Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Message is More Than the Medium

A friend of mine who reads beyond the Style section told me about an editorial in yesterdays' WaPo lambasting the banality of the status line (thanks Laura!).

I think the author of the editorial misses the point. She seems to think we're all obsessed with the minutiae of our daily lives "Is it just me or isn't it a bit presumptuous to think that if I'm scrambling an egg, you'll want to know about it?"

Well, I assume no one cares what I do. I may not even care myself. Or maybe I write it on the off chance that one of my friends will read it and laugh, maybe lifting them out of a glum mood, or making them feel that their lives at least aren't as tedious as mine.

Or maybe it's a version of cogito ergo sum. I write status lines, therefore I am. My life has some meaning because I accomplish a number of tedious, meaningless actions throughout my day and I live to greet another, full of more tedious, meaningless actions. Along the way, maybe I make someone laugh, or they share a thought or they see a bit of themselves in me and feel a sense of connection. Maybe they see nothing of me in them and feel a huge relief.

Doesn't she see the spiritual thread running through all this? We connect - sometimes in deep, meaningful ways when we debate religion or politics or values. And sometimes we connect in the fact that we love blueberry smoothies. There is God in that -- whatever you may consider God, the Spirit, the Universe, common humanity. We are not alone - not all the time, sometimes there is a glimmer that there is something more there.

Maybe status lines sometimes approximate something of a Buddhist mindfulness. I am aware that I am scrambling eggs - I am so aware of it that I type it into my status line. Whether it is read by anyone or not does not matter. Status lines offer us a chance at introspection - to look at what we are doing and state it simply, or maybe make light of it, or maybe call out to others for help. "I want to know what you think," is a message conveyed in some status lines I've seen. I've been honored for the chance to share. I've been honored when I've written in the messages and gotten a response - not just to learn something about a subject, but that someone out there cares. Ever hear of the voice crying out in the wilderness? Facebook may provide a clue as to what happens when that cry is answered. I tell you, there is God in there -- it is in each other and I see it whenever anyone takes a moment to talk to me. No matter how brief, no matter how mundane.

Interestingly, McManus' editorial appears on the page right above an editorial by Emily Yoffe. Let's go all wavy lines in a flashback of Ms. Yoffe's writing. Yoffe spent some time as a volunteer at The Claude Moore Colonial Farm. In an article about her experience, she wrote about some of the 18th century tasks she did as a reenactor and how it affected her.
But as I sat on the shaving horse and pulled, my mind began to quiet. I finished my first stick, and as I stroked its silky finish I felt an inordinate sense of accomplishment. I put in another, and I found the scrape-scrape-scrape of the knife lobotomized the usual chattering in my head.
As she closes the article, she quotes another reeanctor, "As Elizabeth Rolando says, "There is a satisfaction in the accomplishment of the mundane.""

So maybe status updating is simply a recognition that our lives, even in their smallest actions, have meaning. Just because it comes via Twitter or Facebook, does not make it less meaningful, it just gives us the chance to recognize that this same meaning occurs in the lives of others and maybe we feel connected or less alone for a moment. It's so beautiful, I wish McManus could see it.


Motherbird said...

Thanks for helping me see the God-energy in Facebook. I think you are on to something. :-)

Marjorie2 said...

thank you!

Cally said...

I am a retired unschooling mother. My children are grown and have left home - except that one has recently returned home, along with his wife,to live with us during a transition period of their lives.

What I have noticed about my children leaving is that I don't get to share the 'trivial' in their lives. They tell me about the bigger events, but the day to day 'trivia' is lost. I have come to realize that the trivia is, in fact, the filling in the sandwich; the coffee that comes with the cream and sugar.

Although 3 of my sons use Facebook, they don't use the status function much - I wish they did. But of the friends that I have on Facebook, the ones who use the status function regularly have become closer friends since I have been able to see their big moments in the context of their more 'mundane' day to day experiences. I see them more as whole people now.

The weddings, the births, the graduation, the vacations - they are truly just the punctuation marks of our real lives.

(PS - I found your blog via a posting on an email list Shine With Unschooling.)

Lisa said...

although an old post, i am reading it for the first time, and greatly appreciate it. thanks!

Marjorie said...

Thanks so much for commenting - I'm glad you liked the post!
I've found the same thing, Cally. With FB, I thought I'd get closer to my close friends but what has happened is that I feel closer with those friends of mine who interact with me - sometimes they are the close friends I expected, but some are unexpected. I've also experienced some healing from past hurts and I suppose there have also been some new hurts as well and I try to figure out how to deal with that.
I'm not familiar with Shine With Unschooling but I'll look it up!
Lisa - time is such an interesting thing and doesn't seem to matter sometimes in the on-line world, since there is so much time shifting that can occur. Some of my old rants are sort of embarrassing to me and yet, I value that I can see where I was and how I've changed (or stayed the same).