15 December 2010

bowing out

"I am never proud to participate in violence, yet, I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves, that we can be ready and able to come to our own defense when and wherever needed."
~ Maya Angelou

03 December 2010

friends on facebook

Cole and I walked into a living room of strangers and settled into a spot between two women I met earlier in the week. I accepted the invitation to the playgroup that morning in a half-hearted effort to make connections in our new town.

After brief introductions and a bit of coercion, Cole eventually left the circle and went to play with the children in another room. I was on my own to take up space and make my place amidst this group of young mothers. So dutifully, I inquired about names, about spouses, about pastimes and children, then leaned back against the couch, settled into my spot atop the cheerio-laden carpet and purposed to do what I do best: to listen and to learn.

The events that followed were unexpected, however. Nothing happened. Conversation ceased once I stopped talking, and save the soundtrack of our children playing in the distance, I sat amidst eight friends-of-one-another for 1 1/2 hours in virtual silence. It was a curious, confounding... and painfully awkward thing.

Every once in a while one woman would briefly speak into the chasm and the others would smile, nod or respond. Then, as quickly as it departed, the heavy hush would return. I began to welcome and to look forward to the frequent interruptions of snot-nosed toddlers with needs for snacks, affection, interjection and Kleenex. In all honesty, I couldn't wait to leave. To my shock, these women had nothing to say. They had already said it -- posted it, rather -- earlier that morning.

I was in the midst of friends on Facebook.

"Facebook is where it's at..." I've heard it countless times before. Now, more than ever. My increasingly conspicuous absence from this book of faces is neither philosophical, nor religious. It hasn't been a choice, really. You see, my life has felt full -- overflowing most days -- without Facebook, so honestly I haven't given it much thought. Until now.

Last night, Paul and I spoke about relationships and connections between people. Inevitably, Facebook made its way into our conversation. Paul loves the chase and making connections. He loves to network and loves Facebook for the access to all these things that it affords. I compartmentalize and over-analyze. I love the distinction between relationships in context and I value presence and quality of connection above all.

Instant access, limitless resource, one more way to fill up free time and more "friends" than one can count are just a few of the compelling reasons to frequent Facebook. For me, however, these are a few of the reasons I've opted out. I'm not on Facebook for the same reason I don't wear a watch, forget my cell phone, infrequent Trader Joe's and Target, abstain from Costco and have not returned to that playgroup: way too much, yet not nearly enough.

I am not a Facebook-hater (neither Costco-, TJ's-, nor Target-). I have never tried it, so I can't in good conscience knock it. I can only speak from my own experience and observation. But it's become harder to see. I have observed haze, fuzz and interference. Hard lines have been crossed and become blurred. Meaning has been obscured.

The things is, Facebook is not friendship. This, I think, bears repeating. In the same way that the Bible is not faith, a calculator is not mathematics, the internet is not knowledge, Christmas gifts are not love, and marriage cannot make perfect strangers a family, Facebook is not friendship.

In my opinion, its lines have been smudged and it is sometimes misused. How can I deny what an amazing resource it has been for so many? But the operative word here is resource. Facebook -- like the bible, a calculator, the internet, a gift and a marriage -- is a tool. It is a means by which to connect, to understand, to end or to begin. To become rapt with the pen and to miss that which was penned is a tragedy.

I don't know the words that were exchanged on Facebook the morning before that playgroup, and I can't judge the quality of the relationships of the mommas I shared that morning with. I can say, however, that something was missing.

For me, the beauty of friendship and of faith is the present, the face-to-face and the conversation that comes from lives intertwined; connection is everything. I live and ache for it. To me, that morning and those women seemed disconnected. In that moment, it was as if creation -- a reflection of something so much bigger, sweeter -- took over and was all there was. It wasn't enough.

I don't have any friends on Facebook, and it's more than enough.