I have entered the world of Facebook.
I entered about a month ago –curious, but with considerable doubts as to its usefulness and relevance.
FB describes itself as an Internet social network for keeping in touch with friends, which is –I suppose– a fair enough description ( though the FB definition of “friend” might be a stretch on the older, offline, definition.) I quickly saw that a certain premium was being put on “who had most Facebook Friends,” and immediately indicated my intention to one and all to “Out-Friend” everybody –I tried to provoke a conversation on the topic: “What are friends for?” and we had quite a bit of fun with that.
Facebook certainly permits and facilitates keeping in touch with one’s friends. For example, I have over my years –since 1979– of making books at the Stone Street Press at 1 Stone St. on the north shore of Staten Island, met a large number of people, many of whom have become my friends over the years, and many of whom are artists and writers and poets and activists and teachers and ministers and bicyclists and gardeners and bird-watchers and neighbors and neighborhood kids you have watched grow up, and local business-owners and multiculturalists and universalists and musicians and Cafe ‘operators’ such as my friends at Everything Goes, and on and on.
You could –if you wanted to– spend all your time, and a lot more money than anyone can afford these days, keeping in touch with all these folks, and never get anything done.
And let us remember: “getting things done” is the whole point.
I am a great talker. I should say, I consider myself a great talker, and also a good listener. And also a good asker of questions. I am interested in other people’s lives. I try to be a good friend. I think my experiences in the world, the different interests I have pursued at different times in my life, the different countries I have travelled to or lived in, my curiosity that leads me into new things, and my “nose” that tells me that not everything is quite what it pretends to be (–a nose by the way, that has served me well on most occasions, but that has also been off –sometimes by more than a nose– on a few occasions.)
Most people would describe themselves in a reasonably similar way, I think –we all do “our thing”; are interested in “the things” of others; and we are reasonably sociable.
But modern life does not do a great job in facilitating these activities. For example, I’d love to go out and have a cup of tea (–make that a Decent Cup of Tea) and a chat. But modern life –and specifically modern economic life, does not support the idea of a simple tea-shop. Such places just can’t make a go of it.
And pubs don’t do it. Pubs have never done it for me , though I remember fondly those old Henekey Wine Bars in London where you could hear the clock tick, –which it was in no great hurry to do– and yourself think, and your friends talk. And could afford, and get, a good glass of wine. Or sherrey. Or whatever.
This surprises some friends from time to time: being Irish seems to suggest a stereotypical inclination and fondness for boozing and badinage. And I suppose I have done something of my share of that….
But to return to Facebook.
Now that I can’t afford the time (or the money) for those oldstyle diversions that don’t exist anymore –suddenly there is Facebook to facilitate the essential communication.
And I have quickly seen that this communication is very much facilitated by Facebook. It is designed for community staying-in-touch.
For example, two poet friends were having a reading at our neighborhood Everything Goes Cafe. I learn about it from Facebook –a number of my friends sent me a message. When I heard that some friends intended to be there –via Facebook– I decided that I had to g0. I myself wrote some notices about the poetry reading and my poet friends and posted them on Facebook, thereby helping to promote the event, and help my friends who run the cafe.
AT the actual poetry reading I sat with some friends –many of them pre-Facebook friends who have since joined up. We listened; we talked between poems, caught up on what people were doing, talked of upcoming events. Facebook was a great help in spreading the word.
My friends introduced me to new people –quite a few of them turned out to be FB habitues, and we were able to continue our conversation on FB. Some of our conversation constituted “serious discussion”; some fitted more easily into the badinage-to-bullshit-to-bloviate end of the spectrum.
BUT, overall, I ended up with a definite sense of what everybody thought about the event, the poetry, the poets, the attendance…and a large part of this was made possible by Facebook. We could be clever, we could be funny. Facebook permits this sort of thing very well.
I met an interesting person at ETG who seemed to know everything that was going on. There was not a possibility for us to have a specialized conversation at ETG (we were there for about a couple of hours.) We exchanged cards; we were both Facebook members. So –we picked up on that conversation over the next days.
AND no –even though she was an attractive and appealing person– no, I wasn’t thinking to make any male-female connections with her –let us call her Sara– though there is no doubt that Facebook would facilitate any such communication between people that wanted it.
Facebook is free.
And, yes, –if what you want is to waste time, Facebook will help you to waste more time than you ever thought you had. But that’s OK if you have nothing better to do with your time. And indeed, there are A LOT of worse things!
Facebook helps sharpen one’s writing skills, and one’s wit. One could, I suppose, have a negative or angry or snide conversation, but I haven’t seen that happen (that’s not quite right; I have seen “snide”. FB puts a premium on brevity –which as we know, is the soul of wit– on being succinct, and on being funny….
…what I call…
Give it a shot –I recommend it.
[In my next post I will tell you about finding an old friend, Dan, on Facebook who read in my FB Profile about my new poem, ” The Piano” about my mother and her cousin General Liam Lynch of the Anti-Treaty forces in the Irish Civil War of 1922-23. Dan contacts me, all excited: apparently Dan’s uncle was Sean Moylan, one of Liam Lynch’s closest colleagues in that bitter episode.]
[Incidentally, the full poem is now very nearly finished. I will announce its publication as soon as I have a firm date. You may reserve your copy(s) now –cost 24 dollars each.]