I’m enjoying a more contemplative day today as the snow gently falls on the pines and the pastures. Having ignored the urgings of the weather service to heed instructions for French Toast Alert Level Orange, I’ve done my driving for the day without adding to my stores of milk, bread, or eggs. Quiet music plays from the TV’s music channel. Knitting is being accomplished; reading, contemplated.
As I was driving back from “town” this morning I was thinking about how people keep saying that the internet has allowed people to opt out of personal interactions, that we are not learning how to effectively interact with people face to face. I wonder about that. If you know me, you probably know I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I check in several times a day, sometimes for hours at a time. I post, comment, share, like, friend, and play a popular game using letter tiles.
Through Facebook I have been able to connect with interesting people, stay in touch with relatives, and reconnect with more distant souls. My Facebook friends range from my first friend (born two days before me to the family two houses down the street) to people on the other side of the planet, sometimes cyberfriends of cyberfriends. I can peek over the shoulders of my twin third-cousins as they work their way through medical school. I can look at the first photos of the first grandchild born to someone in my high school graduating class. I can witness the silly exchanges between two best friends, or between partners. I can see a list of the songs my sister-in-law is listening to on Internet radio, and with a click of the mouse I can hear them, too. These are the kinds of events I wouldn’t ordinarily witness. They are a view into ordinary life that a class reunion, a family reunion, or even a phone call or a letter doesn’t have a way to truly include.
Through Facebook I’ve been allowed to participate in more joy, anxiety, humor, pain, happiness, and sorrow than I thought my heart would have room for. Babies are born and celebrated, and babies die and are grieved. Kids say the darnedest things. Students study, party, win, lose, and goof around. Pets get sick. Friends make plans, issue invitations, meet up, and share the photos afterwards. Grandparents fall down. People have surgery. Prayers, positive thoughts, and (((hugs))) fly back and forth like electromagnetic waves. Funny jokes and silly pictures are circulated. People are poked. A classmate waits in vigil for her comatose sister to open her eyes and rejoin the world, and her classmates wait invisibly with her.
This is more connection, not less. These are the kinds of shared events that used to only happen within a family. Because of Facebook, our families have grown if we have allowed them to. And not only have I discovered things about my friends and my family — I’ve discovered more about myself. I could compare my accomplishments with those of others and be depressed, yes; I can also encounter unsolicited viewpoints that make me stop, think, reconsider, reaffirm, adapt, change, and grow.
I’m not indulging in these musings just to distract you from the paucity of my knitterly and academic accomplishments in the last week. While the variable weather and the resultant slick (and sometimes invisible) roadways have kept me from getting to campus to work on my math, I am 29 rows (1,218 stitches) away from finishing the dropped-stitch scarf. I have a shawl project all set to go that a real-life, in-person kind of friend is making at the same time. I’ve also initiated a Valentine’s Day cyberspace knit-along event involving a whole batch of friends I’ve never met in person. And I’m making bits of progress on my longer-term knitting projects as well.
This was not a stated goal, but I’ve gotten all caught up with both “Downton Abbey” and “Castle,” and I’m starting on “Top Chef.” Ten more episodes to go on that one. If I have a marathon I might be able to finish in time for the live finale, but I’m not sure. I also have a stack of interesting books I’m trying to make time for. I miss reading.