Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'd Really Rather Not

I like Facebook. It's turned out to be a great way to remember the names of the really nice people in shul who grab my child before she tumbles down the stairs, and arrest her wrist in mid-swing, as she’s about the toss a handful of cheerios from the balcony of the women’s section onto the bima.

You got your face. You got your name. And I’ve got a horrible memory for names, made worse by chronic sleep deprivation. (You’d think a two-year-old would be sleeping through the night).

I created my file for networking reasons—I do poetry, for Pete’s sake, and need all the help I can get. Plus, with a child, I can't attend the local poets' "drink and walk" sessions in which we talk shop over beers. But it’s really fun catching up with those fantastic beings I thought I’d lost forever in the act of perpetual moving, producing a child, and becoming a productive member of the labor force.

But the recent craze, “Twenty-five Things About Myself” has left me cold. The idea is that someone lists 25 things about themselves that you may or may not already know, then they "tag" 25 people who are invited to read the list, and create their own lists.
It's sweet to be among that person's top 25 choices. But I'd REALLY rather not.

I don’t know why I’d rather lecture naked than make a list of twenty-five things about myself and post them. It’s not like I’m particularly secretive or private.

The lists I have read have been thought provoking and heart warming. A colleague who has survived severe abuse (thing #6) is trying to decide whether to adopt a mixed-race child or to give birth to one using a sperm donor because her mixed-race partner has adopted a mixed-race child (thing #8). Her parents converted to Judaism (thing #3) and she grew up as a racial minority (thing #7).

I’m glad she posted that list. It’s a lot to think about; it raises all sorts of questions and challenges me to re-examine my idea of living ethically in the world. Obviously, I wish she and I could talk about these issues in person over coffee, rather than having me discover them on Facebook. But I’m glad I know them anyway.

Some of the twenty-five things people post are frivolous. I don’t particularly care what your first pet was called,what your favorite color was when you were twelve and what your favorite junk food is. But in the course of a physical conversation, a chatty person will say lots of things that you can pay attention to or tune out. At least on Facebook I can skim.

I guess it just seems weird to me to list 25 things, taken totally out of context. Yes, it seems incredibly self-aggrandizing. Yes, I’ve lived about 10 different lives so far, and it’s weird for me to reveal personal things to people I’ve friended for professional reasons—different kinds of relationships warrant different levels of intimacy.

But reading over my friend’s 25-things note about race, abuse, adoption, something really strikes me. This particular friend is really centered, really at peace with herself and incredibly comfortable in her own skin. There is nothing she would hide from shame, or even to save the feelings of those who have hurt her (surely some of her family members would cringe at her revelation of family abuse?) It must be incredible to live like that. She’s my hero.

But I still think it’s more fun, sexier, more exciting to discover someone bit by bit than to have them tell you 25 things all at once.

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