Saturday, May 14, 2011

Love, Virtually

Today is Goose's birthday. She is spending it, as people tend to do these days, sitting at her computer being swept up in a tidal wave of greetings and good wishes from friends all over the planet by way of Facebook. It's an amazing thing, really. Every time you look at the screen, someone else has tapped out a quick huzzah, a kind thought, a slightly bawdy bon mot -- pals, colleagues, students, nephews, long-lost classmates still deep in the heart of Texas. You bask in it. You respond as you can, happily wearing your fingers out in the effort to acknowledge acknowledgment.

Meanwhile, in Nebraska, a friend has euthanized a beloved dog today, which we also learned through Facebook. Moose paused in the birthday doings to tap out a brief but heartfelt condolence message, knowing how much such messages have meant to her on certain difficult days in the recent past. Birth, death, love, loss, celebration, sorrow: The meaningful moments and events of our real lives are now habitually shared and extended into the virtual spaces of Facebook, Twitter, Blogger (when it's working), and other social networks. Is this a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing -- a fact of life, like weather and furloughs?

So much of the analysis of the social effects of new media technologies seems to fall on an emotional continuum from mild alarm to flat-out panic. As in: Uh oh, kids like robots. What if they start preferring them to the company of humans? Or: OMG, the computers are taking over! Someday soon, there'll be no need for humans at all! And of course: Holy crap! We are all going to be unemployable because eventually every single one of us will have been photographed drunk in a pirate costume and we will never -- NEVER! -- be able to get those photos down off the Intertoobz!

Meanwhile, down in Durham, geek gal (and Facebook friend) Cathy Davidson went to the farmer's market this morning, took a photo of a garden shed being turned into a tea house, posted the photo to Facebook -- and then wrote a lovely little blog post that inspired the thoughts in this here little post. Davidson muses on the question of whether life has a become a reality show, what with all this techno-mediated sharing, all this instant narrativization, the steady -- incessant! -- stream of call and response. Davidson decides that, on the whole, the sociality of Facebook, despite valid concerns about privacy and the marketing of data, is a good rather than a bad thing, a satisfying and genuine way of connecting. She relishes the snippets she gets of friends' lives and the opportunities to share emotions and experiences across distance. We love that, too -- the ranting and the raving, the silliness and the sorrow, the photos of animals and food and parties and trips and kids and projects and flowers and funny signs and departed loved ones. It's crazy, yes, but it is also glorious, and we love it as Clarissa Dalloway loved "the triumph and the jingle" of a busy London street on a fresh morning in June.

That may seem an extravagant comparison, but what the heck. It's a holiday in Roxie's World, so extravagance is the order of the day. Have a spectacular weekend, actually and virtually. And here, for the Facebook haters among you, is a photograph, already shared via FB, of the astonishing cake Goose's students made to honor her birthday. Yep, that is a chocolate cake in the shape of a Lady Terp, and the number 21 suggests it's forward Tianna Hawkins, though we are not sure the cake makers were aware of that. Wevs, kids -- I'd have to say this ranks as one of the more impressive efforts at paper-writing avoidance in the history of grad school, dontcha think?

Happy birthday, Goose! And remember, lovelies: For every drunken pirate photo floating around in cyberspace, there is at least one tea house-in-the-making and one truly astonishing cake. Don't let the odd ugly tree blind you to the beauty of the forest. Peace out.


  1. Oh Wow -- how beautiful, Roxie! And how lovely to have been inspired by our friend Cathy and by that cake. . .we will never get tired of talking about that cake (was Marie complaining to Lud or the other way around?).

    I have to say that much virtual connection is real, and this world of Facebook, etc, enables connections across the country and around the globe and across time that just wouldn't happen otherwise.

    What a wonderful post to get for my birthday.

    Much love and happiness to you!

  2. Happy Birthday!! I will lift a glass in your honor this evening!!

    (Facebook still suckes fucken asse, though.)

  3. (I knew you'd say that, CPP.)

  4. Fabulous post---metametameta!

  5. " Clarissa Dalloway loved 'the triumph and the jingle" of a busy London street on a fresh morning in June'"

    That is a fabulous comparison, not at all extravagant!

    Have an extravagant birthday, Goose!

  6. With a Love like this, how can I not have an extravagant, magnificent, happy birthday?

  7. dog-eared book8:22 PM EDT

    I never meta meta I didn't like! Happy birthday, Goose, and thanks for making our virtual lives infinitely richer, Cat & Moose. (I love that we've all inhabited the animal world online. . . . .)

  8. I adore facebook, the M's, Roxie and Ruby, CD's blog and more, birthdays, and love. Love. Love. Love.

  9. Happy Birthday, Goose!

  10. Thanks for the birthday greets, comrades! I had a glorious birthday and have even more marvelous friends. And now. . .this Goose is going off to give a final, an oral exam that is always as much fun and can even be moving -- go figure!


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