I’ve got to face the muzak, I am a member of facebook nation, whether I ever click on facebook or not.
“Social media” connects us in the most superficial possible way. Which is cool, it is the least we can do to keep up the pretense of connectedness, and for many, also the most we can do. It takes a few seconds to see the update, and if we’re not interested we click the next tab, no need to be polite or interested in the privacy of cyber friendship.
What has long irked me in real-life irks me on-line: it is rare for people to simply answer a simple question. We are distracted all the time, much more now with powerful personal computers in our shirt pockets. I don’t remember the last meal I ate in a restaurant without somebody at the table consulting a tiny, irresistible glowing screen for real-time updates.
“Oh, I’m sorry, did you say something?”
I had a friend of many years, somewhere on the Aspergers spectrum, I would think, very active on social media. We eventually had a terminal falling out, no doubt years in the making, after he promised to do a small favor in his area of expertise and then, after not doing it, was peevish about me not answering his missed call to let him explain why he didn’t do it. I wrote a series of pieces here about the unraveling situation, and in that month my “readership” spiked dramatically. In fact, it set a personal record for this largely unread blahg, a record that could stand as long as DiMaggio’s hitting streak.
The nice thing is that through writing about the situation as clearly as I could I emerged as the vicious bully and he, unrepentant but cruelly misunderstood, came out as the victim, at least in his mind. In our last call he actually attempted to bully me, which surprised me, but the point was made, if it needed making again: written words can wound. Over and over again, apparently.
After my final post on the slow-motion falling out went up I had an email from a friend. “Good thing he doesn’t have a gun,” wrote my friend about the piece. I hadn’t thought of that, but it was a good thing.
That’s the thing about being a cyber-presence, you don’t actually have to look anyone in the eye when you shoot them in the face. Look at the comments on-line sometime. I am often impressed by the level of civility and intelligence I see in comment strings on some sites. People actually support each other and try to exchange differing views in a mature and nuanced way. Then someone jumps in swinging virtual fists, light sabers, burning paper bags full of dog shit. There are some sites where fisticuffs is the norm. Put two of these bellicose trolls in a room and it’s unlikely they would be so fierce in each other’s actual presence.
Whenever I told the story of the end of the friendship with this former friend of mine I always added a line I never said, then admitted I didn’t think of it at the time. The line was “if you want to bully me, come on over, I’m home. I’ll wait for you.” This is the kind of line we would write for a laconic tough guy narrator, which I am not. But I play one on-line, you see. Not that I would have needed to be any such thing to get this particular fellow to stop talking shit.
Writing here is the easiest thing I can think of to do at the moment– it’s almost like scrolling down a friend’s facebook page. The least I can do and also, at the moment, the most. Once I send it into cyberspace I plan to get on to many things I have been thinking of doing for the last couple of weeks. In fact, let me do that now.
But first, how are you doing, my friend?