Labor Day means the start of the school year, so just this once I’d like to assign some reading: the comments on “Getting the Last Laugh.” For those who don’t do homework, here are the headlines: “Ron” wrote an amazing piece on how he has not voted since 1972, but due to that blog he will register to vote tomorrow. Then “Jody” congratulated him for his decision. (Just remember–the Cliff Notes were never as good as the real thing. )
I’m flattered that Ron says my blog inspired his decision and I’m thrilled that he will vote (although he lives in safe, blue New York). Yet another part of Ron’s comment also struck me–when he refers to “my friend Darryle.” If Ron and I happened to pass on the street, we would probably walk right by each other. We were in the same high school class, but were completely off each other’s radar–until he found my blog a few weeks ago. Now Ron is absolutely accurate in describing me as a friend–because that is what we have become, ever since we began communicating privately–by email–and publicly–by blog. On the blog, anyone can read Ron’s comments; including Jody, who I also would pass by on the street, but also consider a new friend, since we’ve communicated through each other’s blogs, based on the recommendation of a mutual friend.
In the blog world this is considered forming a community. Making comments is not necessary— it’s the feeling of becoming part of a group with common interests or common sensibilities. I’m mindful of the potential dangers of anything that goes out over the internet–and I’ve already had a few bizarre experiences. But although cyberspace is not considered secure, I somehow feel safe sharing things on my blog. And I think the reason I feel safe is that I feel I’m among friends.
I could have stopped here– with a warm and fuzzy summary of how being a “friend” includes Ron and Jody even though they aren’t friends in the same way as my friend Judy, who took care of me for a week after cancer surgery. But thinking about friends today led me to the place responsible for making “friend” into a verb—Facebook.
To me Facebook is a place where college kids spend most of their time when they’re not sleeping or drinking beer. Where they post pictures of themselves and their friends doing things…such as sleeping or drinking beer. However, more people of all ages are on Facebook–and when a friend urged me, I joined a few months ago, even though I never used it. Recently I got a few requests from people asking me to confirm them as a “friend”–so today I decided to look a little more closely at Facebook.
For the first time, I checked out my own profile–what someone would see on my Facebook page. My name, and whatever I chose to tell the world: religion, political beliefs, relationship status, hobbies, birthday. I am NOT telling my birthday in public again–but I did update my page, and Facebook asked me if I wanted to put in my contact list. That way I could find out who I already know on Facebook–and then I could “friend” them. When you “friend” someone, you can see their profile page: including who their Facebook friends are and any pictures they want to display. So I tried it.
From my random email list, all kinds of stuff popped up. Confirming that there are no secrets anymore. Without “friending” anyone, or going on anyone’s personal profile, lots of information was available to me–about people I previously knew only through email. Pictures, where they live, where they went to school and what year they graduated. Pretty scary.
The scariest part came when I scrolled down towards the end. When I saw that one of the people on my contact list who is a member on Facebook is….my rabbi. He even has a picture.
Oy vey. Should I “friend” my rabbi?
I have to admit, I was curious. What would he write under “religious beliefs”? Is he a fan of Keith Urban–or Keith Richards? Would he have posted pictures? Did I want to see my rabbi in a bathing suit on a beach in Hawaii? It was definitely a dilemma; if not religious, then at least a confounding question. And not with an answer I would find in the Talmud.
I decided that between real life and people like Ron and Jody on my blog, I have more than enough friends, without adding my rabbi to the mix. And I hope that my rabbi doesn’t put HIS email contact list on Facebook, and decide to “friend” me.