Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Something Dark, Something New

I've finally gone over to the dark side--I've joined Facebook.

I've never been one for small talk, and I've never been one to jump on the popular bandwagon. It took me many years before I bought my first cell phone, and even now my wife is one of the few people I talk to it on, and believe me, those conversations are anything but "small" talk. I've always preferred face-to-face conversations about ideas rather than remote telecommunications about the weather, my wardrobe, or what I'm doing this weekend. I guess that's why I like teaching so much--everyday I have 90-minute blocks of live interactions about great ideas (trigonometry, function analysis, calculus, problem solving, and the novel idea of "doing your homework").

When it comes to writing, that's something I've always loved to do, ever since my 10-page saga titled "Oopidoo Nimnal and his ray gun" earned an A+ in 2nd grade. For several years, I even kept a journal (Shut Up! it wasn't a diary) in which I wrote poetry and entertained the fascinating and strange ideas that were floating around in my head. It was like having quiet, meaningful conversations with myself about ideas (many of which were questionable). Even now, I'll come across an old spiral notebook or a 3-ring binder with all my "brain droppings" scribbled in them. They're still fun to read to this day, and doing so is like looking through old photo albums, the pictures the words bring back so vivid in my mind.

Fast forward to the computer age, which not only made it easier to edit and store my drivel (although initially harder to write, as I was used to pen and paper composition rather than pounding keys in front of a then, cathode ray tube), but gave people simple, convenient ways to share their stuff with others through e-mail (has this word evolved to the unhyphenated version?), personal web pages, chat rooms, and discussion forums. I seldom e-mailed anyone and NEVER participated in the whole chat room thing. I was content with my writing as pure metacognitive, introspective activities.

Then came the "Web Log" which soon became know as the Blog. I began reading a few and found them to be funny, interesting, and sometimes enlightening (especially Scott Adams's), but best of all, it was a passive activity with no pressure to comment, and required no interaction except through the words on the page . . . errr . . . screen. As I read more and more, I thought, "wouldn't it be neat to do that? what a great way to discipline yourself into writing something of meaning everyday? with the prospect of actually having someone or maybe even TWO people stumbling across it in cyberspace and READING it, it would also "force" me to temper my thoughts and diction." Once I found out that there were free sites for blogging, I got going at it. Except for the occasional downtime due to the chore of daily living, the activity has served its purpose.

Facebook has now been on the scene awhile, and it has supplanted the ostentatious competitor "My Space" as the respectable social networking site. Having never been one for "social gatherings," "social bathrooms," "social studies," or "social networking," my energy has always been drawn from within. The act of reading and writing, not socializing, which I've always associated with that "small talk" stuff, is what I prefer. But I thought that joining FB would give me a chance to actually reconnect with some old friends from the past and give me a way to stay in touch with other friends I've met outside the state (Facebook has pictures, so in my mind, it's better than emailing.)

I didn't realize what I was in for. As soon as I completed my username, password, high school graduation year, favorite color, social security number, bank account information, wall safe combination number, and time of day my home was vacant with my valuables inside, Facebook came up with so many "suggested friends" for me to contact, I thought I shopping online at the "Cost Co for lonely guys without friends." I innocently clicked several names of people I remembered from high school, 10 or so, leaving the remaining 20 "on the shelf." After clicking "next," Facebook took it upon itself to send out invitations to those I had selected to be my friend!!!!!!!!!! Oh crap! I thought maybe checking their boxes would only put them on MY list so I could easily check in on them LATER when I felt like contacting them PERSONALLY. I had no idea it was going to make me seem like a pathetic, lonely, loser, guy soliciting long-lost familiarites.

I immediately thought about deleting my entire newly-created account in the hopes that FB would follow-up to everyone with a message like "Friend request terminated due to termination of requestor," or "Nevermind, Kevin found friends on his own." But before I could actually carry out the fail-safe option, I got confirmation that three people already accepted my invitation!!!!!

"Wow," I thought. "Do you think they've been sitting at their computers in anticipation of having a chance of being MY friend? Or could it be that I'm not the sorriest loser out there desparate for some type, any type of friendship?" I ultimately figured that they were just cool old friends who happen to be online at the time, and I decided to leave my account and outstanding friend requests intact.

But then it got a little out of hand . . .

What I wasn't prepared for was the inundation of "Friend Requests" sent to ME from all sorts of people: people I knew, people I'd seen, people I didn't know, people who had names that rhymed with people I'd once read about . . . . so on and so forth. With the POWER to either "accept" their "friendship" or "deny" it, I've found it very hard to deny anyone because of my GIANT HEART (even from the cold, insensitive distance of cyberspace, it seems like a rude and snobby gesture), but I also am reluctant to "take on" too many "friends" because I don't want the pressure and the strings attached with having hundreds of stranger thinking their my best bud.

The whole "comment" feature has me a little stressed too. There is an expectation and obligation to comment on every little teeny, tiny trivial thing from someone's recently posted photos of them spreading ant poison in their back yard, to a quiz someone took that says he's like a Swiss Dachshund, to a quick line someone typed about how he's tired and looking forward to watching TV tonight!! I don't want to be rude and leave them hanging. As inane as the topics might be, a quick-witted comment could be a real boost of confidence or energy to the person on the other end. It's hard living by the Golden Rule. The baggage that comes with all these new remote "friends" is more work than I bargained for.

So I comment, and I comment, and I try to keep them short (which is also stressful), and I try to sound very excited and not to cynical when I tell someone that I'm glad they just LOVE the new Rascall Flats song. But it's not easy (no just because I really I can't stand that Rascall guy's voice) . . . but it IS kind of fun, 'cause typed words have no intonation nor facial expression, so my new best friends might THINK that I really think it's cool that she drives a fuel-efficient Toyota Prius, when in actuality I'm hammering the typing keys in disgust with my tongue out because deep down inside I prefer gas-guzzling trucks.

As with anything that's new, I'm dedicating a lot of time to this new venture, which only makes getting everything else done more difficult. So if blogging is my steady "girlfriend," this whole FB think could just as well be my "mistress" for now. I'm hoping the novelty wears off by December, 'cause if not, this year's Christmas Card is going to cost me a bundle on stamps alone.


SK said...

Meanwhile, "the wife" is taking care of the "the kids" and "the house." Hope you're enjoying your new "friends."
P90X, daily blogging, and now Facebook is breaking me.

kwkorpi said...

Would you like to join Facebook, Honey, so you can be one of my friends?

SK said...

No thanks. I'm busy. And, besides, I don't have a cute picture of myself (alone and somewhere far from here) to post.

bob s said...

I had a friend of mine join and he sent me an invite to join. So far I have resisted the urge and after reading your comments sounds like I made the right decision and like your wife I have no cute pictures of myself. So far have any of your curent or former students asked you to be their friend?

kwkorpi said...

Several former students are now my "friends." It's pretty cool (and strange) to keep up with what they're doing and what their favorite type of beer is!!

LC said...

I've never even looked at FB !!! I may check you out. If so, I want to be your friend, too.