Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Grandma Collins 0116

My gun-toting granny who was also a nurse, a fieldhand, a church organist and a cancer patient.

My grandma flushed out a thief who was hiding under her house, loaded him into her car, and drove him at gunpoint into town to the sheriff.

My dad, who was there, told me the story. Had I gotten it directly from my grandma before she died, I’d have asked, “Were you scared? How did you know he was under there? Would you have shot him?”

Family and friends are the people we think we know better than anybody else. But do we really? Maybe we would if we just took the time to ask.

For the past 12 years, StoryCorps has given ordinary people the chance to find out extraordinary things about the people they know by simply asking questions.

Through the program, people record interviews with someone who’s made an impact on their life, knowingly or unknowingly, relative, friend or acquaintance. The interviewer picks the questions and hopes the interviewee answers them. And most of the time, they do. The interviews (65,000 of them already) are stored at the Library of Congress and some of them air on National Public Radio.

Our lives are a series of great stories. Happy, sad, scary, exciting, funny, unusual. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are packed with the edited versions of the best (or worst) stories people want to tell about themselves. What about the incredible stories we can tell about others?

In my reporter days, it took tape recorders and reel to reels and notebooks to get the story; today, all you need is a smartphone and an app. StoryCorps has one. It lets you record your own StoryCorps-style interview and upload it to be preserved by the Library of Congress. It even invites you to take a selfie with the person you interviewed.

So, is your grandma tougher than my grandma? We’ll never know unless you ask.

I was recently called out on a social network by a woman I don’t know who has no clue who I am. It was over a man (isn’t it always?) who was “friends” with both of us. I’ve known “Bob” for 15 years and I’m friends with he and his wife in the real world. In addition to his regular full-time job, Bob is a part-time actor, mostly on a regional basis, but he’s been in enough stuff that he has “fans” (which cracks his wife and I up). That’s why this woman sent him a friend request. Because she’s a fan.

It started as a simple back and forth between Bob and I over what he’s got coming up for projects. Four posts in, the fan (let’s call her Alice) piped in. O.K., social networks are all about NETWORKING, right? Building relationships. So the conversation became a party line and it went back and forth innocently enough until Alice threw in something a bit provocative. Suddenly I’m getting a text from Bob saying, “WTF? What do I say to THAT?” To which I commented online, “I’m pretty sure his wife takes care of that already.” Alice was not amused and WHAP! Virtual bitch slap to the side of my head. The conversation rapidly grew nasty (on her end, not ours) and ended with her announcing “you may have won this time but next time, you won’t be so lucky”. Won? I didn’t even know I was playing the game. Bob has since blocked Alice and deleted all of her posts and I’m pretty sure somewhere in Pennsylvania, there’s an angry little woman who hates my guts.

Relationships. Are they so different in the virtual world? I get that Facebook and Twitter and blogs give us the opportunity to put ourselves out there and interact and engage with people we don’t get the chance to meet face to face. That’s why I participate. But aren’t there any rules in the virtual world? Courtesies? Boundaries? Or do we toss those out the window the minute we send that friend request or start following someone? We’re out there, they’re out there…maybe the gloves are off.

I approach these online relationships the same way I do the face-to-face ones. I seek out interesting, funny, creative, adventurous, thinking people, make that first contact (follow, friend, comment), develop a rapport, and see where it goes. I’m not in their face about it, I don’t comment on their EVERY post, and I sure don’t expect them to comment on everything I say or do. You don’t do that with your friends in the real world, do you?

But there are those among us who seem desperate for that level of attention. In the social network mosh pit, they’re the drunk chick in the middle of the room ripping off her shirt and flinging it over her head, shrieking, “Look at me! Look at me!” (I’ve got a true story post about something like that, better saved for another day). People who are so intent on building the relationship, that they grasp at any opportunity to be noticed. To be more than a face in the crowd.

I know a shrieker and honestly, this person is ticking me off. When they started liking and/or following some of the same people and things I do, I thought, “Great! Maybe I’m influencing someone to try something new.” When it became nearly everything and everyone I was expressing an interest in, I thought, “O.K., that seems sort of excessive and these things have never interested you before but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.” Then they began inserting themselves into one-on-one conversations I was having online and dropping my name to “friends” in an effort to get a response. When I got that first direct message asking “Do you really know this person? What’s their deal?“, that’s when I got pissed. “Get your own life!“ I wanted to scream. “Quit riding my relationship coattails, you leech!“ Then I wondered if I had a reason to be mad. The virtual world is open country; did I have a right to tell this person to get off my land? I don’t know but it’s still bugging me.

I like to think that all this online interaction is about exploring new ideas, sharing opinions, meeting new people, expanding our possibilities. If it’s really just a big battle for attention, for God’s sake, somebody set me straight. Because if that’s what it is, I’ve been hanging out in the locker room not knowing that my match has been called and I’m seconds away from a forfeit. I’m willing to come out swinging; shy and timid are not my words and I can pack a pretty mean punch if I have to. So tell me what the rules are, or if they even exist. Help me out here – we’re friends, aren’t we?