My popularity has escalated in this, the start of my 63rd year. In fact, I received quite a few more messages of goodwill this year than the number of my actual age. Facebook has transformed the experience of a birthday for those of us who reside online too much of our days.
Each day Facebook lists those among your friendz who have birthdays. (Excuse my goofy spelling of “friendz” but I can’t stand how Facebook co-opted that crucial word and for this piece I must distinguish between my fleshy and my cyber friends.) And assuming you notice it, you then have to decide what to do about that information. Should I send a greeting to someone I’ve never met but for whom I feel that fellow-traveler kinda fondness? Should I use Facebook to send birthday high-fives to an actual friend – when I’ve already sent her a (paper) card, but don’t want to seem remiss in the public eye? I grapple with these ethical issues regularly.
I have 400+ friendz and a goodly portion are those I met only through Facebook. Perhaps one of us has seen comments by the other and said, By Golly, there’s a clever poster – which loosely translated means, “Oh, here’s someone who thinks like me, but quicker and better. I think I’ll “friend” them.” Or a third party has recommended that we meet up and befriend – a sorta blind-virtual-date. Generally my only question is: what are their political views? I try to keep my friendz list purely agreeable. They are all progressives, unfazed by my positions on sex, aging and the Middle East. They generally think there is an unfortunate lack of delivery and principle on the part of the Democrats and a gross greed if not lunacy on the side of the Right.
My friendz are not Tea Baggers – except those who are furious at the theft of the name of a favored sexual act. They are not religious fundamentalists of any stripe. To be among my friendz, you need to unconditionally support a woman’s right to choose: to choose her lover, her gender, her clothes at work and whether or not to maintain a pregnancy.
I non-friend or de-friend people with whom I have basic disagreements. I’m not looking for attacks; I’m not prepared to teach Zionists or capitalists or homophobes. Not on Facebook I’m not. For me it’s like my daily all-day newspaper. Because I have friendz from many countries, I get the news fresh most hours. While the Americans are asleep, the Brits are already posting.
I have no friendships – flesh or FB – that are mean, bitchy or sarcastic. I believe that the world is so very hostile out there that I want peace and cuddles in my personal environment – and that includes Facebook. Throughout life I have to deal with the cops and the politicians and bosses and bureaucrats and the call centers. I have to participate in activist coalitions with creeps. I have to confront men on the bus who take up two seats (mine being one of them) while airing their nuts. I don’t want it on Facebook. I want nice folks.
And have I got them! My birthday was Friday and I am still amazed at all the greetings and kind words, especially those who remarked that they find my postings valuable and most especially those who complimented my writing. I’ve rarely felt so damned popular and so I drove my in-the-flesh friends crazy by running back and forth to the computer all day and night to see what other sweet-talk had appeared on my Facebook wall.
It is odd to receive affectionate murmurings from people who, in the conventional sense, are perfect strangers. Well, maybe not perfect, maybe total. And yet, there are some people with whom I’ve really cyber-clicked – we steal (and credit) each other’s postings and we admire each other’s taste in dance or music videos. I’ve rekindled connections – some of them very important - that got lost as I moved among continents much of my life. I’m aware that Facebook sucks much of the “spare” out of my time, but I’m sitting today in the afterglow of one super-satisfying group hug, and I thank you, my dear Facebook friends for making my (birth)day.