October 28, 2009

So real

I have coined a word. I am hoping to have it appear in Webster’s Dictionary someday. It is “facebo.” It rhymes with “placebo.” Thus, it is pronounced, “fuh-SEE-bo.“ It is a noun referring to friends on social-networking websites like Facebook.

I discovered it one day when I logged onto Facebook, to “check my status,” as they say; upon hitting the refresh button, the part of the URL that represents the homepage for Facebook was truncated, omitting the last two letters (thus: www.facebo…). Upon seeing the abbreviation, a light went on (or off) in my head; I was suddenly aware and fully apprised of the facebo principle, in its entirety. I laughed out loud! I can’t really do it justice in so little space, but I can explain that it refers to the special virtual nature of online friendship, where we can get a sense of community without leaving our homes.

In cyberspace, we can post flattering profile photos from ages past as if they represent us now, or we can post pictures of other people, places or things that are entirely not us, as if to represent ourselves metaphorically by way of whatever image appeals to our sense of self at the moment.

And we can exchange witty remarks without getting out of our pajamas. We don’t have to straighten up the house. We can keep at bay the scrutiny of complexion and wardrobe, and, more, we can avoid the commitment and risk of actual face-to-face interaction. If a “conversation” gets awkward or unpleasant, we can simply withhold comment; our presence needs not be known at all.

However, with the reduced risk, there is also a reduced reward. One of my facebos, a beautiful single mother of an infant daughter, recently posted that she “wants more from Facebook than Facebook has to offer.” To be sure, the concept of virtual friendship is a sorry substitute for the meaning of life, which, as a quote I recently saw would define it, is to get out of the house. (Unfortunately, I can’t remember who was credited as the author. Little help?)

Following up on the possibilities Facebook offers, I have reconnected with many old friends. I have ventured out for coffee and lunch, and it was by way of one of my facebos (please understand that the term is not necessarily derogatory) that I learned about Joe Henry’s solo performance at the 930 Listening Room last Friday night, Oct. 23.

Upon hearing this (and yes, this was a face-to-face meeting, so I did actually hear about the show with my ears), I was immediately determined to make this performance. Joe Henry is certainly one of the greatest singer/songwriters of his generation. The fact that this was to be a free show was daunting, and I immediately feared that it would be overcrowded and that I would have to arrive early early early to make sure I didn’t have to listen from the lobby or the street.

I did take one friend, someone who had never heard of Joe Henry; we arrived almost two hours early. We needn’t have worried. While the turnout was respectable, the room didn’t fill up. We found seats easily without standing in line. In the meantime, another friend joined us. An equally rabid Joe Henry fan (or probably more so), we were able to bond over our hopes for the set list and our recollections of previous shows, but we simply weren’t prepared for what we saw and heard. Playing solo on acoustic guitar and piano, this was a transformational experience. The main set ended with a terrifyingly intimate reading of “Trampoline.” It felt so good to be with people who were able to share the experience, and to be reacquainted with the shock of being overwhelmed by something as ostensibly simple as a guy singing some songs.

The distinction between what is real and what is not has recently become a mainstream consideration. The search for authentic experiences, trustworthy friendships and true love is as universal as the sunrise. Personally, I have had my heart crushed so many times, I often wonder how the blood continues to move through my body. But then the sun comes up and it’s a new day. Thanks, facebos!

This week’s assignment: Show ’n’ Tell! Share the work of a favorite artist with someone who hasn’t heard of him or her.