A shallow sea of faces

indexA fly trapped in a web is in trouble. It senses right away that its liberty has been lost. It struggles immediately to free itself. It senses imminent death. Whatever little thoughts a fly is capable of having all turn toward flight and freedom. But some webs are less discernible.

I was hesitant to join Facebook. What grand thoughts did I have that were worth publishing to the world? What possible significance could there be to knowing I was on vacation, even if the photos were splendid and sunny? It all seemed idiotic and time-wasting and vainglorious. I resisted its pull for many years.

I happen to have grown up in the South in a quiet little neighborhood where our parents called our names loudly into our backyards if we were suddenly needed for a meal or an outing. That sound carried to wherever we happened to be playing, and we ran home like the wind. We ran in a big pack in the little residential community of Pine Valley on the outskirts of Salisbury, North Carolina, playing games of every variety. None of us had cell phones. We just heard our names called distantly on the wind and zipped home.

Phones used to be anchored in place on a wall. A ridiculously long phone cord gave you some measure of freedom. You could twist the crazy long cord around in a huge tangle while you stood there and then watch it unspool itself. You might even walk from one end of the house to the other while you talked, leaving a trail of phone cord behind that others would surely trip on.

Because of this upbringing, I was late to carry a cell phone around as an adult. Late to carry a smart phone in middle age. And late to Facebook. Slowly, I was drawn into it this past year. Mostly, it was because of this blog. Really, writing a blog seemed a very social act. Like here is my deeper self trying to say something in a slightly longer way than some short status update. Reaching out and connecting. Starting a conversation.

But then it seemed like the social contract called for reciprocity. If you are reading my blog, which I am posting a link to on Facebook, doesn’t any little thing you’re doing and posting about on that same platform deserve some “comment” or “like” from me? Some form of acknowledgment? We are both sharing. Just in different ways.

So, I got the Facebook app on the iPhone. That way we were always connected. Me and the world. I could look at it constantly. I did. I scrolled down to see what was happening. Everything was happening to everyone. All the time. So, I had to constantly check it to keep up with everyone.

My wife said something to me. There were words. Some sound. But I was deep in a Facebook trance. We were crossing a busy Manhattan street at the time, against the light. We do this all the time and think nothing of it like everyone else here. But I did manage to glance up and look to make sure I wouldn’t get hit before promptly reading more Facebook posts. But then she was making sounds. Why was she making sounds?

My wife doesn’t make indecipherable sounds. She speaks in clear sentences. Says things worth hearing. I love her. She’s important to me. I like to know what she’s saying. But trying to keep up with Facebook was turning her efforts to communicate into gibberish. Maybe this was only fair.

Robyn commonly has her face in a phone or a computer or a tablet. It’s never clear to me whether she’s working, which she very often is, or playing. Maybe there’s even some indecipherable mixture of the two happening sometimes. I might say something and there’s a five-second delay between the last sound I make and a response she issues. Her brain somehow recording my sound while she processes some other function, then playing it back for her before she responds. I don’t have that sort of ability. If you say something to me when I’m deep in a Facebook trance, you’ll either have to repeat it or I’ll never know what you said.

Sometimes I feel a sort of intimacy on Facebook when I get immediate positive feedback on some comment I make. It feels good. But it goes nowhere. Facebook is set up for just these sorts of positive vibrations that last for a moment. We keep chasing them. Wanting more of them. Like me. Please, like me. It’s desperate and horrible to want to be liked so much by people so far away and so removed from your ordinary life.

What about the people inside your home? Do they want to be liked? Do they have something to say? What is their status? Are they lost in some other form of entertainment like my son Avery who has to be pulled out of U-tube videos he watches on his new computer while wearing headphones like a deep sea diver dragged up from the depths of the ocean. We often have to throw soft objects at him to get his attention because calling his name even loudly isn’t enough.

Sometimes I feel like the people outside my home understand me better than the people inside my home. How can that be right? Maybe the people inside my home understand me too well and want nothing to do with me because of that understanding. Maybe I’m just able to briefly entertain a few people in faraway lands because I can show them only the most interesting parts of me. I suppose that’s possible.

I hate the idea that were are growing into strangers in our own homes seeking love and attention in faraway lands from people that we sort of know or used to know or kind of know.

Peer deep into your Friend’s List. Give a few of them your physical address and phone number. Maybe give them a call or write them a letter. Invite them to come visit. Accept their invitation to come see them. Give them a hug when you see them.

Until then I worry about us all a little bit. Flies trapped in webs. The time ticking by in silence. Intimately connected with strangers. Strangely unconnected with the people we live with. Family members words garbled and lost forever when we’re trapped in a shallow sea of faces.

A shallow sea of faces

4 thoughts on “A shallow sea of faces

    1. My lovely wife quickly pounced on me after reading the blog. Don’t I appreciate all the people I keep in contact with on Facebook? She listed your name and a few others. I said that I did. I do. She says she reconnects through Facebook as a starting point before meeting up in person with people she’s kept in contact with on Facebook. I had to agree with her that it’s not totally evil. That good things can come from it.
      But it also has a lot of negative side effects. I’m trying to figure out just how much time is healthy to give to it. How to manage it so it doesn’t manage me and then become unmanageable.

      1. Richard Cress says:

        You are correct. My feeling on it is that the personalities and tendencies of people shine through just the same as in “real” life. One-upper-self-talkers are the same on FB as in person. The only difference is you can see it all happen right before you even if you are not directly involved, and also there really is a permanent record of it.

      2. The permanent record part is interesting. I just read Dave Eggers book “The Circle.” It’s about privacy issues and a fictional social media company that destroys all privacy. It made me think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s