Tethered to the Real World

By Doug Elwell

Dear Everyman,

Social media has wormed its way into almost every part of our lives—that is unless you’re making mud pies down by the river for a living. But for the rest of us there it is, all dolled up in a slinky little black thing with spaghetti straps bent on seducing us into getting all caught up in the “gee-whiz” of it. We’re human. We get distracted by all the gewgaws of the latest thing that comes along. But the flash and dash of it often takes our eye off the ball. Like the seductress it is, it misdirects and in a way separates us from one another in our humanity while claiming to bring us together. Concise is nice, but I prefer a little meat on the bones.


Facebook. It seems everyone in the world has a Facebook page. So not to be left out, I decided to give it a try just to see what it was all about—it’s in all the papers you know. After all, one cannot have too many friends—can one?

I opened an account and began setting up my page. My first mistake was keying in Oakland High School as the school from which I graduated. That’s true, but there are Oakland High Schools all over the country. I wasn’t specific enough and my page listed me as attending one in Oakland, California rather than Oakland, Illinois. No big deal, just edit and correct the error. I tried everything to delete the California school and insert the Illinois one with no luck. So I moved on.

I uploaded pictures and in no time had three placed that I liked. I was especially pleased with my cover photo—my mother and me in Bar Harbor, Maine when I was a toddler.

Mom at Acadia

Mom at Acadia

As I worked on through the categories of information about myself that I could rocket into cyberspace, I began to feel a sense of unease. Call me old fashioned, but I felt a little uncomfortable revealing my religious and political preferences or my likes and dislikes on most subjects except butter beans—a virulent dislike that I insist the world know about. I took a pass on most of the other stuff too. So at this point I was feeling pictorially inadequate and self-disclosure impotent.

Next I was given the opportunity to write about myself. I thought about that. I never invented anything or cured any diseases. A Nobel Prize isn’t in the offing as far as I know—neither Rush nor Barak call much anymore. I never created any sort of masterpiece in any medium. And I’ve got a rash right here that comes and goes with a mind of its own. There wasn’t anything I could think of about me that anyone would be interested in so I took a pass on that too. I was about to scroll to the next box when the doorbell rang. On the way downstairs I passed a mirror in the hall and noticed I had no reflection.

The next day, refreshed and undaunted, I set about to correct my missteps and failures to navigate my home page. I wasn’t going to let it destroy my sense of competency and self-worth not to mention the disappearance of my image in a mirror. And the whole thing started as an experiment to see what it had to offer since it seems the whole world is using it. Even people in Pago Pago, wherever that is, are on Facebook and they still have to climb palm trees to get coconut for their macaroons. Who wants to be left out?

Frustrated again, I sat back, sighed then chucked the whole thing. I spent too many hours trying to navigate around the thing without understanding it. It was like getting poked in the eye with a stick and who needs that? Besides, I can’t imagine why anyone would care to know my some of my personal stuff anyway—high school—really? So there I am, back where I was at the beginning of this experiment, with the world not knowing beans about me.

I decided to cut the cyber cord and keep my “self” tethered mostly to the real world—and a feeling of relief washed over me. I feel better now that the insidious thing is out of my life. I wonder if I’m too old for Facebook. I think I am but not because it is beyond my comprehension. I’m an intelligent man and know I could figure it out and put together a nice page. It’s patience. I don’t have the patience any more to hammer away at something in which I have no compelling need or interest.

Good luck to you Facebookers. Maybe you know something I don’t.

Best wishes,


P.S. I passed a mirror on my way to the kitchen to top off my coffee and there I was again. I feel all better now.

A recovering educator, Doug Elwell spends most days writing, reading about writing and thinking about writing. His work occasionally appears on True Stories Well Told. Doug can be contacted via email at: djelwell@mchsi.com.

© Doug Elwell, 2013

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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