Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The new Love Generation

I love facebook.

Not primarily for myself, although it has been invaluable for making new contacts and organising the filmmaking which seems to have taken over what used to be a literary and solitary life.

No, not for myself.

Of course there are many, many ways to waste time on facebook; it’s all too easy to spend 15, 30, 40 minutes following up threads of comment or reading responses to jokes. I understand why some people might consider facebook a dangerous phenomenon, keeping young people glued to computer screens – addicted to endless, trivial gossip.

But I wonder if even those young people truly appreciate the gift they’ve been given. I am in contact with perhaps two dozen students, and through them I catch glimpses of their friends and their lives – and it’s for what it has given them (and thus indirectly me, suppose) that I love facebook.

Myspace is just too…claustrophobic somehow. The beauty of facebook is its clean simplicity – it is primarily for communication, not display. It’s an entirely new form of community. And rather than distracting its users from the real world, it seems to me it enhances their experience of and interaction with the other community - the physical one. So many of the messages exchanged by my younger friends are about meeting up, going out, supporting contemporaries in shows or exhibitions – living, in short. (And this is to say nothing of the many events that would pass me by completely without this kind of information exchange)

But there is something even more important on display than the complete normality of this generation’s social life.

There is love. Over and over and over again, I have been struck by how closely bonded these youngsters are, how easily they share jokes and fears and hopes and dreams – and most of all how they rush to comfort or reassure or support any of their friends who seem to be faltering. Of course there are some unkind comments, outbursts of anger – but these seem very much the exception. And this generosity of spirit seems to extend to a far wider circle than anything I remember in the common rooms of my own youth. Maybe it’s the girls – maybe facebook is the perfect showcase for the talent women have for easy intimacy and selfless emotional openness. Maybe this generation of boys are different to mine.

I don’t know exactly what it is. But this gift, this community, will go with them even when they separate and make new friends in University; they will always, with a couple of clicks, be able to talk to not just one of their friends, but a whole group of them at once, to catch up and re-affirm their affection for one another. And to discuss the new Doctor Who.

I sincerely hope I will remain friends with all of them. I want to continue to experience (even peripherally) that warm-heartedness, that wit, that intelligence…that occasionally baffling slang. But even if I do lose touch – it’s been a genuine privilege to share this much. Thank you all.

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