Facebook Perils

I saw three plays last week.

From the onset, David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People” made me squirm. Set in the poor community of South Boston, Margaret gets laid off from her job at the Dollar Store because of her perpetual lateness.  Living with her disabled adult daughter she worries about how she’ll pay rent on her apartment.  She plays bingo and loses. Then she concocts a scheme to visit a former high school boyfriend, Mike, who became a doctor and lives in an affluent suburb, leaving behind his past. Margaret shows up uninvited first at his office and then his house.

What follows is a sad tale of social class reminiscent of a British soap opera.  Is Margaret trying to link her pregnancy to Mike? Did he shirk paternal responsibilities by escaping to college? I won’t reveal the entire plot, or even critique the play, which I liked.

What got me was how it reminded me of Facebook.

A few weeks ago, a high school classmate of mine posted a photograph from our senior year, 1974:  the end of school breakfast catered by teachers. We all gathered – mostly already inebriated in some form- at the local beach and after eating, posed for a group photo.

Thirty-seven years later, my classmate wrote: “tag yourselves.”

I had to dig out my yearbook to find my picture; I couldn’t see the details in the small photo. As others began tagging, I realized how few people I even remembered. People were “friending” me I didn’t know then, let alone now.  How much did I care? Very little, I realized. I don’t think I have anything to hide, or at least nothing anyone would care about.

Had poor Margaret had access to Facebook, she might have “friended” Mike. They could have conducted a brief message exchange. Then again, she could have become a cyber bully and stalked him.

Raises some questions, I think, about how much we need to know about who “friends” us and how much we want to reveal. Let the past rest.


Observations and opinions about “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” and “WarHorse” to come.

Anyone interested in writing a guest post, email me.


About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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6 Responses to Facebook Perils

  1. Margaret says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I liked your analogy of the story in “Good People” w/Facebook & “friending”. The day after I saw the play it occurred to me, when I was thinking about the title, that maybe the physician was the father and she was the “good person” by letting him go on to college and a successful career. All debatable, especially about woman as martyr, etc. Wondering if any one else who saw the play thought about that possibility.


  2. Perhaps it’s a stretch; but what I thought of. I agree, Margie is really the “good” person, as well as her former boss. My question – does one have to know this play to understand my comments? thanks for reading and writing. Lisa


  3. deanne says:

    As to your question; no, I don’t think I had to see the play to understand your comments. You’ve stepped into something I’ve been trying to figure out for quite a while about “friends.” I react differently than you do, though. I enjoy the reunions and the tagging because there were always a lot more people that I cared about and enjoyed but not enough to go through all the work of keeping up and corresponding with. The thing I miss the most about college is the world of acquaintances. I used to like to go to College Center and randomly chat with whoever happened to be up that night.

    I like people, and I love going through the facebook albums of the kids from my high school, their kids and their grandkids, but I feel like a failure as a ‘correspondence’ type friend.


  4. Jacob says:

    This reminds me of two ideas, the importance of boundaries, and the potential of faith to give a person a feeling of safety and abundance.

    Obviously on Facebook and in life, it’s crucial to be able to set very clear boundaries about what we’re comfortable with. I personally would be happy to “befriend” anyone on facebook except for people who seem to want to connect simply to promote themselves or their website/product. But it might feel uncomfortable refusing a friend-request or communicating less than another person seems to want to. I skimmed a book from the library called “The Gift of Fear,” that described how important it is to honor our feelings, especially the physical sensations of fear, because they can often save our lives in violent situations. In one scary example, honoring one’s feeling of unease and saying, “no thank you, I don’t want your help carrying these groceries even though they’re way more than I can handle and I’ll need to come back down and pick things up. Please put down the can of tunafish and leave everything where it is,” could have prevented a woman from being raped by a seemingly helpful stranger.

    This isn’t meant to increase anxiety, which is more of a mental form of fear, but simply to teach us to listen to real fear when we feel. The book emphasizes that the less anxious we are normally, the easier it is for us to hear the messages our body is telling us.

    That brings up the second point, which is the connection between real faith and the feeling of safety and abundance. If Margaret had a relationship or awareness of G~d as an overarching power that in some way responded to prayer and in any case always guided all events for their ultimate good, she might feel slightly less desperate and therefore unwilling to sublimate her integrity to her fear of poverty, pain and death. The same solution might have presented itself, but because it was in the spirit of honest hope and trust in G~d, it’s likely that there would be no overtones of stalking and if the relationship wasn’t rekindled, Margaret wouldn’t feel as disappointed as she might otherwise.

    When it comes to facebook, my faith in Providence inclines me to accept invitations, until and unless I get a clear feeling that the genuine desire to connect is absent. Who knows how either of us might benefit from the new “friendship.”


  5. Jacob says:

    *to listen to real fear when we feel IT.


  6. Nathan says:

    It’s difficult enough to make time for people in my life I want to keep in touch with. I got rid of my facebook to avoid the awkward obligation of responding to every person I met at summer camp or in high school who wants to reconnect. I figure if they really want to get in touch my email is and other contact info are easy enough to find.


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