Friday, September 24, 2010

Bird on Wire

Networking is more of a necessity than a novelty with family and friends scattered around the global village in which we now reside. Each day, as I send my prayers towards cyberspace, I am so thankful that there was someone clever enough to create the technology that allows us all to be connected and even more thankful that I am still of sound mind to be able to use it.
Skype allows me to see my grandies and the wonders of modern technology mean that I can have a three-way conversation with friends who are in different parts of the world about the trifles of life and a close relative once showed me his bottom on line! This keeps us all a little closer – the latter too close for comfort.

However, it is Face Book that has revolutionized our relationships. Not only can I connect with my friends and family but friends of friends and their families and family’s family and their friends can get connected. It can get very complicated. Recently one of my facebook friends was reunited with another friend who now lives in Australia. Their children were born on the same day and news posted of them turning twenty one, brought about a realisation that they had shared a hospital room and episiotomies together but had subsequently limped their separate ways. Photographs followed and they are now able to catch up and keep track of each other and their families – I like a happy ending and was pleased to be the puzzle piece that brought them together.

For all of its advantages though, I am pretty sure that when Mark Zuckerberg created this marvel of communication he didn’t envisage that some people may use it to inform the world that they were “getting the Sunday lunch ready.” followed 5 minutes later by “the leg of lamb is in the oven”, followed 15 minutes later by “the vegetables are cooking”, followed two hours later by “the lamb was delicious” followed by dessert 30minutes later which was “Yummy pavlova”. Who on earth is interested in a blow by blow account of someone’s food diary and who would think that the contents of their fridge are newsworthy or entertaining?

Actual blow by blow accounts of domestic disagreements, unlike online eating habits, are extremely entertaining provided you are not caught up in them, in which case they become painfully embarrassing. I have distant family members, literally, that every so often have these spats – being distant I appreciate their entertainment value but what I struggle with is how they believe that public statements about “my family mean the world to me and i am going to make sure that lying bitch doesn’t come between us” will bring about anything but further trouble and strife. Perhaps it’s the ostrich head in the sand mentality that makes them believe they aren’t really airing their dirty linen in public or maybe the lines between reality TV and real life have blurred for some of us and we are taking our cue from B-grade celebrities believing all publicity is good! As the comments start rolling in I feel that I am watching an online soapie in which I know all the characters.

Then there are those whose sanity you start to question. Perfectly sane people you know, who hold down responsible and well paying jobs, who turn into gibbering idiots and dribbling drama queens when faced with their status update. “I am on cloud nine – Life’s Gr8” posted early in the morning is followed by “Ok day got worse! Nice One!” posted at tea time and then “To all those who hate me – I hope you have a good life!” followed by a mid-afternoon post reading. “There comes a point where you hit rock bottom and you think there is no place to go but up, and then you realize that there is a trapdoor.” Is this string of random thoughts evidence of a severe hormonal problem or has your Facebook buddy really lost her mind? And will she find it in her online aquarium or on the jolly farm where she seems to spend the rest of her day planting crops, looking for the owners of stray sheep that have wondered into her cyberspace or trading her oversupply of uncommon brown eggs?

Sadly these are the friends that don’t seem to have time anymore for real life conversation over coffee, brunch, lunch and on the rare occasion when you happen to be in spitting distance they are feverishly texting their status or commenting on someone’s – perhaps yours!
Facebook has created a number of virtual dilemmas that we haven’t been equipped to deal with and has taken gifting to a new dimension. I have been sent angels, hearts, fairies, flowers and a variety of animals as tokens of affection. I was even sent a tattoo recently by a friend and quite honestly wasn’t sure what the correct etiquette was, having never been sent a tattoo before. Then there are the virtual soothsayers offering you horoscopes and personality tests that use anything from Disney characters to your blood group to give authentic insight into who you are.

However, Facebook does have some wonderful advantages and I was delighted and a little surprised when my children invited me to be their friend, as it means that I get to see their photos, know who their friends are and be a fly on their wall – literally! It’s like legalized stalking - I suppose they get to stalk me too but I think I have the better end of that deal. It’s not only friends and family who are checking you out - employers have realized that if you really want to get the low down on prospective or existing employees then Facebook gives them a big brother opportunity to meet you online when you are off guard.

Mr Zuckerberg is not the only one making money out of Facebook; psychologists have identified a new illness, FAD-Facebook Addiction Disorder – for those who are using social networking sites obsessively to smooth their path into a total retreat from reality.

Call me old fashioned but I still prefer to plant real plants in my real garden – granted they take a little longer to grow but at least you get to feel the sun on your shoulders and get your hands dirty. I also like to look into the eyes of the person who is sending me a smile, feel reassuring arms around me when I am being hugged, smell the fragrance of real flowers and will continue to find my inspiration by looking around me and witnessing this earthly journey called life. Facebook has its place but it’s not at my dinner table or in my bedroom. I prefer my conversations to have a sound track and I want to live life up close and personal. In other words I am human being and value being human! So log out and live life – I dare you!

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