Facebook: On The Outside Looking In

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. Having dealt with online communities, trends and technology for approximately the past 20 years (egad!), I’m still amazed at how this application has connected me to so many people. However, before I continue with this post, let me toss a few truths out there and get them out of the way:

  • I only friend people that friend me first. I do not reach out and make friend requests; normally not even by friend suggestions
  • I bind my Facebook account to almost every other application that I use (Hype Machine, Twitter, Last.fm, Pingvine, Hellotxt, FriendFeed, Grooveshark, etc.)
  • I neither install applications nor play games. If you’re expecting me to fertilize your plants in Farmville then you’re going to starve
  • I’m a horrible friend and relative

That last bullet couldn’t be more true. While I was growing up I avoided going to large family gatherings. Being a Flip you know that they were LARGE family gatherings. Over the years I’ve lived my life pretty independent of my blood relatives. As I grew older I would hear stories of what everyone ‘back home’ was doing and how they were getting along or I’d finally make it back to Norfolk/Virginia Beach and by chance see my aunts and uncles and cousins. Hell, I’ve got nieces and I barely know what’s going on in their lives other than the bits and pieces that I put together through conversations with my mom and sisters.

Which is why Facebook is a social medium that leaves me a tad conflicted. On the one hand I’ve lived a life which my family and friends know very little about because I’ve kept very much to myself. On other hand I lead very public and open life via my online presence. In fact, I used to have qualms about my ‘real life’ and my ‘online life’ as well as my ‘work life’ and my ‘personal life’ ever intersecting one another. I think I’ve come to grips with that and opted to keep a fairly low profile; rarely ever engaging in controversial topics and attempting not to offend anyone. You can’t please everyone all of the time and I’ve managed to raise the hackles of a few people a number of times.

I’ve mostly resigned myself to being an observer on Facebook. I feel like I’m a little trapped in a prison that I created: I live a realtively public life online but I don’t know how to broach that wall of intimacy between me and my family and close friends. This is especially true with my nieces and cousins. These glimpses into their personal lives makes me feel a little closer to them than I have been in the past but do I dare attempt reaching out to them more than I already have?

How do you tell your nieces that the ‘love’ and relationships that they have now probably won’t last? How do you tell them what it is like when your heart has been broken and shattered into pieces and that you’re there for them if they need to talk? How do you share your experiences with your cousins that, for all intents and purposes, you barely know? How do you talk to them about marriage, divorce, dealing with work and coping with job loss?

I don’t know the answer to any of this. I suppose I’ll just let things ride and do what I’ve always done and just go with the flow. Hopefully my friends and family, online and IRL, all know that I’m there for them if they ever need anything.

I’m happy that I have my blog. If any of the people in my life ever wanted to know more about me or if they were ever looking for a potential nugget of my ‘wisdom’ or experience then they at least have a place to go and peek into my life. Hopefully they’ll gain some mystical insight when reading my October 20th, 2005, post “Doinking: Another Reason Not To Have Kids“.