We skipped Halloween this year. There are people who celebrate it in Italy, but it’s more of an American fad, not a culturally entrenched tradition. Not one person has asked my children what they’re going to “be,” nor have I seen a sudden overabundance of pumpkins appear at the supermarket. The good (bad) news is, in Italy nobody seems to need an excuse for giving my children candy. Everyone, from little old ladies to policemen to shopkeepers, has a stash of caramelli in a pocket or purse, ready to be relinquished to children. And there’s no need to beg or threaten tricks. Candy is practically pressed upon them from random strangers everywhere, every day of the year.
Aside from the sugar, I don’t really mind. In the United States, I would never have let a stranger give my child candy. But here . . . I don’t know. I guess Italy has softened my inborn cultural paranoia. I don’t think so much here about how the world is an Inherently Dangerous Place, and strangers Should Never Be Trusted. In Italy, it’s considered acceptable (even healthy!) to tell all your feelings and problems to the stranger sitting next to you on the park bench (and I guess I should mention that it’s also perfectly normal for the stranger to be sitting next to you on the park bench in the first place).
Maybe I’m just losing my grip on that American passion for privacy. Because in spite of whatever warnings my kind non-facebooking friends have given me, I also haven’t yet dismantled my Facebook account. (Perhaps this is somehow related to the fact that I let you all read my journal every day too.) Yes, I know that Facebook has already stolen all my information and given it to their friends and business partners. And even if I ever do escape their clutches and manage to delete my account, they will still keep all my secrets stashed away and sue me if I expose their nefarious plots. I know. I just don’t care.
I do wonder about Facebook’s definition of friendship, though. What exactly is a friend? Do I really have 250 of them? And do some people I know have thousands? I suppose Facebook may be using Merriam Webster’s second definition, “one who is not hostile.” But doesn’t that fall a little short of Aristotle’s “single soul dwelling in two bodies?” (And don’t worry, if you’re reading this, please know that I consider reading someone’s blog to be the clearest mark of true and abiding friendship.)
I guess I think a lot about friendship, because when you move often, making new friends is a constant necessity. And sometimes it seems that friendships really do depend more on the accidents of time and space than on a profound meeting of the minds. Or is it just that I sense that some of those deep friendships I’ve sought have remained potentialities because we moved before they could develop into something more? Does Facebook really help me get to know those amazing people I met in passing and wanted to make my friends? Does it rekindle old friendships, or just remind us as we watch each other’s status flicker by, how far apart we’ve grown? And whose fault is it then? Have I let Facebook convince me that poking you, writing Happy Birthday on your wall, or watering your Farmville garden is the equivalent of nurturing a relationship? Is Facebook letting me down, or do I just need to be a better friend?
I don’t know. Someone told me the other day that half of the daily page-loads on the Worldwide Web are in Facebook, so it must be filling a valuable niche. But I do have one more little bone to pick with them. Lately I’ve been having some strange dreams about people I haven’t seen for years. And I know where they’re coming from. Maybe it’s time to take those privacy concerns a little more seriously. Did I miss the fine print that allows Facebook to run random applications in my brain?