One of the pluses of social networking sites such as Facebook has been the ability to reconnect me with folks I haven’t seen nor heard from in a good decade or so. Take Stefan Paszke, for example. Stefan and I were the best of buddies as little kids. Stefan was a huge BMX bike racing guy, so naturally, I wanted to be into BMX. He was an only child, and thus the recipient of an only child’s attention; of course this meant I spent time trying to figure out how to kill my brothers so I TOO could reap the rewards. As time rolled along, we grew up, grew apart and aside from sporadic sightings I’d hear about from time to time, he vanished into the big bad world.
And then I stumbled across Facebook, and we found one another (it wasn’t too hard, after all, two dudes with names such as ours? Didn’t we just cover this topic?) Guess what? After all these years, Stefan is still in the cycling game, as an owner of Bespoke Cycles in San Fransisco, and it looks like an awesome shop; remembering his fastidious attention to detail, this looks like the kind of place where the serious cyclist drops in for serious craftsmanship. And while it’s been really gratifying to catch up with him, other social re-connections have also brought up the uglier, darker side of such sites: my raging envy and the sucker I am at falling for well crafted self-promotion.
Nobody ever heads to a social gathering such as a cocktail party and responds to the usual “how are you?” with: “actually, Charles, I’m glad you brought that up, because I am REALLY worried about paying the utility bill this month.” We always respond with “GREAT! It’s all smooth sailing, Chuck! How about you?” And so our little charade of well being continues, with no one knowing exactly where the truth falls. This is how it should be; beyond small talk, are we truly interested in the sordid details of one’s financial health or impending marital implosion? If I am, then it’s most likely in a trainwreck/Nascar pileup observational way – pure morbid voyeurism. Nothing to be proud of, I admit it.
So why is it then, when I read the profiles and updates of an old acquaintance on Facebook, do I find myself nervously chuckling in righteous amusement at what appears to be socially hip bragging? “So-and-so just got back from the Hamptons, and in between planning his next trip to St. Tropez and Paris built a eco-sustainable bio-dome for a homeless man on the Santa Monica Pier.” Well, of COURSE they’re gonna say that. We ALL do. I never update with: “Uli can’t seem to find his missing box of 3/16th” E6010 welding rod”. Nobody cares about that. But somehow, I always fall for the updates, and then I get all weird and envious of the roads that others have taken. I, too, want to travel the world in search of the best surf spots, to “hop across the pond” just to watch Manchester United take on some no-account footballers. I think it would be awesome to the nth degree to travel with my friend Juli, all across these United States, promoting Leatherman multi-tools. SHE GETS PAID TO TALK ABOUT TOOLS. FOR REAL. Of course, I don’t know what the hell ELSE is happening in her life, so it would be dumb of me to covet hers, much less the life of anyone else.
In the end, I’m really stoked to find out what my old friends are up to these days, where the winds scattered them across this globe. If anyone would have told me a dozen years ago I’d be a full time firefighter here in the middle of the country, I’d have considered that person high, and would’ve told them as much. This just happens to be the road I wound up on, due to myriad choices and circumstances. And while we’re all raising families, conquering the world of leisure in tropical locales, working as novelists or maybe just toiling away as civil servants, these experiences are fun to share through the world of modern day digital gossip pages. I suppose I need to embark on yet another adventure before long, so I can have fresh material to embellish for the internet. Maybe said adventure needs to start at a San Francisco bike shop and a visit to an old friend.