Most of the time I view FaceBook as a small town newspaper--- people who I know or used to know publishing the flotsam and jetsam of their lives. Many of my "friends" are artists and many of the posts are PR for whatever project they are working on; a new book, a workshop, a new play, a film premiere. Some of my "friends" are parents and many of their posts are about their children.
I also have several former students, and collaborators from back in the day--- we briefly catch up: living in Colorado, living in Berlin, L.A., Toronto. One "friend" a woman I knew about seven years ago is now working in Darfur for the United Nations. I like reading all this. I do. I am also "friends" with my real friends and of course with my family.
And that is an interesting concept: friends with members of your family. Not all my family on FaceBook are "friends;" some actively dislike me, haven't spoken to me in over a decade. Among those who love me, not all are on Facebook. So its a shifting subset of digital alliances--- which you could say mirrors life except the online relationship creates a permanent and accurate record. Two weeks ago, I had an emergency with my dog, Molly. It was a terrible night. No sleep. When I finally got home at 8:30 a.m., I decided to check my email and then crash for a couple of hours.
OMG. A "friend" request from my nephew, now 14. His father one of my estranged brothers. I don't know him at all. I just knew that he wanted to be my "friend" on FaceBook; a digital aunt. I was flattered, touched. I accepted his invitation and wrote: What's shaking? I found out that he's traveled to New Mexico, that his family gave him grief over his spelling, that he's smart and cool. After a couple of days, he stopped responding to my posts. And I knew that his parents blocked me. Which is their right. I'd been "de-friended."
It may be some time until I hear from him again, or I may never--- but no one can take away the happiness of being a "friend" to my digital nephew, no matter how short lived. Because it still exists. Our communication, our "friendship" still lives in cyber-space. He will always cheer me up on the morning I get home from ER. And if I may imperfectly quote Robert Frost, that makes all the difference in the world.
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