We boomers live active lifestyles, sure, but what happens when they get both active and empty? Wendy Reichental found out, as she learned to Face Facebook and Other Realities.
“Friends are those rare people who ask how you are and then wait to hear the answer.”
I just caught “The Social Network,” the movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the launching of his website that would become “Facebook” which as we all now know, revolutionized social media and the way we communicate. Truthfully, I rarely feel the need to share the boring minutiae of my day or post my latest pictures, but that being said, I tapped into this “Facebook” frenzy anyway, in part because of my irrational fear that as an aging boomer I have to secure and increase my dwindling circle of friends. After entering all the necessary information to create my profile, I set up my wall (personal page) listing my interests, hobbies, favorite movies and TV shows. I felt excited and eager to sit back and reap the rewards and experience the fun that is “Facebook.”
I’m still waiting.
A few months on Facebook and my opinion of it is not unlike that of Betty White when she appeared on Saturday Night Live in May 2010 and became the oldest person ever to host the show. It garnered SNL its highest ratings. The movement to commandeer Betty was started by a Facebook group. Betty White herself at that point had never heard of Facebook and in her deadpan monologue mentioned that now that she does know what Facebook is, “I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time.” She went on to say that although she has heard that Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends, if at her age she had to connect to her old friends, she would need “a Ouija Board.”
I have often wondered what happened to some of my childhood friends and now, with the mere click of a “friend request,” I could probably find out. I had images of me and some long lost friend exchanging witty Facebook messages, followed by warm dinner gatherings, laughing over shared memories, lamenting the passing of time, and commiserating over those we’ve loved and lost. This tender Hallmark moment is brought to you by my wishful overactive imagination!
I have searched my high school yearbook for names of friends who I wouldn’t mind reconnecting with, only to discover that they do not exist. Now, being a boomer, I’m not sure if it just means they are not a part of Facebook or worse yet, not among us period! This is why having a large pool of friends is so vital. But, what I’ve discovered is that making new friends is not such a simple endeavor and as we get older, our opportunity for finding them can sometimes prove to be a little more challenging then you might think.
Since my mom’s passing more than a year ago, I have felt this loss twofold: I lost my mom and my BFF best friend forever! I have found that during the course of our lives, friendships go through transitions. When things were getting more challenging for my mom, I spent more time devoted to being with her, and less time making plans with my friends, and in return, some of those friendships faltered under this neglect while others thankfully only got stronger and solidified.
So I joined the much venerated Facebook with good intentions. I “friended” those contacts who told me they were on Facebook and once I had access to their information, took notice of their friend count. I reacted with immediate shock and awe and admittedly maybe a bit of envy. “Facebook’s very premise—and promise—is that it makes our friendship circles visible.” (William Deresiewicz’s essay on Faux Friendship) What I could not get over was the cosmic size of some of these crop circles!
And apparently I am not alone in my thinking. Deresiewicz further explains in his essay: “The Facebook phenomenon, so sudden and forceful a distortion of social space, needs little elaboration. Having been relegated to our screens, are our friendships now anything more than a form of distraction? When they’ve shrunk to the size of a wall post, do they retain any content? If we have 768 “friends,” in what sense do we have any?” As time went on, I noticed that although I was leaving some messages on a few people’s Facebook pages, I wasn’t getting any substantive responses back, and what I was getting was so joke-laden and filled with abbreviations, acronyms, and cryptic words, it just left me feeling “vry” (very) “dfik” (darn if I know) frustrated!
I recently deactivated my account. I thought Facebook might somehow magically lead me to new meaningful friendships. But I realized I am more into Face-to-Face than Facebook. I’m not saying it isn’t a useful tool for those who do find it entertaining and satisfying, but for me, I crave eye contact, immediate reaction, and the gratification of hearing a chuckle when something funny is actually uttered. I am grateful for the friends I have and hope that they all stay healthy and around for a very long time. New friends are wonderful, especially if you can find them and the friendship develops and forms naturally. But “friending” is just not for me nor I guess is Facebook. I think the sagacious Betty White had it right!