I used to go on WordPress more than I did Facebook. I was happier then. I appreciate being in touch with old friends, but there is something overly exposed and in some ways debilitating about it. I guess, if you’ve been around as long as me and remember a time before there was voicemail or even answering machines, and consider how you responded when the phone would ring, this is much likely a predictor of your Facebook habits. If you would rush to pick up the phone, slamming the big brown paper bag of groceries onto the Formica, even risking crushing the Little Debbies or big bag of cheese puffs just so you could get to the ringing phone before it became nothing but a lonely dial tone, you likely have the same Facebook habits I have today.
I remember once breaking my toe in my mad dash down the hall and into the next room to answer the phone. I told people later I had broken it doing tae kwon do. (I was in both martial arts and dance classes at the time – I figured I deserved to have broken my toe in some respectable way, even though it was from nothing more than embarrassing eagerness and lack of grace, but no one would be the wiser).
So now my computer has a silent ring audible just to me, and I respond like a dog hearing a whistle just outside of human range. On my way to the closet to hang a jacket, I lean over and tap the keyboard to wake up my laptop, and we proceed to speak our secret language.
“Hey,” I say silently. “Were you ringing?”
“Uh, no,” he says, wondering why I’m bothering him again. “I didn’t mean to be. Maybe I was snoring.”
“No, really. I swear I heard someone say something in there.”
“Well sure. Someone’s always got something to say in there. Doesn’t mean it’s all worth hearing.”
“But, yeah,” I reply. “If they bothered, might be worth checking out. And, besides, what if it’s a direct message meant for me. Don’t you think I should check it out ?”
By now, I have touched his buttons and I am full on waking him up as he grumbles slowly, ignoring my additional clicking of the keyboard while he yawns and rubs his eyes, oblivious to my incessant pressing. I tell myself this is different from the eager, embarrassing, anxious mad dash to get the phone. This is just me wanting to check quickly (in case it’s important, I tell myself) and get back to the dutiful path I was on, picking up and putting away kids’ clothes, and washing dishes that never change or tell you the news or post pictures of dreaming kitties, or…
Finally he is fully awake. And I’m on, leaning over my desk — not sitting at it so I can quickly get back to the very important work of the day — but then as I scroll down there is something that catches my eye. And then another something, and a group of somethings, and then an onslaught of somethings. They may be posts about Monsanto, or an increase in crime in my neighborhood, or a picture of a new baby of a distant relative, or my high school frenemy posting pics of a new house of car or lover or shoes. As insignificant as all this is, something about it becomes impressively important for me to know or see or sign or share or like or… Next thing I know I am full-butt planted in my chair, clicking away, while my legs stay draped sideways behind me so I know I can escape this at any time — this barrage of truly unneeded “news,” of minutiae of really near strangers, of saccharine sweet platitudes I couldn’t bear in person, of heavy, depressing tales of woe and kids getting accidentally shot or maimed, of “friends” sparring over politics and religion and sports and things a third party has said or written (probably secretly on the Facebook payroll), of an incessant string of instructions of how to be a better parent, lover, friend, sister/mother, father/brother, human being as if all we are is a bundle of failure in endless need of improvement. Cleaning the house is less exhausting.
But instead of returning to my soulless chores, I now have one leg tucked beneath me and I am snug in my Facebook mind-numbing buzz. Footsteps up the stairs are the only thing that snap me out if it. My partner, admirably, must never have had my Pavlovian response to the phone ringing and can pass by the computer umpteen times a day without even a glance toward it. So I don’t like too often to get caught in the act. I quickly switch to anything without the recognizable blue lines and boxes. I’m now on Google and wondering where to go next. There’s no screeching news here reminding me of the banality of people and the pervasive pain – physical, emotional, personal, political, philosophical – of being human, or the escapades of friends of friends, or the cheering and jeering of Packers fans, and articles about whose city is best, and quizzes to show just how alike or not you are from Dr. Phil and Oprah and others, and so much more to show you just how far you have to go. Just a plain white background and a few options – the boxes beneath the search window showing recent visits – reminding me where I’ve been. There’s Yahoo, WordPress, and reliably Facebook. I rise above it all and return to my busy work, till I hear my laptop ring again.