-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Facebook is Our Front Porch
The front porch is (or was, for some of us) the place to sit and watch the neighborhood; to sit and take in the life of the community; to notice and connect with the pulse of the street without necessarily saying anything to anyone some days...
I might talk to Jeff or Steve on either side of our place. Sometimes share a beer or just a "hey, how are ya".
Most days or evenings, we just watch, wave, nod, listen, take it in.
Cars go by, neighbors pull out, others pull in.
Someone across the street just drove up in a new car. Looks like it belongs to one of their grown up kids...
2 boys rip down the street on bikes, yelling to each other. Swerving to be sure they drive and splash through the same patch of mud in someoneís front yard. A third boy trails behind, slower, cautious, staying on the pavement, wobbling just the tiniest bit as he looks behind for cars.
The street is a awash in the sounds of automobiles, dogs barking, big wheels, birds, wind chimes, girl voices and boy noises.
Sarah from several houses down walks her dog every night after dinner and our dogs go nuts when they stroll by, every single time.
I hear the guy on the corner practicing with his band in their basement. Indistinct guitar music, drums, something that sounds like Reggae... His little blond daughter is playing with an unseen friend on their side porch, waving something in the air and jumping up and down their steps.
I smell a wood fire and wonder who is sitting out in their driveway already this cool spring evening.
Yesterday, a brother and sister from the junior high band came by selling raffle tickets. We bought two. In a month or so, another pair will come by selling candy or pizza coupons. Weíll buy some of those, too.
Thereís a bossy, barky squirrel on a wire over head just now. Someoneís phone is ringing and the young nurse that lives two doors down just appeared on her sidewalk with 4 or 5 bags of groceries and her 3 year old boy in tow.
She waves and smiles and he runs ahead and up their front steps...
So much happening, so much connection, information, satisfaction of being part of this stream of life all around me. Knowing I am part of it, able to enjoy the knowing that comes from sitting and seeing it all at any given time, is a satisfying act of community membership.
Not everyone has a front porch today and the age of cable TV and climate control has kept many of us inside except during these brief periods of seasonal seduction and open windows.
But Facebook is now our Front Porch, too.
Every age, background, interest, profession and connection shows up there, now.
Weíre as entangled as the physical community in some ways.
I know itís not the same, but it does bear some
similarities, and the closest comparison I can make to this natural, online flow of observation and casual connection is the front porch...
I'm also aware that this idea of Front Porch isn't necessarily a new idea to many. I think a number of people have used the idea of the front porch in reflections on social media, in general. But I'm not just thinking about front porch as the conversation place of yesterday. I think the comparison is far more significant for its passive, quiet connection, much like the mere sitting, watching and listening that we were able to do on a front porch, whether there was any conversation going on or not.
Just being there, on the "front porch" that is Facebook, I can check in and watch my daughters' updates from Bowling Green University and New York City.
I can chat with a friend down the road or across the country, while browsing the "wall" messages posted for me and others throughout the day.
A friend of a friend comments on an activity and I recognize him as someone from my church, so I send him a friend request. My sister has new photos from her vacation and a school friend is posting that she canít wait to start her new job tomorrow.
I friend I know only through a few chats and messages has posted that she and her husband are attending an art show downtown Friday and I realize another friend has a studio there, so I click over to learn more and mark myself as a maybe on the attendee list.
I post an update that I saw my cousin Tim as a guest star on LOST, playing landlord to young Miles and his mother. Several friends comment or click the "Likes" trigger to acknowledge my message. One looks Tim up on IMDB and comments on all the other shows he realizes heís been in over the years.
Meanwhile, a school mate from almost 30 years ago "friends" me on his first night as a Facebook newbie and wants to know how my parents are doing. I havenít seen or heard from him since we attended the same school and church in Williamsburg, Ohio and itís a treat to know heís still around -- that he still lives in the same house as when I knew him back then.
A local new media maven is posting updates from his car, via twitter, and letting everyone know heís at some intersection or another, on his way home from work. Another just posted a podcast to his website and yet another has posted a new pie recipe to his restaurantís blog.
Iím invited to take a quiz to find out what flower Iíd be, or is it which dictator? No, this one is to find out which color I am. I pass, for now, anyway, and follow another friendís link to a YouTube video of a local band Iíve heard of but havenít gone out to see play.
A niece in Connecticut has a birthday party this Friday and I wish her well.
Someone I donít know sends me a friend request message, introducing herself and telling me she enjoyed the video my friend Ray posted of me singing a Leonard Cohen song. She invites me and Jane to a community open mic kind of thing next weekend.
A guy who often posts interesting, humorous quotes updates his status with "Never try to cross a ten foot gap in two five foot leaps".
A young nephew posts a line from a Seinfeld episode. His sister posts a line from some angst-filled song that I suppose expresses her feelings about something happening in her world tonight.
Iím aware of my appreciation for all these connections, for the depth and diversity of the online neighborhood I can watch and engage; for the ways I can quietly keep up with this beautifully entangled, networked community -- on Facebook, our new Front Porch...
April 20, 2009