For the last several months, I’ve largely been off-line.
I had reasons, of course. Good reasons. Like caring for my mom after back surgery; a quick (but glorious) vacation; and then a return to my own surgery (I’m doing well, thanks).
During this time I’d hop on and off Facebook, trying to keep up with news, weighing in when the Supremes finally decided to make same sex marriage a real thing. But I found it hard to jump in and then jump out.
And Twitter? Forget it. One of the service’s early users, I should by now be managing my own Twitter factory, creating storms with each clever tweet. Instead, I have now accepted my place in the Twitter hall of shame.
While I do both for professional and personal reasons, social networking has never been my end-all and be all. My attitude is more along the lines of: It’s there. And I do like it.
Alright, who am I kidding, there are days when you can’t pry me away from it. When my partner suggests that maybe I should get outside into the Real World (thankfully never using those words) I acquiesce, but only because I know I have my phone with me and can check on ongoing threads and such.
So then I realized it was going to be tough for me to keep up with it all, I thought that would probably be a good thing. You know, unplugging. It’s all the rage.
And it was. For a while. I felt like I was reminded of my real life, right here, right now: the dog wanting to go for a walk, me needing to go for a walk, talking on the phone with my mom, eating—all the real life stuff.
Then I realized—I kind of missed it. I missed my friends telling me what they were doing. I missed one friend’s daily pictures of her baby. I missed a guy I hardly know who always posts beautiful pictures of his garden, which looks like Eden. I even missed the goofy advice postings like, “Life is a spiritual journey!” that I thought I hated. I do hate them. But I kind of missed them. Oh, irony.
Facebook is real life too.
So I came back.
Facebook is a place where stuff happens. Hopefully it is stuff you care about, because it’s about and by your friends, people who are sometimes your Friends and sometimes just friends. In a way, Facebook is a place in the way that countries are places. It’s big and vast and maybe your neighborhood knows a little bit of what’s going on.
That’s what stumped me: If Facebook is so damned important, did I miss out on lot? Did people miss me? I wasn’t sure. I dipped my toe back in the waters with a few small posts; then, even before I was really ready to plunge into the waters from the warm, temperate outside world, I announced it—which in itself felt weird: I was back.
What did I expect? For people to rush me like loving dogs, leaping onto me virtually and welcoming me back with wagging tails as though they’d really missed me?
I got no ticker tape parade, no slobbery kisses. But I did get some really nice greetings. Lots of welcome backs and good wishes. People were sincerely nice. But no one said, “Oh my God! Here’s what you missed!” Instead they said, “Oh, you didn’t miss much.”
What? Really? I missed nothing? I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I thought, OK, well at least now I don’t have to catch up. But I was also kind of baffled and disappointed—how could nothing have happened? Does that mean Facebook really isn’t important? Were people lying to me?
Then I realized the truth. I had missed nothing and I had missed everything: births, deaths, jobs, vacations, political victories, losses.
Just like life, you simply can’t catch up. Asking “What’s been going on?” is the same as leaving Earth for a few months and, upon return, broadcasting to the planet, “So what’s up?” You’d have to be a lot more specific.
Because Facebook is a place with as many entrances and exits as there are people. More, even. People don’t wave hello or goodbye when you come and go. They say hi when you announce yourself. And when you don’t, that’s cool. Whatever.
Facebook, like life, is participatory. And you can’t catch up. You just can’t. Unless you turn to one, specific friend and say, hey, how’ve you been?
Or you could go check her timeline.
You can find Janet Kornblum on Facebook or in Real Life in San Francisco. Email her at <em>email@example.com.