Thursday, November 07, 2013

Facebook and obituaries

Guess you can tell from the heading how I spend my first minutes at my desk every morning. I read email and then the newspaper. I would attribute my habit of poring over obituaries to my age--friends and acquaintances show up more often than I like--but I've always read them. I grieve over the children and wonder if the teenagers died natural deaths, were suicides or overdoses (ah, the society we live in). I look at people's ages--those younger make me feel lucky and those older give me hope for a long life yet to come. Sometimes I think it's ghoulish to read the obituaries, as though in the back of the mind lingers the thought, "At least it's not me." And yes, I've rough-drafted my own--when the time comes my children will find it on my computer.
But today I really studied the faces in those pages, and I concluded the photos often give you a clue to the lives the people have lived. Some are joyful, even playful, and you suspect the person lived a good and happy life. But others are plain--no smile, no hint that life was good. Did the family just not choose the right picture or was that how this person lived life? It's like a window into their past, and I hate to make quick judgments. For my part, I leave the photo choice to my children, although one not very flattering photo makes me look very contemplative, like I was a deep thinker. I like that but I think they may choose one of me in western garb looking young and happy. It's sadly out of date but maybe it speaks for my life.
If obituaries are a bit depressing, I find Facebook fun and interesting. I've developed more rapport there with several people I've known for years than I ever had when I saw them frequently. There's a colleague from TCU, now retired and living in Alabama, who reposts all my pictures of dogs in need of forever homes, joins in political discussions, and recounts some of her own adventures. And there's another acquaintance, now semi-retired from Baylor, who reposts those dog pictures, talks about her own dogs, teaching and other matters. Even my best friend from high school--we've kept in touch all these years but FB has brought us closer together and now we also exchange personal emails frequently...and we've had several good in-person visits. There's a man with whom I could not disagree more vehemently about politics and religion, but he reposts my dog pictures and sends me nice, appreciative messages on my non-political posts and wishes me a blessed day. I think I'd like to sit down over lunch with him sometime. And a new friend I picked up because she liked my reply to something the aforementioned gentleman posted. The web of friendship spreads, and I love it.
Sometimes FB is the first place I learn of breaking news--like today the Senate passage of the ENDA bill (wish I knew what that stands for--Employment Non Discrimination Act?). I can't think of other instances but there have been many. I know you have to take posts with a grain of skepticism (and check Snopes), but I still find it a good way to keep current on events and controversies--like the many opinions, facts, and misconceptions about the Affordable Care Act. Things I don't get from our diminished daily newspaper.
I got on FB to keep up with my children but they now post only occasionally. I also thought it was a good way to tell people about my books, and it is. But a friend who posts liberal, feminist messages said she also posts about her grandsons and animals so people will know she's really a nice person. And I guess that's what I want--for people to know me as a person and not someone who is just pushing her books. See you on the 'net.

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