On FaceBook and Walt Whitman

Yesterday I turned off my Facebook account, or to be more accurate, made it “inactive.” I had thought of deleting it altogether, but a friend warned me that if I did that, someone else could assume my Facebook identity – something that happened to someone she knows. Why anyone would want to assume my identity, Facebook or otherwise, is beyond my comprehension. But I have a stubborn paranoid-streak that runs deep.. and so I err on the side of caution.

I have with studious intent avoided most things controversial or “too personal” on this blog. Being from a pre-digital generation, I am constantly aware that what I write or post could come back to haunt me… and most likely would.  At the same time, I share with most of my generation a complete bewilderment at what people feel compelled to share and post on FaceBook or Twitter. In a new digital age that breaks down boundaries, there are it appears no longer boundaries.

I am surprisingly partial to boundaries. While it is in my very nature to push boundaries and to question authority, I live under the unspoken assumption that human interaction should always be guided by the rules of hospitality. The boundaries of hospitality are that you do not brag or boast or make things about yourself. The essence of hospitality is always the other.

facebook_logoI cringe most socially (and socially I do cringe much) when called upon to talk about myself. Glancing at my own FaceBook postings, I see that by nature FaceBook asks me to do what comes very unnaturally to me… to talk about myself or draw attention to myself. That is something I longer want to do.

I do not know if the digitally shrinking world is really all that good of thing. There was a time in my life when most of my life was contained in a mountain valley. Where movies and books allowed me temporary escape but not permanent exile. In my mind I left others and my community, but never far or for long.

Yesterday I turned off FaceBook and felt the need to open Walt Whitman. Whitman sang of himself, yes… but always in context of the world and the other. Whitman, the mystic,  merged his self with others and the world. FaceBook takes an opposite direction… in the guise of social connection it actually extracts the self from the world and others. I prefer Whitman.

Comments are closed.