Thursday, January 29, 2009

Facebook Connections 1

I did one of those "25 things about me" lists on Facebook yesterday after I'd been "tagged" so many times I couldn't remember who had tagged me. It was one of those serendipitous connections that I love so much--and that I'll be writing about next--that I geared my English 101 classes around lists and poetry this week. Once you start looking at and for lists, it's amazing how prevalent they are in our communication. But that's another post.

Shortly before I made the list , I was thinking how much time I waste checking my Facebook. And how very shallow most of it is. As I tell my students, we must always be aware of our rhetorical situation (audience, purpose, genre, stance, media/design). I've got Facebook friends who were students in the first class I taught (fall 2007), colleagues from the university, homeschool friends from around the country, people from my church, a sister, a son, someone from Chicago who may be an offspring of a distant relative of my ex-husband, and my ex-husband's niece (who is my niece too, damn blood). Some of these people are connected. Most aren't. It's a smorgasbord of people who know me in different facets of my life, who play different roles in my life, and some....well, I'm not sure why they haven't unfriended me. How deep can these connections go in such a disparate world?

When I wrote the 25 things. I was honest, but I didn't bare my heart. Not really. Facebook isn't a diary. As I read the lists my other friends posted, I felt honored to receive them. I knew the things they listed were important to them, things they wanted the people in their lives to know about them. We take such risks on these networks. We know real people will be reading what we write, but let's face it. We're writing in our own homes, at our solitary computers. It's not like meeting over a glass of wine and spilling 25 things about yourself. You get to think about it. And you don't have to drive home wondering if you should have called a cab.

So now I'm swinging back on the pendulum between shallow and significant, but not just because I wrote the 25 things, nor because my friends did. It's the responses I got. One friend said she only got halfway through mine before she "lost it" and she would have to read it later. Others told me the ones they agreed with.

And that niece, the one who is my ex's brother's daughter? She's the only one in ex's family who will have anything to do with me since he left me. After 30 years of being family, she's the only one. She invited me to her wedding last summer though. And she wrote this on my 25 things list: "Did I ever tell you how much I like you? Cause I do. And I think my mom shares your sentiments about #9 + 15..." And those words were not shallow, nor were the tears I shed when I read them. Sometimes a lot can happen with just a few little words on a computer screen.

What do you think? Shallow or significant? Do you consider your audience when you write on social networks to the point that you self edit what you say about the weather? Do you have a story about a time when you didn't care?

I have a lot more to say about social networks, but for today, I really just wanted to share the story about connecting with my niece.


  1. I self-edit a bit because my mother-in-law is on Facebook and reads my blog. ;) I used to self-edit almost everything I wrote everywhere, but sometime after 40 I decided that I would be me and anyone who didn't like it could--well--not like it. :)

  2. Did you ever consider opening a purely anonymous blog that was still public, but not telling anybody you know it's there? I just wonder if there's any way to write for an audience and not edit for that audience, even if it's an unknown one. I'm sure people do that. You can be anybody you want to be online.

  3. I have seriously thought about. I think it would be easier to really have fun with the writing if I weren't thinking so much about who was reading it.