On Facebook and Sleeping Lions

One of the difficult things about Facebook is that it turns what would otherwise be a natural process of fading into mutual anonymity and ‘letting go’ into a conscious decision (the virtual severing of ties) that has to be made; a deviant pomp and ceremony.

A generation ago (I imagine!), you might stay at a hotel and strike up conversation with a couple of people in a bar. It might go well; perhaps you’d write down their address or phone number, and be in touch further down the line, or perhaps you’d forget and go your separate ways. Either way, it doesn’t really matter to either of you; the nice thing was the exchange itself; that moment of company and connection, that space to imagine the fuller details of their life (or perhaps not to) and to then move on back to focusing on the important relationships in your life, and your personal experience, even if that experience was perhaps illuminated or heightened or even forever changed by that particular interaction.

Nowadays, after a pleasant but forgettable exchange, your new hotel acquaintance might happen instead to venture to ask the casual and innocuous (though I think I’ve decided it isn’t always either) question: ‘are you on Facebook?’ Continue reading

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Why I Volunteer at a Homeless Drop-in Centre (and what’s the point of anything?)

There may be many things about my life which are far from perfect, but on the whole, my life is very good. Really very good. I have shelter, warmth, food, health and opportunities. Nothing makes you appreciate that more than plunging yourself into a world (or the world) filled with those who do not.

In writing this, I am reminded of an episode of Friends in which Phoebe is adamant that there is such a thing as an unselfish act and tries to prove it, while Joey believes it’s impossible. After several failed attempts (including letting a bee sting her so that it will look ‘cool’ in front of its bee friends), Phoebe gives up; as Joey says, there is always that ‘good feeling’ you get from doing something altruistic – that warm buzz which lingers even when you think you are doing something purely because it will help others. Continue reading