Sunday, February 28, 2016

Facebook Friends Like Fielder

Josh Fielder with his beloved Izzy
(I'm told this is an actual snapshot.)

Anita’s told me more than once that I spend too much time on social media and she doesn’t think my Facebook friends are real friends anyway.

Most of the time she’s right, of course, but not this time.

Take my friend Josh Fielder from Virginia. Although we have yet to meet in person, we’ve “known” each other for years. We met in Facebook and became instant pals. We know each other’s backgrounds, likes and dislikes. We’re both struggling writers who don’t have pots to….well, you know the expression. We both prefer dogs to cats and progressives to conservatives. (We’re both Sanders supporters.) We’ve both had bad bosses and bad breakups. He used to drive a taxi and I almost drove for Uber. He served in the military and I loved “Saving Private Ryan.” He worked at Bonnaroo, the annual four-day music festival in south central Tennessee, and I wanted to.

We chat in Facebook about a myriad of subjects and our conversations are always interesting, challenging and enjoyable. We share memes and like each other’s posts. And most importantly, we care about each other. We’re more than pals now. We’re brothers.

When Josh is depressed, I do my best to cheer him up and let him know he’s not alone. And when I withdraw from Facebook periodically – sometimes I become overwhelmed by all the information, drama and negative news jumping at me from my newsfeed – Josh is always there, concerned, waiting patiently for me to return. Like all friends and brothers, we even disagree on occasion, sometimes adamantly – we find ourselves on different sides of the fence when it comes to gun control and pointing out Hillary Clinton’s negatives, for example – but we’re able to do so with mutual respect and a shared commitment not to being right but to learning from each other. We find common ground. We keep things in perspective. We recognize that at the end of the day, discord can be healthy and bygones can be bygones.

I used to have lots of real friends. We’d eat and drink together and play darts and golf and help each other move. We’d talk politics and make memories and watch each other buy homes, get promotions, get married and have babies. I don’t have that same network anymore. The passage of time and changing circumstances, financial and otherwise, have led us all down different paths. I now spend less time in bars and more time with my family and my laptop. My virtual relationships have taken on greater importance to me than I once expected. And although I have hundreds of Facebook friends, several of whom are quite important to me, I don’t anticipate meeting them “in real life” but I will meet Josh. Smart, sensitive, generous, tolerant, witty, charming, loyal, compelling pals are hard to come by. I really want to keep this one.

Anita and I are not of one mind on this. She prefers to interact with people in person, to engage directly with colleagues and store clerks, fellow parents and neighbors, anyone whose smile she can see and eyes she can look into. I like the convenience of engaging online, typing on my keyboard, using the written word to connect with fascinating folks regardless of locale, dialect or wardrobe. Or bedhead. Josh has never made fun of my hair – to my face.

Photos courtesy of Josh's Facebook page, of course.

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