I have been wanting to write about Facebook for awhile, but have not been quite sure how to tackle it. Everyone has their own take on Facebook and no one denies what a huge impact it is having on our social discourse along with Twitter. What we don’t read about that much is the impact it has on each of us as individuals, so I have decided to explore that. Facebook has impacted how I deal with my past, how I live in my present, and how I face my future.
I will start with the present. In order to do so I need to share a little more about my past than I have before, and tell you about my friend David Nolan.
I first met David in the late 80’s – the third Saturday that Wetlands was opened to be precise, though I must admit to not remembering it directly. However, there was no way for us NOT to have met that night. The band I was managing, dreamspeak, was headlining. It was our first weekend NY headliner that included a real guarantee, and turned out to be the largest city club crowd we had played in front of to date. Afterward the entire staff, the band and I gathered at the bar and shared in some champagne to celebrate. We may have even met earlier, as I discovered a few years ago that he had in fact seen dreamspeak before that show and even taped them at a live show I produced in Tompkins Square Park back when the park had a bandshell and A LOT of homeless people. In short, we were in each other’s lives but not of each other’s lives.
Flash forward a few years and I leave NYC for the Bay Area. By the time I returned in 1999 the music business and I had separated for the last time. I settled into Jersey City and a new career as a Business Intelligence Professional (yes, an oxymoron three-way). I remained close to some people from my music days and before, but by that time had lost track of and touch with most of those I had known in the NY music scene, not to mention High School, College and various places of work. I made new friends in Jersey City and moved on with life.
Flash forward one final time to late summer of 2008. My sister had been bugging me for months about how I needed to get on Facebook, how she had reconnected with so many people. I was very wary of ‘social networking’. What about those people by whom I did not want to be found? What reminders might I face of things better left forgotten? The mid-nineties had been a very painful time in my life, and I was truly frightened of having to relive them. Eventually though curiosity and my inner geek got the best of me and I set myself up on Facebook. I started by connecting with people I was still connected with in the real world, but through their friend lists and group lists I quickly found myself reconnecting with people from the late 80s – early 90s NY music scene. This in turn lead me to a group centered around a bar that was the epicenter of my music scene back then – Nightingales – and thus to an actual ‘real world’ reunion of people from the Nightingale’s music scene being planned by a small group of people that included David Nolan.
I saw several people that night I had not seen in decades, and others that I had not met but heard of from others. It was a wonderful time. I spent most of the night talking to two people, David Nolan and one other I had done some work with but not known all that well named Michael Weiss. I had “friended” both of them in the month leading up to the reunion and enjoyed catching up online, so it seemed pretty natural to spend a lot of time talking to them. Eventually we said good night and went our separate ways.
But then something happened that would probably never have happened if not for Facebook; we continued our conversations. Through Facebook I got to know about Michael’s family, his MS and his leadership in the MS community (more on that in Part 2), even his unbelievably mellow dog. I became friends with his wife online and started conversing with her as well. At the same time I discovered that David Nolan and I had the same interest in current events and the minutiae of political process as well as very similar political and personal philosophies. We would each post stories of interest to us and then join the debates that would undoubtedly ensue as our Republican, Libertarian, and Neo-Con friends and acquaintances would join the fray. Unbeknown to them, we would often message each other privately to comment on some of the things being said or to make each other aware of a thread the other was not on when we needed ‘backup’. We introduced each other to people online, shared several laughs, and offered advice and support to each other when needed. Even though we would not be in the same room together again, we became good friends.
My friend David Nolan died Thursday night. He had a heart attack at the age of 48 and he was gone. I found out about it on Facebook Friday afternoon. It was the third death of a past or present friend that I have learned of on Facebook – one years after it happened, the other two within 24 hours. This one, however, felt different. David Nolan was not just in my life as he had been in the 80s, he had become of my life.
Now I find myself grieving, mourning the absence of someone whom, from a purely technical outlook, had not been ‘present’ since October of 2008. Over the course of the 10 hours since I learned of his death I have asked myself several questions. Is this normal? Do I have the right to consider him a good friend? Does it make sense that I am this upset?
I have accepted, in fact I know and feel to the core of my being, that the answer to all of the above is “yes”. Social networking has changed the ways in which we can be present in each others lives. Some argue that it is distancing – allowing us to interact with each other at arm’s length. In some cases that may be true. Yet it has also allowed us to become close to people we may never have had the chance to, or even have met, if not for it’s existence.
The online debates I joined in with David got me writing regularly and thoughtfully for the first time in years. As I expanded my Facebook world and became friends with a professional writer who encouraged me with his kind words about my comments I became inspired to start this blog. This blog, in turn, has expanded my horizons in terms of how I communicate and who I communicate with. While I do not publish as often as I should, this blog is one of the great joys of my life – and I doubt it would have happened if not for David Nolan.
David Nolan, without even sitting in the same room with me once in over 18 months you have helped me become something I have always wanted to be – a writer. I will miss you terribly. Rest In Peace.