I found a book without a cover the other day during my shift at the library.
I opened it expecting to find a puke-worthy title about business tactics or maybe something dismal about economics. Instead, I glossed over what I instinctively thought to be Chinese characters that surrounded some English words. As I looked around to make sure no one was about to witness my shameful prying, I felt like I had found the most meaningful piece of writing in that library. The book wasn’t going to tell me how to score a perfect interview with a Fortune 500 company, nor would it likely broaden my limited knowledge about microeconomic theory — it was a notebook scribbled with mundane and delicate thoughts.
While websites like Facebook ask “What’s on your mind?,” many of us spill fragments of our thoughts into the permanent tangles of the web that make up much of our world. Every time I disconnect myself from that of the physical and log into the meta of Facebook, I scroll down my newsfeed to indulge in the stream of self-consciousness that connects me to people I haven’t seen in 10 years — or passed by last week. Instead of making an effort to catch up with these people by clicking on their pages to “compose a message” or maybe even just to write on their walls, it’s much easier to “like” endearingly obnoxious status updates or just scroll away until I reach the bottom, where my own consciousness resurfaces.
But what happens when I actually want to get to know someone again? Especially if I’ve gone a long time hardly acknowledging that person’s online (and offline) existence? Should I wish him a happy birthday just because that little gift box popped up right next to his name, even though I wouldn’t have cared to know otherwise?
Glorious photographs surface every now and then, but isn’t it kind of weird if I comment on them when the last time we spoke was high school graduation? Will I be sending the wrong message if I put a smiley face at the end of this sentence? Instead of forming close ties with those I had felt an inkling of a connection with, I find myself on a rickety bridge that exists only in HTML code.
Although Facebook has allowed me to lazily maintain solid relationships with family and friends I’ve had over the years — as well as keep up with new friends I’ve made, no thanks to the Internet — it has also led to weak connections satiating any desire to go beyond that facade of “friendship.”
Being able to do things like tag endearingly embarrassing photos and share new musical obsessions with friends makes Facebook valuable to me. But has my value appreciated for those I don’t intentionally share these nuances with? What’s the point of being “friends” with someone on Facebook I’d probably never talk to anyway? Why should I “friend” someone when I hardly remember that someone’s face?
While I didn’t expect to be soulmates with all my friends on Facebook, I didn’t think most of them would become ghosts either. While I continue to freely waste my time browsing through pages of thoughts my “friends” find precious enough to share with people like me, I relish the idea that that part of someone is also somewhat a part of me. Knowing that I’m not the only one who still quotes A Tribe Called Quest is not only amusing but also comforting.
Gestures like these don’t define my individuality but instead remind me why I became “friends” with these people in the first place. Although 90 percent of my friends remain mere cyber-acquaintances, these loose relationships remind me that I actually relate to more of humanity than I think.
It’s easy to forget that real human beings exist when you’re stuck at a desk for five hours a day. When exchanges are formulated and reserved for weather updates and flitty, empty glances, online communities like Facebook inject some juicy pictures into the austerity of regimented life. Though the workplace can be like another playground, community is limited to the center of work.
After flipping through a couple more of the mostly incomprehensible pages of the notebook I found in the library, I set it down on the cart while I finished shelving books. Later that day, a student ran into the library, hurriedly making her way to the circulation desk. I realized she was probably here to claim the abandoned notebook I left on the cart. Not only did the Chinese characters mean nothing to me, but the laundry list of English also did not. After all, she wasn’t my friend on Facebook.
Dear loyal readers: The jig is up! My muse has graduated and left me dry without Facebook updates. Help my resume out this summer, and email me your philosophical quandaries, sentimental bullshit and/or personal life problems. Help me fail at waxing poetic, and send me some childlike prose. Sign it with your real name or not, but count on my shallow insight and circular response. Xoxo.
Contact Pilar at [email protected]
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