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Friday, March 14, 2014

The Top Ten People I Want as Facebook Friends

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The Top Ten People I Want as Facebook Friends

1.) Laugh. Make me laugh.

I do not care where you go to church or whether you go to church or not. I do not care what party you vote for. I do not care if you are ugly or handsome or fart with excessive frequency. If you laugh and can make me laugh, I want you as a Facebook friend.

2.) Be genuinely kind.

Now, look. We all know that there is this socially conventionally niceness. People say stock things: "I know exactly how you feel." "That is the cutest baby I've ever seen." "Have a great day!"

Conventional niceness is a good thing. I respect it.

The worth of genuine kindness surpasses that of gold. It glows. It lights and warms the world. It is precious.

A Facebook friend is a leukemia survivor. She says uplifting things to me at tough moments. She is really kind. She's a human light bulb. Her kindness erases darkness.

I could go on, listing other friends and their genuine kindness, but then this list would be too long.

3.) Educate me – even accidentally.

Some Facebook friends teach me inadvertently. Disgruntled, clueless haters are good at this. That's one reason I keep them around.

I had a Facebook friend who was spreading the conspiracy theory that Adam Lanza, who murdered 26 human beings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, was a cyborg programmed by the US government to foment gun control support. I had kept that person as a Facebook friend because I learned a lot from posts like that. I learned how the human mind can resist consensus reality when reality is inconvenient to the person's belief system. That Lanza post was a bridge too far and I ended that friendship.

4.) Educate me by illuminating me – share your light.

Some Facebook friends are just fascinating people and they and their posts coruscate. A Facebook friend appears to be a libertarian lawyer and she shares libertarian, law-oriented articles. She doesn't post links randomly, but selectively. I learn from her posts about stuff I would not think about without her carefully curated enthusiasm bringing it to my attention.

5.) Teach me – on purpose.

I grew up poor, spent a good chunk of my twenties in Third World villages, came back and went to grad school where I was even poorer than I'd ever been and kept my nose in books. Long story short – I have almost no exposure to a lot of technology, even something as simple as a camera. Right now I don't own a TV and have not owned one in years.

I use computers constantly because I write, but that's what I use them for – to write.

In short, I am technologically clueless.

And yet I live in a techno age.

How do I get by?

I flounder.

I got a cell phone some years back and kept it in a box, unused, and kept paying for a landline phone, because I had no clue how to make the cell phone work.

I showed it to a younger relative who is very phone savvy. She snatched the phone from my hands, pressed a few buttons, said, "Yeah, see? It works." And thrust it back at me.

Well, thanks. What a special moment.

Eventually I did figure out how to make it work. The whole roadblock was the difference between pressing a key button and pressing and holding down that same button.

My techno-incompetence and others' refusal to teach me anything has taught me something: it has taught me that real teachers are valuable people. (Yes I am a teacher. I like to think that I am a real teacher.)

Some people hoard knowledge as tightly as they hoard money. They wrap their little fists around it and don't let the sunshine ever see the contents of their tightly grasping hands. "This is MY knowledge and you can't have it!"

So different from my Facebook friend Scott, who eagerly and generously taught me about cars. Thank you, Scott. You'll always be a knight in shining armor to me for the knowledge you shared.

And my Facebook friend Lisa.

Lisa and I met in the midst of a very long thread that was actually a big, honking barroom brawl. I loved how Lisa carried herself – with the agility of a ballerina pirouetting through roughnecks settling scores with roundhouse punches, broken bottles, and spittle-flecked oaths. I asked to be her Facebook friend, and she and I got caught up in a barroom brawl. We fought long and hard over a topic we disagree about.

I didn't unfriend her, and she didn't unfriend me.

Later, I needed information about computers.

Lisa helped me. She found information, and she introduced it to me in a way that I understood it and could apply it. She anticipated my need for follow-up information. She *taught* me.

Nothing earns my respect more than a real teacher.

6.) Beautify my world.

Do you see beauty? Do you share beauty? I want to be your Facebook friend.

I looked up a girl I knew in high school. Her name was Gale and she was stunningly gorgeous. A perfect Polish-American princess. Long, blond hair; a joyful and yet shy and slightly mysterious smile. She has grown into a photographer. Her photographs make my Facebook page a more lovely place. Brian Kushner posts stunning photos of birds. Anna Martinez posts beautifully written, from-the-heart mini-essays about the human soul.

7.) Exhibit Humanity So Real I Can Smell It.

Sometimes someone on Facebook tells his or her story. One Facebook friend is a retired nurse dealing with cardiac trouble and inadequate, or absent, health care. Another is gay and she almost lost child custody because of that. Another believes in alien abduction, and she really likes football. Another was young, attractive, and wealthy, and, then one day…a marriage ended badly, followed by an unhappy medical diagnosis, and suddenly she found herself poor and desperate, living in a town Bruce Springsteen made famous. Another simply hates her job and, showing a great lack of discretion and a great deal of potty-mouth humor, announces it on Facebook every chance she gets.

These stories are bumpy and oddly shaped. They don't fit into any easy box. They aren't "liberal" stories or "conservative" stories or "Christian" or "Jewish" or "Atheist" or "Muslim" stories. They aren't male or female. They are full of facts not easy to digest: worked hard all her life as a nurse; can't access health care in America now. Is a loud and proud Lesbian who takes no shit from homophobes; is a loud and proud Christian who takes no shit from atheists. Is a caped crusader against stereotyping; is a Jehovah's Witness who aspires to be "no part" of the world.

I have Facebook friends whose stories I constantly guess at. I think one of my Facebook friends, who is a world traveler, may be … an heiress? A spy? I know if I keep reading her posts, I will put all the puzzle pieces together someday.

I love encountering these people through their stories, told either in one long post with no hard returns for paragraph breaks, or told in snippets over the course of years.

I am one of those people who has trouble recognizing faces. I also tend to forget names. What do I remember? Someone's story. I read those stories on Facebook. They don't appear every day. Usually something prompts them. When they do appear, it is a deeply moving experience. The relative rarity of their appearance shows how special another human's story is, and how someone sharing his or her story with you is a generous and sacred act.

8.) Be Kind Enough to Read My Post. Even Better: Be Kind Enough to Read My Post and Click "Like." Better Yet: Read My Post and Comment On It. Best of All: Read My Post and Share It.

Every time someone reads one of my posts and likes or comments or shares, I am so grateful.

9.) Surprise Me.

I am surprised, even after twenty years of internet chat, by the fresh, sharp tang of sarcasm from my holier-than-thou JW internet, and now Facebook, friend. I am surprised by the rare but genuine tenderness and respect forthcoming from Sandy, who usually doesn't show me either. I am surprised when someone who usually presents a buttoned up, not to say anally fixated fa├žade breaks down and admits that life alone is a rocky road, in a late Saturday night post that blurts out, "I've never had a boyfriend and I don't think I ever will." I am surprised by friendings, unfriendings, and refriendings. I am surprised at how many fall for internet hoaxes.

10.) Allow Me Into Your Life

One day Facebook friend Zoey, whom I don't know well at all – she is the Facebook friend of another Facebook friend whom I also do not know well at all – both are people I've never met – one day Zoey posted a request for prayers for a baby named Cohen.

I don't know if Zoey ever posted the reasons why Cohen needed prayer, but if she had, I would not have read those reasons. I have an aversion to anything medical and I just don't want to know. I don't know about my own medical issues and I don't want to know about anyone else's, either. I certainly don't watch doctor shows on TV. (No TV; see above.)

I prayed for Cohen that one time and moved on.

Zoey kept posting these messages. A pic of an infant; a request for prayer. I prayed again, and then again, and then again. It became a ritual.

I never clicked on the link to discover more about the child. Don't know what he has; don't know his prognosis. Don't know anything about his parents.

What surprised me is that day after day of taking these prayer breaks for Cohen – never initiated by me; always by Zoey – became a moving ritual for me. I felt my body change as I prayed for Cohen.

It is good.

Thank you Zoey, and Cohen's family, for letting me care about your little guy. It has meant a lot to me.

11.) Because, like Spinal Tap, we have to turn it up to 11!

Help Me Debate to Clarify My Own Thoughts.

I debate with others as a way of clarifying my own thoughts.

If I'm keeping my thoughts inside my head, I don't challenge myself, and I don't see the flaws in my own argument.

Recently Jack Philips, a Christian baker, of Masterpiece Cakeshop, was ordered to design and create an original wedding cake celebrating the marriage of two gay men.

This is wrong, I thought. He is an artist, and the state ordering an artist to create art that violates his own moral code is wrong. The analogy to the Civil Rights movement is not correct, I thought, because thorough oppression and exclusion of African Americans was America's official business for hundreds of years, and so enforcing accommodation laws that allowed African Americans access to lunch counters in the South was in America's best interest – in fact it was vital to make America truly America. The gay couple, though, could simply cross the street and go to another baker and buy cake from that baker. No problem.

I thought, I need to present my take on this issue to others and see what I'm missing.

I did so. I posted my position on Facebook and friends argued pro and con.

And I saw that my argument was sound. No one had a counter argument that defeated mine. In fact, people who disagreed with me resorted to changing the subject. Always a sign that your argument is sound.

On the other hand – It's a truism that no one ever changes their mind in debates. Certainly not in Facebook debates with strangers.

I posted something against duck hunting. I love birds and hate violence and I was mad at the Duck Dynasty people for their anti-gay comments.

A Facebook friend pointed out that duck hunters financially support refuges for wildlife, thus keeping more ducks alive through habitat preservation than killing ducks through hunting.

And I changed my mind, just about instantaneously. He was right; I was wrong. And I said so.

12.) (12 is the New Ten!) Be Willing To Listen To Me, To Break Through, And To Change Your Mind.

I LOVE, not just like, Facebook friends who can listen to me and change their minds.

A Facebook friend posted a pro-Irshad Manji post. I said I don't admire her lack of courage. My friend asked me what I meant. It wasn't hard for me rapidly to find material on the web summing up my own point of view eloquently. Manji avoids speaking harsh truths and peddles a false image of cultural relativism. My friend responded, "I see your point." I don't know if he agreed with me, but he got it. He didn't bash me for expressing an opinion that isn't PC, and that might disagree with his own. And that's a beautiful thing.

***

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3 comments:

  1. I like your top 10 (12). I guess we all wish for pretty much the same thing either in person or on facebook.

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  2. I like 1-10. You lose me at 11 cause debate to me is like an argument. Guess I live in my own little bubble where everyone and everything gets along. Different opinions are fine as well as lifestyles. You write beautifully and I enjoy reading it. :) H.S. friend

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  3. Have you considered using professional networking sites such as LinkedIn or Academia?

    ReplyDelete