Friday, August 7, 2009

At Arm's Length

I use this blog, Gramma Fox, for journal entries -- no rough drafts made in a Word document (with the ability to use a thesaurus), few links, minimal initial distribution. If I send it to you, fine. If you find it, OK. It's a barely-edited riff, one that I feel impelled to write for reasons you will learn.

It really ought to be named Grandma Figge Fox, because these days, in my mother's century year, I'm impelled to self-examine.

I realized this morning, and am taken aback by the discovery, that she and I share the same yen for many friends held at arm's length. In her last two decades (she died at 96) she had a huge cyber audience, with whom she shared iris lore and also genealogy tips. They have a fancy name for this now, "Social Media."

I had tried to point out how much time she was spending in front of the computer versus in physical activity that might improve her health, but she kept on spending hours and hours, monitoring list servs and responding to emails. When I was a kid, she spent those hours and hours on the phone, hardly ever seeing the people she talked to, because she simply did not make time for many social occasions that did not involve my father's work, but keeping up with those contacts on the phone. I remember being jealous and wishing she would get off the phone and talk to me.

Now I spend hours and hours, even though I am "retired," responding to business friends, linking up to more people by blogging, using Linked In, Twittering, and now even using Facebooking. These hours weren't available when I was working a 45-50 hour week. And it's revealing that Facebook is my least favorite Social Media. That's because I consider it the "least businessy." In my value system, as in my mother's, "work" should take priority over "fun," and the ideal way to spend time is to do work things that are also somewhat fun.

So I work on church committee's, where the emphasis is 'work' and the camadarie only a side benefit.

I eagerly spend time on LinkedIn, because I "feel called" to try to be a conduit for people who need to network with folks I know. Because I have written about biz people for more than 22 years, I "know," i.e. have had contact with, lots of people, and sometimes I can be really useful.

And my business blog, Princeton Comment, is a blatant example of fun combined with business, and of wanting a readership audience of "friends" who are not close friends, but "pass the time and pleasant chatter" friends. Every month I collect more business cards and spend an hour or so adding them to my blog circulation list.

This personal quirk of mine -- to desire a lot of acquaintences but hold them at arm's length -- dates back even to college, when I was president of Duke's dance club. I "governed" the club, not with meetings, but with upbeat, cheery-and-exhorting newsletters, duplicated 12 times. I'd go from dorm to dorm and post them on the bulletin board. If you wanted to know when your rehearsals were, you checked the board. My actual real friends and buddies were always asking "why can't you go to the movies with us?" and I rarely could, because I devoted my time to "work," i.e. dancing.

I had a similar experience in high school, with my MerrieLander Girl Scout friends, but that's another journal entry.

My mother did have a few really close friends. And now, so do I. And I'm trying to reach out to those school chums and remaining friends who have been there for me even when I was "too busy" for them.

"When are you going to write that book?" they prod.

"When are you going to get up from the computer and go to the gym?" I ask myself.

Do I walk away from the "social media" and write my book, go to the gym, pull those weeds, go to lunch with all who ask?

No answer yet.

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