I jumped in to help on our college Facebook page. A mother posted concern about her daughters, two of them, who don’t like online learning, though pandemic college can’t be fully face-to-face, not just yet, and I thought I typed “daughters,” but I typed “daughter,” and some man jumped on the thread and said, “Daughter are? And you’re an English professor? I’m not surprised.” And all 23 years of my career reared up behind me and begged to be allowed to respond. They wanted to say, “You want to go head-to-head on grammar, fuckbucket? Because I’m down for that, you inbred single-celled shitgibbon.” But I was on the college page, so I took a couple of deep breaths and wrote, “Thanks for the catch!” (Note the exclamation point. It makes it friendlier. It’s how women are socialized to appear less aggressive. I would love to see a study that compares exclamation point usage between women and men, though I don’t really need official data.) As I breathed through my response, I thought about how common snark has become, toxic thrusts and parries, and how people will throw schoolyard taunts at others without any knowledge of who they really are. And I wondered how this man would feel if I questioned him in a snide manner about his life’s work. And then I wondered if I had ever done just that to someone. It’s possible, though I don’t recall details. So I looked in the mirror and let that man go. © 2020 Deb Moore, All Rights Reserved
Facebook friends are AWESOME. (Insert smiley face, emoticon, tag, etc.) Until they’re not.
My FB friends list, probably much like yours, includes old friends, new friends, friends of friends, friends I’ve never met and likely never will but we somehow got connected on FB friends, work friends, and so on. Most of these connections are rewarding. Some are practically nonexistent (Uncle Joe who signed up because his kids told him to and then has never returned). Some are thought-provoking and even challenging.
And then there are the almost unbearables.
Younger people seem more comfortable with blocking someone on Facebook, sending them to that nowhereville where even their incessant Farmville updates won’t reach you. I have only ever blocked one person, and that was for personal attacks that I won’t tolerate in any forum. But, blocking seems so complete and permanent and . . . well, mean.
I have a few Facebook friends that I wish I could soft-block. They aren’t annoying or pissy so much as they just don’t get me. I have annoying and pissy friends who get me, and I really don’t mind them so much. They can disagree with my politics or views on religion or sexual mores, but they understand who I am and we keep a safe distance or tango only as a dance and not a war. It’s the ones who interact with me as if they haven’t a clue about any aspect of my life that cause me irritation.
These are people I can’t block for various reasons. Perhaps they’re connected to far too many other people in my circle, or they are professional colleagues, or they’re family. (I can hear the buzz now — “Is she talking about me?” Just to set the record straight, no. No, I’m not. I’m not talking about you.) For some reason, I just can’t drop them on the chopping block.
Mostly, I keep them around because I figure it says more about me than it does them if I can’t tolerate them. And I guess that’s the beauty I find in Facebook; it is teaching us to interact with each other in completely new ways. My little inner communications major observes this like a sociologist studying mob mentality.
We may piss each other off. But, we’re connected. And somewhere in that is a truly beautiful gift.
Birthdays sure aren’t what they used to be. The birthdays of my childhood were like mini-Christmas, and I was the babe in the manger. There was usually a party, and the wisest among us would come bearing gifts.
These were not the bouncy-place, pizza-for-everyone, invite-the-whole-class, pink-and-purple princess parties of today. No, I’m old enough to remember when your birthday meant primarily family gathered for dinner; the leaf placed in the dining room table to accomodate aunts, uncles, and cousins; the nice table cloth used on a Tuesday. My mother had a red plate with white letters around the edge which spelled out “You are special today.” The plate only came out for good report cards, opening nights of the school play, and, of course, birthdays.
Despite the generational difference between those relatively spartan celebrations of the 70s and the stop-the-presses clusters of these modern times, there is an aspect of the childhood birthday that has remained the same: the child feels special.
The shift in the birthday experience which took place as I entered my 20s was a true shock to the system. I had moved away from my family, so the dinner and the cake went the way of the pterodactyl. Presents became less . . . well, convenient at first, I suppose, and then just not even considered. That wasn’t too horrible. I sucked so badly at remembering others’ birthdays that I was grateful to be let off the hook by the benign treatment of my own. I settled into the acceptance of birthdays marked by a card in the mail from my mother, a call from my sister, perhaps a casual acknowledgement at work, and a possible gathering of a few close friends, if one of them remembered and put forth the energy to spearhead the event. Not bad. And some of them were even quite nice. But, somehow, birthdays as an adult had become somewhat of a disappointment. The anticipation I felt by force of habit far outweighed the reality of the day.
Then came Facebook. Yes, I said, “Facebook.” The first year I was on Facebook, it was a total shock to see post after post on my wall wishing me well on my birthday. At first, I was kind of, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” I mean, Facebook tells them it’s my birthday. It’s not as if they have it circled on their calendar with a red sharpie.
And Facebook tells me when their birthdays are as well. Thus, I conversely felt a bit shallow and pathetic when I would send well wishes to dear, precious, old friends who really deserved better than for a social network to nudge me to do so. But, I didn’t know the birth dates of many of my Facebook friends to begin with. And everybody needs a reminder. (I contend it is the primary role of a partner to remind your circle of friends that your birthday is coming.)
It took a couple of years to get used to the social implications of this new way of celebrating a birthday. But now when my birthday rolls around and the timeline posts start stacking up, I am absolutely THRILLED by it. I LOVE that my friends, both close and casual, are reminded and then care enough to send me their best. It is such a tidal wave of positive energy that my entire day seems elevated. It’s far better than the annual feeding of my messiah complex in my youth. It beats the hell out of the bouncy place.
No, birthdays aren’t what they used to be. They’re much, MUCH better.