Friday, May 15, 2009

In praise of Facebook. Seriously

Is it time to take the guy who said prolonged internet usage would lead to social isolation and beat him virtually senseless with the combined weight of our Facebook friends lists?

Thanks to Facebook I’m hearing near daily from people whom I thought were dead. None yet who I’d hoped were dead, but that could happen.

I was one of those who scoffed at the social networking site, but now I admit I’m enjoying my daily dabblings.

See, I work under Gitmo-like conditions. It’s just me and a cruel tormentor. It’s endless isolation in a cell-like room where I’m beaten up by an angry bully who constantly shouts I’m a worthless failure.

Sure, that man’s in my head, but that doesn’t make the torture any less painful.

I was checking out Facebook the other day when the great Steely Dan song, “My Old School” came on the radio. I’ve heard it thousands of times and, like many great songs, am still unable to decipher what the hell it’s all about.

I know the gist is conveyed in the line, “And I’m never going back to my old school.”

Clearly, Mr. Dan or who ever the enigmatic guys behind the just-a-tad-too-pretentious band weren’t Facebooking when they did the ditty (and I apologize if that last vaguely sexual sounding phrase got you momentarily worked up).

I’m going back to my old school every single time I’m on Facebook. And I don’t mean Ohio University. I don’t even mean (and talk about pretentious) Mt. Lebanon Senior High School.

Mt. Lebanon is a tony area of Pittsburgh where I was raised. Our struggling father moved us to the relatively affordable section of town -- just a 5-iron from Dormont! -- in the mistaken belief it would ensure we’d get a good education.

Poor guy. He never could accept you can lead a horse to water but you can’t teach it algebra.

Having said that, my old school is Julia Ward Howe Elementary, named after the ardent feminist, abolitionist, pacifist, and I’m guessing one hell of a party gal. Howe composed “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

To me, her namesake school was the Battleground of the Six-Year Spitball War. It’s where I became an irredeemable goof ball. I’ve been tickled to hear from a score of some of the earliest a and most uncomplicated friendships I’ve ever enjoyed.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve reflexively avoided many reunion gigs while maintaining the key friendships I’ve nurtured from those years. For instance, I’m still close to friends I met in second grade when we all got in trouble for seeing who could eat the most paste.

Facebook eliminates all the awkwardness of running into the people I didn’t like. It’s like a reunion with just us cool folks.

I hear from so many old friends at the Nashville Banner that, I swear, on Friday afternoons I think I should start checking to see which of the old gang is hosting the weekend blow out.

For me the best part has been hearing from people who tell me how much precocious fun I was back before I started sneaking beers in, oh, I think about fifth grade.

All my college buddies say I’m fun, but I don’t recall ever drawing a single sober breath with any of them. That taints their judgments.

So when a girl I’ve known since first grade looked me up and invited me to a party to watch the Penguins play one recent Saturday afternoon, I was happy to accept for reasons that had nothing to do with hockey.

We spent a couple of hours talking about the old days, who was prospering, who was lost and all the human wreckage that accumulates from three decades of relentless living. I met her husband, her five kids and failed to get her to prove she didn’t have more tattoos than offspring.

She told me so many nice things about myself that I walked away just so pleased with the kind of kid I was and hopeful that foundation meant something about the man I became.

Thanks, Nancy.

I guess I’m like a lot of people in that I always focuse on the flaws. Who knows? Maybe there are squads of angry Facebook subscribers who think we were a bunch of jerks. Happily, they don’t get in touch to assure us that’s the case.

Or maybe, just maybe, we weren’t as bad as we thought we were.

Either way, it makes for some dandy rhetorical ammo to use when the guards in our mental Gitmos start screaming we were never any good.


Karen Harrington said...

"Facebook eliminates all the awkwardness of running into the people I didn’t like. It’s like a reunion with just us cool folks."

Truer words....

Angie Ledbetter said...

So far, have avoided FB and Twitter...but one day, just maybe.

Don said...

Article is quite timely-I am experiencing the same thing