Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Well, blog. We have a lot to talk about.

One thing is that I abruptly and semi-impulsively deactivated my Facebook two weeks ago. I had 900-some friends and all but a handful are people I actually know or have known in my many lives. I think I even like almost all of them. But the noise got to be too much. Facebook was like too many radio stations playing simultaneously. I forget half of what I hear but I remember almost everything I read, and so all that trivia was printing itself all over my brain.

And the pleasure had gone out of it. The first, most potent pleasure of Facebook for me was finding the long lost. There were so many: from my entire childhood in Park Rapids, from Norway, Iowa, New York, Oberlin, the Stegner crew, music-world people, writers and editors, Portlanders, et cetera. But pretty soon, everyone was found. And the thrill of the discovery quickly sagged into the mundane. I loved the initial burst of information, when it was like running into someone unexpectedly in a bar in another city: the catching-up. Where are you? What have you been doing? You look great. These are my dogs! But then it didn't stop. It went from catching up to keeping up. Keeping up with people, keeping up appearances. We were back in that bar every day. It started to feel less like a bar and more like a storage unit.

There are the friends who click Like and there are the friends who show up. (I've been both, I'm not exempt.) But I am more interested in the latter these days. I want your real face. I want your microexpressions and your voice. I want us to see the same thing at the same time, and I don't mean on YouTube. I want laugh and conspiratorial whisper, not just quip and complaint. Maybe 90% of Facebook and Twitter are quip and complaint.

When I worked at magazines in New York around the turn of the millennium, the (permanent) trend kicked in of articles shrinking while their photos grew. We were supposed to relocate more of the info to captions and sidebars, fragmenting the content like pre-cut food. "Quippy kickers," they called it at one publication. To dig into the substance of an article--the body of the text, as it is notably called--takes time and effort, and maybe people just wanted to look, not read. To snack, not eat. I think Facebook does the same thing. Magazines got shorter and so did we. Our images grow and grow while our (visible) content shrinks. We just sample each other. Swish and spit.

My departure is probably not permanent. I know myself too well to claim that I'm Gone for Good. But the time away has felt great.

Meanwhile, friends (yes, friends, not friends™!): let's write.


Ryan said...

i like this: I want laugh and conspiratorial whisper, not just quip and complaint. Maybe 90% of Facebook and Twitter are quip and complaint.

Chelsey Johnson said...

Thanks, Ryan. I'm totally going to plunder that 2011 soundtrack of yours, btw.

Angela S. said...

*last comment left by Angela. Trigger finger prevented me from identifying myself properly.