Monday, October 21, 2013

Death #1

A photo, downloaded from Facebook, of a piece of landscape art by Peter C. Allen of Bend, Oregon.

A few weeks ago an old friend of mine died in a house fire. I hadn't seen him in many years, but as I often discover when someone I once knew dies, his friendship had a great impact on me. In the days since his death I've thought a lot about the duty we all have to carry something of him forward into the rest of our lives. He was a brazen man, proud of his own quirky, self-destructive, passionate approach to life, and I know that it would have pained him to know how much I hide parts of me from the world because I feel ashamed of them.

In his honor here is something I want to get off my chest: I have a deep, unironic love for Facebook.

I hate being available to people. I hate phone calls, I hate emails, I hate text messages. I hate my electronic calendar with its constant reminders about things I've named so lazily and sloppily that when the reminders pop up I know how long until I'm late but not where the fuck I'm supposed to go. I'm terrible at all types of correspondence and look at "keeping in touch" as the most crushing of Sisyphian tasks. Yet for some reason I love Facebook. I think I love it for all the reasons that, objectively, I know it must be terrible. I think it facilitates the haunting loneliness that defines modern life by giving us a simulacrum of communication and togetherness and community that keeps us inside when we should be out building the real thing. I think it creates a disturbing temptation for middle-aged people to leer at young people, and that a byproduct of that temptation is a constant stream of guilt-tripping of the young by the middle aged for being too damn young and sexy for their own good. I think it makes it too easy to stay up late and reach out to your storybook lover instead of going upstairs and going to bed with the real thing.

 I think I like all of that. Facebook is the dead skin and dust bunnies of human interaction, assembled in the middle of a big common room for everyone to see. The aspects of human culture that we would most like to pretend don't exist are all too apparent on Facebook - our narcissism, our greed for attention, our pettiness, our sanctimoniousness, our frustrated passive-aggression. There are plenty of wars on Facebook, but I think what we see most days is the process of our worst selves making peace with one another. And that, ugly as it is, is a beautiful thing.

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