So why, at this late date, have I decided I want you to “like” me? And why am I putting “like” in quotes? One word, my friends and my “friends”: FACEBOOK. That moment I have been dreading since I saw “The Social Network” has finally arrived; after years of swearing it would never happen, I finally broke down and joined the Facebook. And to be blunt (I usually am—one of my many unpleasing characteristics) my primary motivation for doing so was to chase down those previously uninteresting “likes” for my articles on the Huffington Post, which btw have proven quite difficult to come by. Facebook is not for sissies! My earnest plea for a click on the “thumbs up” icon is often quickly drown out by work troubles, cute kid/animal pictures, nostalgic flashbacks, funny cartoons and all manner of assorted stimuli. People can be very cutthroat when gunning for position on your timeline, and my articles are no match for new babies, political outrage and awesome videos of Barbra Streisand singing Burt Bacharach. No match at all.I think a big part of the reason I have been resistant to Facebook is that one of the ways in which fortune has blessed me has always been my friends. I have been insanely, stupidly lucky to meet and bond with some of the most incredible people I could ever have hoped for; I am not only a friend but a fan to all of them. I know sublime musicians, brilliant academics, gifted healers, powerful activists, supernaturally talented performers, artists, writers, world class teachers and just damn fine people, to name a few. I often feel like the proverbial kid in the candy store—can all this be for me? I am privileged and flattered by my friendships and feel very content in that. Also: in spite of my big mouthed blogging habit, I do not consider myself a personality suited for mass consumption. I am very much a one-on-one person; how better to distract you from my insufferable opinions than hopping-on-a-ball-while-I-fan-with-a-fan? So, I thought, who needs Facebook?
But then something happened. My puny little blog with its loyal but possibly disturbed followers started being picked up by the Huffington Post. Of course this had been my goal all along, and initially I was delighted. But delight quickly changed to panic as I realized I now had to somehow “drum up business” for my articles. I e-mailed pretty much everyone I had ever met and begged them to click that “like” button, all the while realizing the hypocrisy of my request. I wasn’t clicking any “like” buttons for them, why should they exercise the power of the mouse (or touchscreen) on my behalf? So after two attempts to start a grassroots campaign I had to concede defeat…I needed a “social network” to help me climb out of the sub-basement at Huff Po and that was that. With a pit in my stomach I enlisted a neighbor to help me set up my page. And life will never be the same again. Like having a baby, Facebook changes everything.I thought I would hate Facebook. I was right. I hate the way it makes me feel, like I am in a foreign country with no understanding of the language and customs. I also “like” Facebook. Because it has put me back in touch with some people who make me very happy and every day gives me some reason or another for a good laugh or cry or whatever it is my soul is seeking. When my friend Joseph, who has been badgering me to join since day one, saw that I had finally broken down, he posted on my timeline: “Welcome to hell”. It is sort of a hell for me, a person who stopped caring if people “like” me a long time ago. But still a person who is not actively seeking a rumble; I wouldn’t actually fly kites in your house, as tempting as that sounds. I learned to trust rejection a long time ago—some people are my people and some are not and that is all good.
So while I am slowly trying to adjust to this new normal, the horrible futility of begging after those elusive “likes”, I am finding something strange and possibly wonderful is happening. I am sitting so far outside my comfort zone that I might as well be in outer space, observing my home planet through a telescope. And, not unlike the astronauts, I am noticing for the first time how small it is. And thinking for the first time that maybe all of my ball-hopping and cake-balancing is not so much an over-extension of my obnoxious personality, but rather an attempt to make up for it? Ironically, my last article on Huffington Post went over like lead bricks, so I started the e-mail campaign again, owning to each recipient that it is obnoxious that I keep doing this. One friend said “Stop beating yourself up!” Another said, “Stop apologizing!” And here’s the truth: I didn’t realize I was until they pointed it out.I don’t know if I will ever truly “like” Facebook. I just don’t feel as if I have the right temperament for it. Yes, I am reconnecting with some wonderful people from my past and that is a good thing. Also…I am connecting with some new people and finding out the truth—you really can never have “too many” friends. I am amazed at how touched I am by this little window into people’s lives and how generous so many of them are about sharing themselves. But here’s the most important part: it is teaching me that expanding my comfort zone is a both necessary and positive change. It is making me a little braver…possibly a lot braver, to be honest. Maybe it’s time to get off that ball and put down the rake and just be myself. Maybe finally I am not “saving it for the librarians”—and if you get that joke, it has all been worth it.