Wide-eyed and nervous I sat at my desk this morning drinking a second cup of coffee. Usually I have only one, but sometimes, when I feel that extra need for caffeine, it's from sleep deprivation or the fact that it lets my mind reminisce back to my years of living in Seattle. Today's second cup was predicated by neither. I need it for courage to change my Facebook status from "In a Relationship" to "Single."
Granted, by all accounts I had too quickly pulled the initial trigger from "Single" to "In a relationship" just two weeks earlier. Call it puppy love (if a 42 year-old man with a hairless pate still qualifies), or, more bluntly, just trying to teach an old dog new tricks, I thought it would be a nice, informal announcement to keep me on the straight and narrow. Not that I am easily tempted or led astray but after a seven-year marriage, which ended four years ago, it has been a long while since my bathroom toothbrush made the acquaintance of a softer prettier pastel rendition of itself. The change in status also served to let my friends know that I still was desirable to someone, even if they only knew her by an ill-chosen thumbnail. How anyone is expected to convey so much in 80 x 60 pixels remains a current-day mystery.
As I sat at my desk, contemplating the change with my index finger hovering, I realized how much I've learned in such a short time. Not only about me, but about the new technology that rules our everyday life and means of communication. Having been a proponent and previous winner of internet dating -- I met my ex-wife online in 1997 while working on ESPN's original website -- I was still unprepared for the riotous reaction to my partnered status.
Whereas in 1997 the Internet was used primarily for single, one-way information dissemination, it has quickly evolved to a worldwide party line with arrows flying in every direction at all times. It's not even controlled chaos. Facebook and MySpace have perfected organic, interactive and viral networks. We are all now Two Degrees from Kevin Bacon, not six.
Two weeks ago, when I changed my status to "In a Relationship," I was not prepared for the fallout. I really did change the status thinking no one would notice. I submitted the info like I would have a credit card when a saved card's number on file expires. But within an hour I had a flurry of emails from old girlfriends: "Don't ever contact me again!" or to the ones who thought I never wanted a girlfriend: "Not surprised, just disappointed," and to the friends that had something positive to say: "I'm a bit surprised, but congratulations." That was about as supportive as most people got.
It has been a long two weeks since changing my status to "In a Relationship." In some ways it brings to mind the Olympics. In one neat and concise time span I've felt a myriad of emotions, from "the thrill of victory" to "the agony of defeat." As Baltasar Gracian penned the words, "Fortune pays for the intensity of her favors by the shortness of their duration," he had to be thinking about sports or love. Or both. Since it's been about four years since my divorce, the Olympics is a fitting analogy. I can only hope the Winter Games fare better for myself.
My two-week hiatus from single life passed before my eyes as I changed the button back. Would I get a similar warning onscreen like the one I received when I entered into this Cliffs notes courtship? "This woman says that you are in a relationship with her, please confirm," or would it dance on my coffin and exclaim, "Hey big guy, things didn't work out for you as planned, did they? Please confirm." Fortunately it was a quiet, respectful announcement. As if Facebook felt a little sad and all the emotions lowered their eyes to the floor in respect and sorrow.
Now a bit of trembling from the coffee that has taken its effect, I realize I was now as mindful of the technology as I was of the message. No longer are computers considered "things" made from intimidating putty-colored boxes. (Apple had a lot to do with the advancement of design away from the cold mysterious PC packaging to a bright-can't-ignore-me white whose nonverbal goal is a seamless transfer of information.) They are invisible vehicles; technology has integrated itself into our daily feed to, and feedback from, the world and our relationship with it. A computer is not something we boot up in the morning that lies dormant at night. Via our desktops, laptops, PDA's, cell phones and the information about us up in "the cloud" , we are always online and everything we do, or don't, has immediate and lasting effects. This is truly the new world. Everyone knows everything. And everyone all at the same time.
Kevin Bacon, nice to make your acquaintance.
We’re basically your best friend… with better taste. Learn more