Why I’m Glad I’m Older than Mark Zuckerberg

It’s not because I LIKE being older than him.  I’m not crazy about being older than anyone who can drive.  And it certainly isn’t because I’ve heard that rich, famous, brilliant young men go for women whose jawlines are beginning to droop.  I’m just glad I’m not Mark’s contemporary–or younger than him–because I had decades of my life before Facebook existed.  And I think that was a very good thing for me.

This isn’t a rant against Facebook.  I love Facebook.  I can grumble with the best of them about the stupid new changes they’re constantly trotting out (Hey, Mark?  I REALLY don’t give a crap if other people are liking other people’s statuses.  Seriously.  I don’t need to know this), but it’s connected me to some people whose wisdom and understanding has meant the world to me over the past few years.

Still, I’m glad it didn’t exist when I was in college.  I was never a very focused worker: I used to go with my college boyfriend to one of the libraries and spend most of the time reading classic X-Men from the comic book collection they had there, while he studied for his chemistry classes.  And I often dozed off when I had a huge stack of books to read.  But at least I didn’t have that simple, “Click and lose four hours of time before you know it” siren call of Facebook to pull me completely away from my studies–and completely away from any social life. Who knows how deeply underground I might have gone?

Even more importantly, I’m truly–honestly–seriously grateful that I didn’t have a Facebook account when my kids were tiny.

I spent a lot of time with my kids when they were babies and toddlers.  A lot.  I spent years with various small bodies in my arms or attached to my legs or in my lap.  And I credit all that early time together with why my family’s a pretty strongly bonded one.  I may not have been a hundred percent focused on my kids all the time–that’s why Sesame Street was invented, to give parents a break–but I was more present than not.  And I know, without a doubt, that that would NOT have been true if Facebook had been around, because Facebook offers something dangerously seductive when you’re confined to life with small children: constant adult interaction.

If Facebook had been around back during my kids’ early years, I would have spent most of my time joggling a kid in my arms while peering at the computer.  Any questions would have been answered with a dazed and distracted, “Uh-huh.  Just let Mommy finish this.”  I wouldn’t have made nearly as much eye contact with them, not smiled at them as much, not responded as much.  I know this because it distracts me from them now a lot of the time, but they’re old enough to get in my face–or, even better, to i.m. me ON FACEBOOK when they really need my attention.  We also post stuff on each other’s walls and make each other laugh by commenting on statuses even when we’re a room apart.   My youngest is the only one who doesn’t yet have an account and I have to really make the effort sometimes to puuulllll myself away from the computer screen and LOOK at him and TALK to him.  And I worry I don’t do it enough.

I remember when I was little, my mom had a friend she would talk to on the phone–sometimes for what felt like hours (I’m sure it wasn’t, but it felt like it).  It would drive the kids crazy: we wanted her to pay attention to US.  Of course, once I had my own kids, I got it: talking to friends sometimes feels like the only way to preserve your sanity when you’ve spent the entire day trying to please a toddler or two.  The thing about Facebook is, unlike a friend on the phone, it’s always available.  At any time, day or night, you can respond or read or find someone who’s on.  There’s no off-switch, no hang up, no busy signal.  It’s too appealing and too easy.  It would have turned me into the kind of mother I’m glad I wasn’t: remote and uninterested.

So I’m relieved Mark was born when he was and didn’t get around to inventing this dangerously wonderful thing until I could handle it and still keep some balance in my life.

I AM keeping some balance in my life, right?

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