look and reminisce and all that. No substitute for going way back and enjoying it together. What I don’t get, though, is the gawking. People connect with others and simply comb through their pictures (yes, ‘cause they let ‘em!) clicking through album after album, without making a single comment. How do I know this? I found myself doing it. And I am 100% sure I’m not the only one who’s dunnit. And my doing that scared me that I could be that person – taking a kind of warped interest in the life of someone whom I hadn’t talked with in ages. Warped, because, after the gawking, I’d have no inclination, whatsoever, to exchange even two words! #EverGetThat? Not to mention my "Wait! Who's that living my life?" stares. Ouch! That musta hurt God's feelings.

I stopped gawking.

Round about September of 2009, when I had about 50-something Facebook friends, I posted a kind note on my wall to inform that I was going to unfriend (or de-friend – whatever the term I used) a few people. I explained that I found we didn’t talk much and whenever I was on Facebook, I’d feel like I was stalking (!)

‘Cause I did feel that way, man!

I’d go on and check their walls and comments and what-not. I’d catch-up with their lives – as much as they cared to share – tracking their moves (?!) I mean, what was the point? Surely, there had to be more than that to Facebook. (Occasionally, one or two persons would say hi – they never gave up on me.) I convinced myself that I wasn’t using the space to its fullest potential; wasn’t making the best use of it at all. So, with plans to return after appointing an FAM (Facebook Account Manager – yeah), I took a hiatus. I recall one person saying that they (the un/de-friended) really weren’t going to like it (she wasn’t one of them). But, alas! The deed was done. I also opened my mind to the probability that some of those who’d remained would probably un/de-friend me. I was prepared.

Long after, I’d pop in – rarely – to post a vid I liked or an article I thought was worth sharing. That kinda thing.

I just wondered why folks would send invitations, and then not talk to me. Couldn’t see through that. Was an Facebook friend not a friend? Don’t friends talk to each other? Another aspect was just as puzzling. Friend request when we barely say hello offline? Even though we might cross paths every so often?

It took me a while to get it. Facebook friends are not necessarily friends, per se. No deep analysis required. They may be friends; associates; colleagues; someone you met once; third cousin twice removed; friend of a friend of a friend – you catch my drift. (I just recently caught that drift.)

Even though we had connected – after years and years of not knowing what each other had been up to; where each other’s beliefs now lie and so on – what we cared to share would, clearly, not tell the whole story. And the truth is that we really might not have much in common after all! Really might not have anything of such substance to glue a decent conversation together. To my mind, that explained a lot! That’s why we weren’t talking!

“Yes, Claudia,” you say. “That there is one of the mischiefs that Facebook tries to cure.” Get reacquainted and what not. I say fine, but, am I the only one who gets even a little bit queasy about reconnecting with long time friends/folks?

The big omission in all this? That thing that you’ve been waiting for me to admit? I wasn’t initiating m/any conversations myself. Of course, I’d go on about not talking and so on, but hardly ever said hello.

Before coming out of hiatus, I got into Twitter more (@cyopro - see previous post for how that all went down.) I then permitted the app to run on Facebook and, Voila! I was instantly increasing posts and presence on Facebook! And, little by little (never “mis-underestimate” the power of baby steps), a few friends began to take note and the conversations began to grow more frequent. Then, a few old-new friends connected, and I accepted – without the level of queasiness I used to experience. (I tell you. Waaay too much thought.) As I lightened up a bit, for some areas, I started permitting “friends of friends” and, cautiously, in others, “everyone”! Mmhm! We’re cookin’ now!

As with any online social network space, participation in Facebook highlights a kind of opposition, if you will, between online and offline realities. Many construct this virtual world and become convinced that it is “just like real life”. Nuh-uh! The personal pics and vids shared are, for the most part, pleasant. Indeed, they capture the moments of beauty. But, how many folks post pics and articles of ugly details of what’s happening to “others” in other countries or wherever and do/would do the same detailing the awful moments of their own lives? They may personally experience brutal and ugly moments, but those are not gonna make it to Facebook; not even in private albums. And even if some folks talk about it, sorta, they mightn’t touch the matter directly but kinda talk around it.

Offline, attention and popularity may wane; the 500 friends mightn’t show up at the barbecue (love this "Throw'd TV" clip). I see it as a space where folks enter, do stuff, then leave. I don’t know anyone who is “always on” Facebook, but I’ve heard that "they walk among us." And when the "book" is closed? When the site goes down at any time? I imagine there are shrieks of horror heard around the world. And, just imagine, those shriekers have to talk to other people now? Either that or scream at the computer until it gets back up. Not to worry. These addicts, well, they haven't lost their minds. They have them backed up on Facebook. Good thing FB allows you a zip file of your FB life - according to that site and a few others.

As one of my sisters put it, when you get into Facebook, it’s like entering a huge space where everybody’s chatting and you’re hearing all these voices and some are talking with you and others are within earshot so you join in, if you feel like it, and you may be interrupted by someone who wants to chat when you’re trying to complete a move or a thought but, it’s organic and, like Hammy the speedy squirrel said in “Over the Hedge”: “It never ends!!!”

So, I’m in. Back. On. Into. On top of… (whatever) Facebook. I understand that there’s so much more to Facebook – groups, organizations’ pages etc. – a whole ‘nother’ world I have yet to explore. No, I don’t have a FAM – it’s just me. As I proceed, however, I’m ever careful. And, I’d ask you to exercise due care in building your online presence as well. To parody that Ontario Lottery and Gaming ad (and, I don’t play the lottery; I just think it’s a neat line): “Know your limit. Post within it.”


Last week, a former CFB Trenton Commander was sentenced to life with no possibility of parole for 25 years. I honestly don’t want to repeat the atrocities and perversions he committed. I’ve thought about posting a link…OK. Here’s one.

For a while, as this unfolded, I realized that, just given the graphic details that reporters provided, I could only read two accounts. I came to the realization that I did not want these things to be repeated to me over and over and over. Not once did I tune in to a TV news item or special coverage of what was unfolding. It was just too horrible. I read a part of a report after he had been sentenced. I made my last tweets on the subject – no more than two.

The crimes he had committed, the ways in which he had committed them (he pleaded guilty) and the reality that all this was embodied in one person who, on top of it all, held such a prestigious position, made me feel sick. And angry. And awful. So much so that, for a while, I could not get to that place where I could forgive him and have compassion on him. That’s not something that I could reconcile with my Christian beliefs and practice where forgiveness is everything! It eluded me. And, in a way, it still kinda does. But, I’m working on it. Honest.



  1. Claudia this is the first time I have actually read one of your blogs and I really did it because I had nothing better to do as it was so early. I must say now that I have, I am captivated and I have decided to read the others you have posted. This is really really good.
    I guess it may be "stalking" but you have another follower ( on twitter that is ). Great work!

  2. Thank you so very much Mellicia! Thank you. Wish I didn't sound so excited but, I aaammm! Outside of my mom, you're like, the first person to comment here!
    I'm glad you were "captivated". Will keep writing so please keep checking - and spread the word! :-) Made my day, I tell ya!

    Yes, it'll all come together...nicely.