~~A SHORT STORY~~
R-u-b-y H-a-r-r-i-s typed the letters of her name into the Facebook name field like a bride heading down the aisle wearing slippers frozen in a bucket of ice. She might as well be getting married, she was leaving behind her own private life and joining one where people revealed engagements, intimate medical issues (she would rather not know about), videos of their babies, song lyrics, and random daily events just to name a few.
She knew because she joined Facebook a year ago at the urging of her family who wanted her to become a part of the 21st century. She signed up as Harriette Reuben. Her friends were limited to a few family members and two close friends accepted her need to be incognito. Each time she added someone she felt like she was removing a garment from her body. Not that she was revealing anything about herself. She never posted status updates, she never commented on people’s pictures. She was a Facebook voyeur, when she bothered.
She had to update her profile picture. It was currently a picture of her cat wearing a birthday hat. She browsed through the photos stored on her computer. Briefly considering some them moving on to the next, she was either too made up and didn’t feel like herself or not made up enough. There were photos she liked where she was with other people. For a moment she considered snipping herself from one of them, but she hated it when a person was obviously cut out of someone’s profile picture. She selected a picture of her taken at a church carnival a few months ago and planned to have someone take a picture of her the next day at work when she appropriately made up.
Did she really want to do this? No…and yes. Ruby joined a photography club and although the posted their pictures of Flickr, she could tell from a lot of their conversations that they kept in touch on Facebook. The little voice in her head told her it was time.
She searched for the group page, the Miami PhotoTakers and clicked “Like”. Then she browsed the Timeline. There was a different theme each week and members posted a picture every day. This week the theme was animals. There was a really cute picture of a squirrel approaching a person who knelt down to feed it a peanut. She read the comments, some praised an element of the picture or made funny captions giving voices to the characters.
A moment later she received a friend request from Alex Lewis, from the club. That was fast, she thought. A peek at his list of friends revealed he had 100 friends. She thought she could never have that many friends. She browsed his timeline. He reposted a lot of political cartoons and often posted things about his day. She thought this was excessive. Did she really care if he ordered a tall Frappacino and was given a venti and this made his day? His random remark had 30 Likes and 8 comments that she didn’t take the time to read.
She enjoyed browsing through his photo albums. He posted pictures from his various trips around the world and included a descriptive narrative. There was a picture of him attending the Wednesday Papal Audience in Rome with the pope against a blue sky and his arms outstretched. The caption read, “At first the disciples did not recognize Jesus, and only through his words and deeds were their eyes opened…” She reached for her cup of green tea and pondered this statement regarding the Resurrection.
The next album was a baby shower. It started with the picture of a couple behind a rectangular sheet cake. The right side was pink and decorated with a baby carriage. The left side was blue and was decorated with Matchbox cars. The man wore a pink shirt and the very pregnant woman wore a blue shirt. Pictures of the guests revealed everyone dressed with their guess on the baby’s gender. A few pictures later we see the husband slicing the cake and then he is crying and finally he is holding a finger dipped in pink icing up in the air showing it to the room.
Alex’s next set of pictures reveal the emotions of the guests. Some look shocked, others are smiling, and some are clapping. It didn’t matter if they were wearing pink or blue, they were all happy. Ruby notices her reflection in the mirror. She is smiling as well.
She scrolls down Alex’s newsfeed, when she recognizes the name of another PhotoTaker, Lauren Holiday. She follows the trail to Lauren’s newsfeed. This is someone she has never spoken to before, but she has admired Lauren’s sunset scenes. She reads that Lauren’s grandmother recently passed away. Ruby minimizes the screen and thoughtfully gazes at her desktop picture. It’s a picture of her with her best friend, Allison, from high school. They lost touch in their mid-twenties. She thought of her often but never made an attempt to find her.
This was a picture of when they visited the Zoo with her friend’s family. Sadly two members of the pictures have passed away already, reminding Ruby of what happens in the Back to the Future movie where people fade from Marty McFly’s photo. But that is the beauty of photography. People don’t fade away like they tend to do in real life, either from death or from people growing apart.
Ruby hovers the mouse over the “Friend” button on Lauren’s Facebook page. This is what she came here to do today, to accept that this is how people keep in touch now. She sent the request and then commented on her club mate’s sadness over loosing her second mother. Ruby wasn’t really sure what to say so she searched the Internet for condolences and then tailored it to sound more like what Ruby Harris would say. It’s the little things, the small, everyday occurrences that you’ll remember. The laughs, the stories, the smiles- these memories will bring back the smiles.
She didn’t have time to pat herself on the back for her big step forward. A chat box popped up. “OMG it’s your name and your picture!” Ruby replied to her niece’s message with a smiley face.
Ruby thought it must be big if she jumped from one explanation point to three out of nowhere.
“Dylan finally asked me out!!!!!”
That was big. Lacey had been in love with this guy in her class for months, they had gone out a few times but weren’t steady. Ruby wasn’t sure she wanted her seventeen year old niece dating, but there was something inspiring about Lacey’s ability to open up about this to Ruby. Even as an adult Ruby had a hard time talking about herself.
“How did he do it?” Ruby asked, still marveling that she and Lacey would never be keeping in touch if this were pre-Facebook times. Lacey’s mother would have shared this with Ruby. They would never have spoken on the phone.
“We went to dinner and then to the beach to walk around after. He bought a white rose from a man selling flowers and asked me to be his girlfriend.”
Ruby wondered at the ratio of walking to other things occurring on the beach but she didn’t comment.
“I am very happy for you, darling. But don’t rush into anything with him.”
“I know, I know, mom already gave me a speech…Gotta go, my friend is here to pick me up.“
It was then Ruby noticed at the end of Lacey’s message the statement, “Sent from my iPhone”. She imagined Lacey sitting on the porch waiting to be picked up with her head immersed in her phone. Ruby wondered if she would ever be like that. Many adults were.
She felt like she had made a good effort and decided to reward herself by watching videos of cats on treadmills. She found a new one where two cats were slapping the treadmill as it was running as if trying to understand the movement. At one point one cat moved too close to the other and his mate slapped him too. It was hilarious. She clicked “Like” to show her appreciation and then viewed some other videos. After a few minutes she decided it was time to stop the fooling around and she had to pay her bills. Much to her chagrin, when she returned to her browser the YouTube video posted in her Newsfeed.
Ruby felt so violated. How dare they post her activity? Why did she ever hit Like?
She wanted to cancel her account. Facebook wasn’t for her. Now she would have to create a whole new account to keep in touch with her family. She would have to explain to the PhotoTakers that she was no longer on Facebook?
Ruby’s cat jumped on her lap and Ruby pet her. As she raised her eyes back up to the screen she noticed the video had a few likes already and Lauren posted a comment that it was the first thing she laughed at all day.
Ruby updated her status, “This isn’t so bad. : )”