Sunday, February 15, 2009

Degrees of Connection...

February 15th, 2009

One of the unintended consequences of moving to a different continent is that your relationships change. You gain new friends, lose touch with some who can’t quite bridge the gap, and learn to take connection in different forms and under different conditions than you might otherwise have thought optimal.

The different things that have people feel connected have always been interesting to me anyway, but now, I am really interested in this facet of life because moving to Buenos Aires has seriously impacted my connections in many ways.

I have a friend in San Diego, who reads this blog, and may recognize herself when I say that at our going away party, she cried and said she was so sad I was leaving. We lived for almost 20 years right in the same county, but we saw each other only occasionally, not even once a year. What I have learned is that for her, we were connected because we both knew we were there together. She would probably have liked to see me more, but we were both busy and life gets away from you that way. Still, now that we can’t see one another, I notice I feel more connected, because she reads my blog and sends me emails and comments and I feel that we actually have an awareness of one another’s lives. For example, I have known she and her husband all these years, but only this past election cycle, from way down here in the Southern Hemisphere, did I get an idea of which direction they lean politically because of a comment they made about a blog post I wrote.


friends at our going away party, but not that one...

Another friend, part of a group I belong to, was in the habit of regularly reading the posts on our group discussion board. She read the posts but rarely posted to the board herself. There was a group discussion about connection, and the posters and non-posters were pondering the merits of posting and reading, as well as what other choices there were for connection for the group. My friend mentioned to another that she felt very connected because she read the posts all the time. The friend she said this too asked, “But do you think anyone else feels connected to you?”

I am coming to understand that whether we feel the connection or not, there is no denying it’s existence. I speak to a friend and change my friend’s mood. My friend goes to work and helps a client. The client goes home and kisses his daughter on the head and tells her she is loved. His daughter grows up to be a voice of peace and change in the world. Or something like that...

One of my favorite shows, the L-Word, has an ongoing story line about a map of connections between lesbians living in Los Angeles. It shows how this woman slept with that woman who was in a relationship with the other woman and so on. In the story each woman creates, by submitting information to the server, her own constellation. Some women have whole universes. Of course the idea isn’t new. The original Six Degrees of Separation game, original in my day anyway, was a game where you could prove that everyone on Earth was no more than six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, or anyone else. I think it was a Seinfeld episode.


A friend from the group mentioned above who works hard at staying connected...

Anyway, there I was a few weeks ago on FaceBook. I joined a page for Mother Jones Magazine and saw the button where you could look at all the people who were members of the page. There were thousands of course, but some of their photos were interesting, so I clicked through, and on the very first page I saw a button indicating that I and one of the people on the page had a mutual friend. I asked her to be my friend, mentioning our shared acquaintance. She agreed. Then I thought to myself, how many are there? Well it turns out that of 2500 totally random people, who happened to have FaceBook accounts, and happened to be fans of Mother Jones, and happened to join the page, there were over 50, or about 2%, who knew someone who knew me.


An old friend I recently reconnected with on FaceBook...

Now, it isn’t like we’re all really close friends but, I have gained some very interesting and, on some levels, meaningful, relationships from farming FaceBook in this way. I have had deep conversations with people who’ve taught me things and who have shared themselves with me and expanded my understanding of the Universe and my place in it.

In my constellation, as it were, are certain star clusters that share things in common. I teach and practice Bikram yoga and so there is a very large cluster of yoga teachers and practitioners in my constellation. I live in Argentina and have a cluster of South American Expats. I am a coach and I have a cluster of other coaches and also people who are interested in my work. I am a writer and I have a cluster of writers and people who are interested in my writing. My boyfriend Jimmy has a constellation of his own and I have a cluster that intersects his. I have strong personal and political beliefs about the way we humans should be in the world and I have a cluster of people who share some of those beliefs. The group of people I referred to above is a cluster too, there’s a San Diego cluster, a new cluster in Monterey (where we’re headed when we leave here), and so on...


My best friend with his friend in San Francisco...

If you are reading this and you aren’t my FaceBook friend, check it out. Search for me on FaceBook, become my friend, then click on my friend list. What you’ll notice is that FaceBook knows about all of this. Any mutual friends we have will appear, for you, on the top of my friend list, but don’t stop there. I’ll bet you a beer in the bar across the street that even if we don’t have any mutual friends, you can look through my friend list and find someone who knows someone you know. Of course, some of the connections will never get made because not everyone is on FaceBook and everyone never will be. But it makes me feel a little closer to my tribe to know that even though I can’t touch them and talk to them and see their faces, maybe someone I know can. Maybe you can. I feel a little less alone knowing that, while I’m reading about a moment in the life of a woman I met in a bakery in New York City, my friend in San Diego is reading it too, and we are never really very far apart. I’ll buy you that beer if you can’t find a connection, but you’ll have to come down here for it, and when you do that you’ll meet people I know and both of our constellations will expand, so I’ll win anyway.

1 comment:

tangocherie said...

Annie, I so agree with you!

Yet there are many folks afraid of social networks like Facebook.

But I'm glad you and I are FB Friends!