I don’t know what to think about Facebook. Sometimes it just sucks you in, and hours pass, and you’re still sitting there, doing what? The phrase “killing time” comes to mind, and really I don’t have all that much time to kill in my life anymore.
So why do I do Facebook?
I really don’t tweet that much. Not that I don’t appreciate how Twitter can keep you up on all the things you may be interested in. This past fall, I followed it closely for the bursting forth of the Occupy movement, Livestreams of the Occupy actions, interesting YouTube videos, digital publications and websites that filled in the news gaps that the mainstream media seemed to have no real interest in.
But Facebook is less about staying in the flow of current events and trends and more about people and what’s on their mind.
I have made wonderful acquaintances through Facebook. I hesitate to say “friends,” although I do consider some of my Facebook friends to be friends in the regular sense of the word. Many of my Facebook friends live right here on the rock, people I sort of know, but don’t seem to come across very often in the flesh. Other people here I never interact with, except on Facebook. And there are some I know in real life, so to speak, who I think are my friends, but who are not my friends on Facebook, and why that is I really don’t know.
I do have Facebook friends all over the world -- in Turkey, in Jamaica, in Europe, in Scandinavia, in Brasil and in Costa Rica, in Australia and New Zealand and on the Asian continent. Because I have grown to love raw vegan food, I have similarly-minded friends all over the world who share their recipes and experiences. Because I love to meditate and read in Eastern spiritual texts, I have friends in that realm. And in poetry, and in music, and so on and on. If you are on Facebook, then you know what I mean.
I also have friends on Facebook who go silent for long periods, as I have. I mean, sometimes it just gets to be too much, and I decide to drop off for a while, most recently for two weeks in January. And when your friends drop off, you may not notice right away, unless someone brings it to your attention.
I had come to know one such Facebook friend through the raw food group I belong to. She and her husband rode 4500 miles across country on recumbent bicycles, promoting organ donor awareness, before finally coming to rest in the wilderness, where they now live on a windswept mountaintop surrounded by buffalo.
She was the active one on Facebook, who in addition to loving raw food also was interested in spiritual things. So I sent her a book that I knew she’d love -- Peace Is Every Breath! by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I always enjoyed reading her posts about her life, seeing the spectacular photographs of that vast and sweeping landscape, the wide open skies, the mountain crags, the lovely, almost innocent faces of the buffalo. And one in particular, named Amelia...
Then one day I realized she was no longer there. It seemed odd because she was always very active on Facebook and in the raw food group we both belong to. About a week later, her husband posted something a bit enigmatic about her dealing with something and being away. I wondered if there had been a breakup. I guess I thought of that because I had been through a breakup of my own about a year and a half before. Maybe it was some sort of nervous breakdown from the stress of living on a mountaintop. Maybe a family emergency. Enough, I decided. She’s just not there.
And then I realized that the people you know on Facebook are real people who really mean something to you, and when they aren’t there in your network, you feel the loss. It’s real. It’s painful. You miss your friend.
But after all, it’s just Facebook, and so you go on with your life, hoping the best for your friend and her husband and, of course, you busy yourself with other things.
About ten days ago, I learned about the tragic death of someone else in my network who I didn’t know at all well. Yet I could feel the pain of her dying in the comments of her friends in their posts about her, and I could feel the loss, nothing huge, but I could feel it, a sadness.
Then this morning, unexpectedly, joy burst forth like those little green shoots in my garden that don’t know it’s not officially spring yet.
My friend on the mountaintop resurfaced. She had been away dealing with something in her life that she had been denying for a long time. She had stood up and dealt with it courageously and was now ready to resume her life.
I’ll let her tell it.
“Hey Michael... Short version: I had some wreckage from my past to attend to, and I had to face some consequences. I did 2 1/2 months incarcerated in Texas. I got sentenced to 180 days for a possession charge back in 06 that I never took care of, and it was haunting me.
"Turning myself in was a most unnatural act, but it was the right thing to do and it really paid off. My family and friends all wrote to the judge and I got out very early! 75 days out of 180 is unheard of in that state. Love in action. The support I got made it all worth it, Michael... it was seriously awesome.
"Sorry you weren't in the loop, but [her husband] didn't know who all to tell, etc. He set up a little group to keep everyone informed. If you'd like, I can add you to it and you can see exactly how it all happened. Pretty exciting story, actually.
"Freedom has never felt so good.”
Aside from the way I admire her for facing up to her past, it sure is great to have her back in my network, as my friend.
Yeah, I know. It’s just Facebook, but…
Am I alone in this? It’s possible. Or does anybody else out there have Facebook friends who mean something special to them?
I’d love to hear your comments about it, if you do.