Too Close To Home

I met a woman a couple of years ago, she was a friend of a friend. She was also Australian so we made our way through the usual Australian expat conversation. Which State? How long have you been away for? Who are you here with? She was one of those women who exuded calmness. She spoke softly, her tone felt self monitored, she didn’t get too excited or too edgy. Maybe controlled is the word I’m looking for. She would have made a perfect newsreader.

When we spoke of home, she winced at the idea of missing friends and family. She was close with her brothers and felt her children were missing out on spending time with their cousins. “There’s always Skype” I offered “and it’s great seeing what everyone is up to on Facebook.”

“I don’t do Facebook” it was a very definite statement.

For a moment I thought she was joking. I mean forget about the origins of Harvard boys creating an online space to hookup, Facebook was invented for expats who were missing home wasn’t it? Wasn’t this what we’d all dreamed of for years? A chance to see every family celebration, to never lose a friend we’d gained in our travels. To keep up with our old lives, the one’s we’d left behind. Now we didn’t miss a thing – it was all there in front of us every day to comment and like.

“It would upset me too much” she explained. “Seeing them all and watching them go on without me, surrounded by the things I miss. I just don’t think I could cope with it, it would make me too sad.”

At the time I couldn’t disagree more. I was an open and addicted Facebook user. I’d crossed into the world of using Facebook for invitations, emails and events. I carried it around with me on my phone. I opened it in the morning and went to bed with it at night. It was where I read my news, caught up with friends and made plans. I’d liked enough sites on Facebook that I had a constant stream of new information. It wasn’t just status updates anymore, it was news sites, blogs, video content and for want of a better term, social justice.

And I think I may have just overdosed.

As I got ready this morning I flicked through my newsfeed and felt a myriad of emotions. Initially happy that Tom Jones had come to town I was enjoying seeing friend’s pics of the event, but was then horrified to hear that a friend’s girlfriend was denied entry because of her headscarf. I read the usual news sites, a mixture of stories. I clicked on notifications, accepted an invitation and giggled at a particular youtube clip that someone had sent me. I learnt that scientist are looking at the earwax of beluga whales and was distracted by a woman swimming with a great white shark. And in the middle of a giggle over a rant a friend was having about Gen Y I read that a friend had lost a baby. A much wanted baby brother. It was obvious the details had been typed through tears, there was so much pain behind the news. On either side of the grief was someone enjoying a holiday, and photos from a film festival. Friends lol’d over a photo that made it look like someone was eating the sun. It was all out of place. My brain couldn’t compute the frivolity amongst the pain. Flippancy is not supposed to surround respectful and reverent.

Too much. I’d been online for half an hour and it was too much to process at 6.30 in the morning. My brain was scattered with hundreds of thoughts and feelings about the world. Happy, sad, devastated, angry, bemused and amused, hurt, jealous, humbled, flabbergasted. And I was still in my pajamas. I thought back to the days where I simply got out of bed, had a shower and went to work.

It’s time to simplify my information. I need to compartmentalize. News is news, friends are friends and my brain needs times of peace.

It’s great to have access to the rest of the world, and I love to see what’s going on with my friends. But what’s really important is right here, simple.

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