Before I go, I have something to say


I finally got myself a Facebook page. It’s not difficult, and doesn’t cost a cent. If you don’t have one yet, I can wait while you get signed up.

Back so soon? You must be kidding. Because, as my pal Jason wrote after I friended him, “Welcome to the crack that is Facebook.” No kidding. I check it in the morning, and when I get home from work. I check it before I go to bed. At work, I’m prohibited from checking it (believe me, I tried), which is just as well. My workplace has its own Facebook page. But we can’t get to it from work. Oh, the irony.

I joined because a few friends, both near and far-flung, have their own pages. My daughter sent me a photo of my friend Liz, dressed up as Princess Leia for Halloween, and wrote, “This is why you need to be on Facebook.” I had to agree.

At first, it was simple. I friended my two kids, who kindly allowed me onto their pages. They even acknowledged me as their official mother. Not that I’m spying on them; I only look at their pages when they write to me, which in my son’s case has been exactly zero times. When he transfers to Iowa State this December, perhaps we’ll correspond more often.

I spent considerable time composing my Profile page. Education, family, favorite quotes, favorite music, favorite movies, favorite books, you name it, I cheerfully typed it all in. What an exercise in narcissism! I got a little carried away with the quotes, but I’ve been collecting them for years. I was delighted to find that my son had posted one of my own favorites, by the nature writer Annie Dillard. That he got it off my bulletin board, years ago when we were still living together, made it even sweeter. What a smart boy.

I did what everybody does, looking up the names of old friends from way back, hoping to find some of the people I’d been close to. I found one guy from high school, another from college, a woman I worked with in Colorado, and then a friend from junior high found me. I told her, anyone who attended one of my slumber parties has an automatic in.

But then I started getting friend requests from people I’ve never heard of. Some were friends of friends, but not friends of mine. In real life, I mean. Some people seem intent on gathering all the “friends” they can. At last count, Jason had 595. I’ve only just gotten to know him – he does what I do for a living, in my hometown, and we’ve met in person twice – and he’s a truly wonderful guy, but really, Jason, 595 friends? That’s not friendship, that’s a corporation.

So as much as it pains me, I clicked “ignore” on several requests. I’m sorry, but if I wouldn’t know you if we passed on the street or sat at adjoining tables at Manna Java, I just can’t consider you my Facebook friend. Or if we knew each other only vaguely, twenty years ago when we belonged to the same Lamaze class/Tupperware party/line at the Target check-out lane, then I’m afraid we’re not Facebook friend-worthy, either. Now, on the other hand, if we saw the Beatles together when we were twelve, then, yes, you’re my BFF. (Facebook is how I found that friend, whose life my life revolved around in 6th grade. We may have nothing in common these days, but that’s a connection I don’t treat lightly.)

One thing I’m still learning is how to distinguish between the public and the private on Facebook. If you post a comment to your wall, or the wall of one of your friends, it’s out there for public consumption. For instance, when my daughter and I attended a workshop in Chicago last month, she posted, “Mom and I are getting ready to eat at Chili’s, as soon as we figure out how to get there.” One of her pals instantly wrote back, “I thought you liked your mom!” But hey, it was fine. And I appreciated his concern.

I am not one to post my every move. “I’m eating breakfast now!” “I’m throwing another load of laundry into the dryer!” “I’m washing my hair!” “My hair is drying!” “I’m inhaling!” “I’m exhaling!” My life is not that exciting, not enough for a play-by-play studded with exclamation points, anyway. People can be very funny, though. I love hearing how Erik is faring as the Hawkeyes lose. Or what Julia is going to drink after she rakes the leaves (hot chocolate). Or how many hours Allison has spent wrestling with her computer upgrade, and how many Oreos she consumed before she went to bed after that ordeal. I love finding poetry posted on Jason’s page, and learning that Neil remembers me from college.

That’s all good. So what’s bad about it? The time. It really is, if not crack, then a giant black hole, sucking me and everyone else inside. As you sit typing your lists of things you love to do, the day is going by and you’re not doing any of them. Unless one of your favorite things to do is writing about what you love to do instead of actually doing it. Which, okay, I realize I do in this column. But I write this thing every other week, spending an hour at most on it — not every moment I can steal away at the computer. Life is meant to be experienced. You can write about it on your Facebook page, but don’t forget to live it, first.