My Estranged Sister Facebook Friended Me — I Won’t Accept
It’d been more than five years since I last spoke with my sister when she Internetted me a Friend Request via Facebook. There was no brief message asking about my well-being or assuring me of hers, nor was there any kind of acknowledgment of the discomfort that might infect the digital reunion of estranged family members. Just the simple Notification tab bejeweled with that familiar red ornament and the number 1.
I did not Confirm. I wasn’t sure where she was living or how she was doing, and I’d gotten really good at not caring about either.
But because Sister hadn’t adjusted her privacy settings, I was able to look at her Wall, which included a recent Status update.
Found my younger brother-he’s a professor at NYU-the 1 thing we have in common-we both luv Lil Wayne.haven’t seen my brother in over five years because of my insane lifestyle-out of control!!
(I never was a professor at NYU; I was an adjunct. I just studied and sort of taught one class.)
The next day I deactivated my account.
Although most of my understanding of Sister’s current life is based on unfair assumptions, I feel confident enough to say we live very different lives. Not that I’m an angel; I need a walk-in closet for all my skeletons. But now, we don’t know each other at all.
The gradual separation started years ago, probably when she was 16 and I was 10 and saw her overdose.
Ever since my teenage years, I used Sister’s behavior as an excuse to distance myself from her and now I’m not sure how or if it’s possible to be her brother again.
I also doubt Sister’s ability to be my sister again, despite the handful of memories I allowed myself to retain that prove she had it in her to be a great sister. (When I was a little kid and bored, she would tell me to sit on a bed sheet and then she’d run circles around the house, dragging me across the waxed hardwood floors. Each time we went around a corner, I would slam into the wall, which would cause me to erupt in laughter and maybe wet myself, because it was hilarious. Our walls were covered with dirty handprints.)
The next day I reactivated my account. And then deactivated it. Then reactivated and deactivated it again, like I was powering down and rebooting a robotic persona that might turn against me (see Frankenstein, Space Odyssey 2001, etcetera, etcetera)
I’ve started to notice that the more I think about Sister’s Friend Request and the “vulnerabilities” introduced by social networks, the more I run from responding to Sister and the more comfortable I become with not reactivating my Facebook. It doesn’t feel like I’m missing anything or anyone.
It makes sense because, honestly, I don’t remember the last time I missed my sister.
If my Facebook account was active I would probably post a link to an article about the environmental decline of the oceans with some sort of cynical Comment, which would provide Sister with a little insight into the kind of person I am. Right? I mean, after five years of absolute silence and multiple years before that of drug induced chaos, what kind of door is that to open. Well, it’s a start, you might say.
But that’s the problem. A start to what?
Because — and this is the part that blows my mind — if I accept Sister’s Friend Request then she can Internet me another request asking me to Confirm that she’s my sister. And there you have it? She’s my sister again and I’m her brother again and we haven’t had to do a damn thing to make it so besides logging in and Internetting some icons to one another.
Then I decide that this thing I’m writing will be published (if published) anonymously.
So it’s like the more I bog this thing down with personal exploits the more fuzzy and laborious it becomes with pageantry.
Just like, the more we bog our Facebooks down with random and/or insignificant photos, daily thoughts and/or rants, Likes or poorly expressed sarcasm, the more fuzzy and laborious we each become. And then, just when you thought your Friends were really getting to know you, they Block your posts to cut down on the static. Suddenly your Friends aren’t listening, and you’re just yelling to yourself, “Sir/Madam, I exist!”
But really you’re not alone; your Friends are yelling the same thing to themselves. And we all become open boaters, adrift at sea in standard issue digital dinghies.
Although social networks and the Internet things allow us convenient venues for contact, they also limit the nature of those contacts. We unintentionally hide from each other behind social media profile templates. It’s like we’re stuck picking the role of one kind of cereal in a variety pack, and while we get to pick that cereal, there are only eight different kinds of cereals in a variety pack. It’s more and more obvious that these social networking sites primarily act as devices by which to catalog would-be something or others, and if in the process some people manage to stay Friends by celebrating and liking their common interests then that’s great too.
You haven’t been able to sit in on the challenging but beautiful reunion of two siblings as they rediscover their love and support for one another thanks to the generous offerings of innovative Internet-place community things. There is no resolution.
And don’t think I’m running from much; I’m just running with the same stuff I’ve been running with for five years because I’ve gotten used to it and sharing a few Wall posts or Status updates with Sister isn’t going to change that. It wouldn’t be a strong start to any kind of real reunion.
And I’m not saying you should deactivate your Facebook too, nor am I saying that I question your judgment for being on Facebook (trust me, I know my place). But if you keep your Facebook, there will always be some kind of regular digital disappointment, some kind of failure to communicate intention, love, hate or even just sarcasm, and the joke falls flat, and your heart twitches with little dulled electric impulses sent from a brain muddled with vague emotions. I want a reunion with my sister to be better than that, if it ever happens.
At the same time, it’s hard to ignore social networks because there’s always that chance that something could happen that has never happened before and you’re missing out on it.
But most likely it will end up being more of the same: I might be reactivating or again deactivating my Facebook as you read this. I might be regretting that I published this anonymously or relieved that I did. And there’ll always be a chance that I reunite with my sister, just like there’ll always be a chance that somebody ignores the latest Status update. Either way, I fear that the more we digitize our relationships the less significant they will become and the easier it will be to click delete.
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