He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.
Well, another summer come and (almost) gone.Â What did I do on my summer vacation?Â I climbed a mountain.Â I swam in the sea.Â I wandered the desert.Â I gazed into an abyss.
No, I don’t just mean the Grand Canyon.Â I mean the abyss of Facebook and Twitter.Â And this abyss has been gazing into me.Â It gazed into me as I climbed mountains, tangled with wild animals, watched sunrises and sunsets, sweated by the Saguaros, dodged lightning, feted my children’s successes, did my job, aired my grievances, expressed my hopes, cracked a few jokes.Â I know I left out a bunch, but since I know the full context of all my postings it feels like nothing got left out at all.Â Yes, it is true that I often don’t have the faintest idea what my “friends” are talking about in their posts…most are just in-jokes of various degrees of levity or angst.Â I don’t have the context.Â You had to be there, I guess.Â But by posting my own inscrutabilites, I have this sense I’ve sent it all out there into the e-byss of virtual relationships (perhaps an oxymoron, that).Â Now why would I have done that?Â Why would anyone?
Facebook turned “friend” into a verb (“friending”).Â By their count, I have friended or been friended by a mere 53 “friends”–the page with the list more modestly calls these “connections,” now.Â Â My FB friends include:
- 1 wife/soul-mate/love-of-my-life/BFF
- 0 ex-wives (imagine that!)
- 2 blood relatives (my parents)
- 2 step-kids
- 15 step-relatives
- 2 ex-girlfriends, who, though well rid of me both then and now, really seemed to have meant that old “we’re just good friends” line…at least virtually
- 2 women (but they were girls back then…) who I would have liked now to be calling ex-girlfriends (I mean that in a good way…) but who would probably have known this back then, thus explaining why they kept a wide berth at the time; i.e., to avoid being referred to decades later as an ex-girlfriend of mine
- 1 woman (but she was a girl back then) who would have had NO IDEA that I’d have liked to have included her in the preceding category–she kept an even wider berth
- 1 ex-girlfriend–I guess that’s the right designation–of my stepson (for some reason)
- 11 professional colleagues, some close, some more distant…one of whom apparently counts for TWO of my friends (c’mon, H-H…pick one profile and stick with it!Â I’ll be accused of padding my numbers…)
- 1 son of a colleague (that is not an epithet, btw)
- 3 pretty good pals from my youth (whom I more or less hadn’t seen or heard from since youth)
- 11 various and sundry acquaintances from high school days and just after
Of the “friends” I know (I admit I don’t really know all of them–even most of them, truth be told), there isn’t one I don’t at least think I like.Â I’m glad to be “friended” to all of them (if that’s how you say it).
Having so few friends/connections makes me “unpopular.”Â I confess this does not bother me in the least.Â At one time, perhaps it would have, but this is not that time.
I have twittered this summer, too.Â I have two “followers.”Â I like the sound of that: FOLLOWERS.Â Anybody can have friends, but to have FOLLOWERS!Â But I digress.Â My followers consist of one of my FB friends (to protect reputations and fallout from my fading yet opportunistic memory, I decline to say from which category), andÂ my brother, who is not my friend, FB-wise.Â I noticed, too, that I picked up a couple of faux-“followers” who glommed on when I tweeted about someplace I visited in Arizona (hotels and tourist services).Â I found that a little creepy, really.Â I like to know my followers.
On Facebook, I was often invited to take challenges, answer poll questions, pass virtual drinks around, test my knowledge of music or films, check my compatibility with other people’s tastes in music or films, and on and on.Â I declined.Â Nothing personal.Â No, really, it’s nothing personal.Â I like personal, and those little Hallmark-y type mechanisms for interacting are not needed among actual friends, so I refuse to make use of them with my virtual friends (if there are such things).
I uploaded a few pictures.Â I looked at pictures from my friends.Â I like looking at pictures, even if I don’t know who or what I am looking at.Â I just enjoy a good picture.Â There rarely are any good pictures, though.Â Just pictures, snapshots, some a little embarrassing to tell the truth, but mostly just photos of people doing people stuff or places that looked like they needed to be photographed at the time one of my friends was standing there.Â But good or bad, I do look at the pictures.Â Â Beats reading, really.
I was just thinking that if I got all of my FB friends in one room for a party, it would be a weird party.Â I like weird parties as a rule, so maybe it would be good.Â But it would definitely be weird.Â It reminds us that you can have lots of different friends, have friends of widely varying personalities, but that you wouldn’t necessarily want to have them all over on the same night.Â You can like lobster.Â You can like peanut butter and jelly.Â But you won’t like lobster and peanut butter and jelly, if you catch my meaning.
Some of the postings from my friends were thought provoking…not just the Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot kind of provocation (“Wha???”), but the kind that actually provoke thought.Â Not often, but now and then.Â Sometimes the postings were downright hilarious.Â Yes…I was LAUGHING OUT LOUD!Â But again, not very often.Â Some people wrote nice things.Â Some people wrote ambiguously nice things, so I chose to take them in the nicest possible sense.Â Nobody said anything too mean or negative.Â Only the occasionally e-burst of boredom or quotidian frustration.Â These things pass.Â Nothing of it will mean anything in a few hours, let alone months or years.Â FB postings are as ephemeral as water cooler conversations.Â Or text messages.Â Or tweets.Â Or sneezes.Â I was once directly asked a serious question–off line, in the email functionality of FB.Â The question required effort–I had to watch a video and give my opinion.Â I did that.Â I didn’t hear anything more about it.Â That’s the way it goes.Â Even if you have a good question or thought, by the time anyone gets around to commenting, the moment of your own initial interest is probably gone.Â As it probably should be.Â FB is just something to pass the time.
I am probably violating some code of FB conduct by talking about FB, rather than just talking on FB.Â Who wants to be asked why they’re doing what they’re doing?Â Who even wants to know why, themselves?
Anyway, the fall semester is at hand.Â Back to learning/teaching philosophy (as if that’s not what I’ve been doing all along…).
So the question is this:Â Do I continue with Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking activities?Â I’ll leave it up to you.Â Just leave a comment and a vote.
Oh…wait…I forgot.Â I’m BLOGGING.Â Probably to myself.