There’s a meme going around citing that a good reason to dump Facebook is because you spend more time reading about the inanities of your friends’ lives as opposed to classic literature like War and Peace.
I have no intention of reading War and Peace any time soon. Never thought about it before I got a Facebook account, and my current disposition doesn’t bode well for it happening in the near future. To be honest, my ability to get through a book has diminished greatly with age. There used to be a time where I could polish off a 500 page novel in a week or two. Not so much anymore. I can’t get past a paragraph before I stare off into space considering it, dozing off for a few minutes, and then re-reading the same passage trying to figure out where I left off. In light of that, 420 character updates suit me just fine.
Lots of people that bag on our dependence on technology these days posit that our virtual interactions are just that: Not real. Apparently reading a work of fiction qualifies as real now. My parents didn’t buy that when I was growing up, so I’m not sure why it would fly now.
I’m not saying that Facebook and the internet can’t be a distraction. I have to admit that I’ve been wrestling a bit of writer’s block. Not for lack of anything to write about. I think of plenty of things while I‘m walking around. In fact I sound like a effin’ genius during my morning and afternoon commutes. But I haven’t been able to put much of anything down when I’m in front of my computer, even if I sit in front of it for hours on end. To be sure,I’m not just staring idly at it.
I spent last weekend in Baltimore hoping that a change in scenery would inspire me to write. Instead, I uploaded pictures of my friend’s pets while she was away dancing in Korea. While procrastinating on YouTube, I found a video of her performing there just a little over a day after it happened. I also kept up with different trips of friends to New York City and Montreal. Later I found videos of more of my friends performing in Switzerland.
The tie that connects them all is that I met them all while dancing here in Washington, DC. Facebook, YouTube, and blogs like this one help me to keep track of them, and they of me.
I’ve never known my friend Lori to be a writer. Although, it has been a long time since we’ve spent any time together. She and I started taking Lindy Hop classes together a long time ago. Twice a week during the semester while she was getting her masters in social work at the same university where I was working. I remember days where we would sneak into empty spaces we could find around campus and work on a few things we just learned.
As it tends to happen, I developed a crush on her. I devised a whole plan to spend time with her under the guise of preparing to compete at the Virginia State Open. That never happened. I lost contact with her only to later find out that she went to take care of a friend who eventually passed away that summer. I didn’t see her out dancing very much after that as her career kept her working long hours at various hospitals.
Many years later, she started showing up at dances again and was actually coming on to me this time around. Unfortunately, I was dating someone else at the time. By the time I broke up with that woman, Lori moved to Cleveland.
We emailed a couple of times. At one point she asked me the lead’s footwork for some Charleston variation. Turns out she was trying to teach some guy she was dating. I’m pretty sure that’s the guy she ended up marrying. I found that out after I found her on Facebook not long after I first signed up. After that, we kept up in the same way most of us keep up with our more casual Facebook friends: exchanging the occasional comment or “like” on random status updates.
A little over nine months ago she announced that she was pregnant, and most of her updates related to getting ready for the arrival of Sophie.
Enough of your friends get married and have children, you tend to tune them out. I don’t block them formally. I just tend to gloss over details of a life that’s a little foreign to me in my bachelorhood. Sorry guys.
I was checking my Facebook account on my phone at the end of a dance a few weeks ago when I saw the first note from Lori. It was the kind of thing you don’t ever want to read about the birth of a new born.
I couldn’t finish reading it. I can’t imagine what it took to write it. I don’t know if I could do the same under those circumstances. I hope that I never have to find out.
I can’t go into specifics. It’s not that it’s secret. She put it out there for all of her friends to know. I just know that I wouldn’t be able to do her her story justice.
The amazing and agonizing thing is that it wasn’t just one note. It was many over the course of three weeks. All documenting 20 precious days. I admit that these notes got me to look up what palliative care was.
This story doesn’t have a happy ending. I only know that because I just read the most powerful and personal piece of writing I have ever seen. It’s much longer than 420 characters. It’s not War and Peace, but it is very real.
I don’t know what else to say, but I just want to do something to let my friends know that I’m thinking of you wherever you are.