Sunday, September 5, 2010

To Facebook or Not to Facebook

I've resisted Facebook for years, for mostly good reasons which I could name here but won't, finally succumbing (for a reason that seemed good at the time), then wishing I hadn’t, and before I could disable my account, the “be my friend” invites started rolling in (well, a slight exaggeration…) and it just seemed rude at that point to bug out and so, here I am…

An accidental facebooker. With, after three weeks, a pitiful 26 friends (the number, not the people), and worse, four outstanding friendship requests that hang, like an embarrassingly humiliating noose around my neck, and it hits me, in a painful whack upside the head, that all that stands between me and a complete return to the dog days of high school, would be the acne, the smelly P.E. clothes, the flip that flopped before the end of first period (no matter how much Aqua Net I sprayed on it), the bad dates with boys who didn’t know that finesse is the name of the game when sticking their tongues halfway down your throat.

Though maybe dog days is not exactly the right term. Dog days being technically the long, hot, sultry days of summer, falling, up here in the northern hemisphere, generally between early July and early September. Though it could also refer, I read in my extended Wikipedia research, to any time period or event that is “stagnant or marked by a dull lack of progress.” Bingo. If not the sultry (definitely NOT the sultry), for sure the long, stagnant, dull…

Not to mention painful. Not to mention the constant, day in and day out ache of not fitting in. Of not being “popular,” or in the right crowd, not being the right size or shape, not having the right hair, clothes, shoes, friends, boyfriend, car. Homemade dresses to their gorgeous wool skirts and matching mohair sweaters. Saddle oxfords or Keds to their beautiful black leather flats or boots. Walking to school as opposed to riding next to the cool boyfriend in the souped up ’57 chevy, mag wheels, tuck ‘n roll upholstery, his arm thrown casually—passionately?—around my shoulders, his Jimmy Dean style hair falling halfway down his forehead, cigarette dangling carelessly from between his bad-boy lips. Or, when raining, god forbid, being driven in the mom’s lemon yellow 1960 Rambler station wagon (or worse—really?—the dad’s completely humiliating poor excuse for a mid-life-crisis ‘54 chevy convertible with skirts?) Add to it all the sting of friendships gone awry, the anguish of years long unrequited crushes, the agony of passing in the hall the cute—if slightly awkward—girl that the one almost cool boyfriend I had threw me over for (who, btw, has 266 “friends,” the girl, not the boyfriend—can’t find him, though I did find his brother—and yes, obviously, shamelessly, I’ve become a total facebook stalker, much to the delight of some of my younger—and real—friends).

The day I graduated high school still ranks among the top four or five happiest days of my entire life. Though to be fair, those years were also some of my most fun. Though that fun always, and I mean always, took place outside of the hallowed halls. Especially once I got my drivers license (also in the top great days of my life), my “wings,” and I hit the road with as much frequency as possible; to the movies, to the beach, to Alameda to spy the handsome dudes in their sexy sailor uniforms (the blues over the whites, any day), to the airport where I’d stand for hours on the outside observation deck enviously watching TWA, PanAm, and United jets taking off and landing; to SF, where after a stop at Tower Records on Bay and Columbus, just for the thrill of it I’d find the biggest, and I mean the biggest hills to cruise up and down; the bigger the hill the better in my little, bright red, three-speed on the floor VW bug—the more uncomfortable my passengers, the better.

I’ve never really thought about the dichotomy of those years before now. Big, boisterous, fun, out-there, adventurous, passionate, confident outside of school. Just the opposite inside. Yet somehow the whole not-fitting in thing is so much of what stuck, and what has shadowed me for so much of my life. Though interestingly, fitting in or not never even occurred to me until a certain age and certain experiences. I’m thinking 7th or 8th grade to be exact. Before that, it really wasn’t even a thought. Yet now, here it is again. With something as seemingly benign as social networking, all the old insecurities come gushing to the surface, the smarting tenderness of those years, the feelings of inadequacy, of being wrong, not good enough, left out, judged by random, arbitrary standards, and on and on.

To Facebook or not to Facebook. That seems to be the question, no offense to Shakespeare. And I really don’t know. Do I turn and run at the discomfort, or do I hang in there and see what this experience might have to offer? Maybe sit in the unease and hope it will burn something away, heal some invisible wound? ‘Til the proverbial phoenix rises heroically from the ashes? 'Til I hear from those four people? (Though at this point...). Maybe until I get enough friends, though truly, how many are enough? Fifty? A hundred? Two hundred? Three? More than my very unfriendly and mean ex-sister-in-law? More than what’s-her-bucket that Joey Souza preferred over me freshman year? Or, maybe-and this is getting dangerously close-until I run out of people to stalk?

It's not a casual question. Why does this affect me so deeply? What does it matter who might or might not want to be my friend-in cyberspace, no less?! Writing it down, the ridiculousness of it is glaring. I don't even want that kind of friend. When it comes to friendship, I've always preferred quality over quantity, closeness over the casual acquaintance. I guess it's like not being invited to the party you didn't want to go to in the first place. That raw desire to be included, wanted, seen, appreciated. So human, right? And another dichotomy, the tension between belonging and being unique and individual.

So I'm just going to cut to the chase, here. Please, if you're one of those four people, can you just get me off the hook and let me be your friend? Humor me, will you? What will it hurt, really? And hey, it's a win-win, it'll up your count as well. And then maybe, just maybe, I can get on with the business at hand which, I no longer know exactly what is... oh yeah To Facebook or Not To Facebook... and exactly how many more friends do I need to be more popular than that one-time pain-in-the-ass sister-in-law...

1 comment:

  1. Debby, this was funny, but you can't quit facebook now! What will all the friends you already have think?

    I actually had my first spot of friend envy, because I met this totally fabulous woman at Harbin and she just got on facebook and already has like 250 friends and I was just like "of course she does" and felt that same losery pang that you are writing about. I think some of us are meant to be deeply close to a few, and others are meant to be superficially close to many, and when I really think about it, I prefer the former.

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