Friday, January 28, 2011

Online to Offline: Can Online Friendship Be Real?

A man (not sure about women) usually reaches a certain age when it becomes difficult to make friends, unless of course you are in a job that requires you to make friends (maybe security intelligence?). In fact when I think of it, after college, the friends that I have made have mostly been work related, either because we worked for the same company or our work brought us together. And when I started having a family of my own, dividing my time between my wife and kids and my employer made it even more difficult to have friends. I have actually moved in and out of a few neighborhoods over the last few years and each time I have moved, I have discovered that I am hardly leaving any friends behind.

The art of making new friendships have however been given a new dimension by social networking. At first, I was not enthusiastic about social networking and saw it as another of those internet inventions that is designed to take away valuable time that I could have been spending reading or doing something more meaningful. In fact, I argued a lot about the notion of actually meeting people online and thinking that it could lead to any meaningful offline relationships. No guessing then for my feelings about online dating and the likes. After a lot of encouragement from a friend, I got into MySpace sometimes in 2006 and after a few weeks I had even forgotten my log in details. I was then harangued my a number of friends and eventually got into Facebook sometimes in 2008. What Facebook did however was to bring up all the school and college friends I had even forgotten ever existed. Suddenly I was having friend requests from people I had not even thought about for 15 years. It helped renew some old acquaintances but for a majority of these, after the first greetings we have barely communicated except wish one a happy birthday when Facebook reminds you it is their birthday. So I wonder whether it is really worth it in the first place. For me, Facebook is more about maintaining friendships not making some new ones. Sometimes people you don’t know will send you a friend request but I am never sure whether to ignore or accept.

Last year, after reading about all the hype about twitter, I decided to give it a try. After a few days I almost gave up but once I found interesting people to follow and learned what retweeting meant and how to shorten url links, I found it was actually more interesting than Facebook, that is in times of meeting new interesting people. Unlike Facebook where you have to accept friend request before you know this stranger who has decided to connect with you, with twitter, you just followed someone, decided it was not worth it and promptly unfollowed. Within time you actually start making conversations with people whose interests cross with yours. I was thus actually surprised when I found myself actually meeting some of the friends I made online and that turned my earlier belief that you cannot make offline connections with people you meet online.

I still believe that online connections should largely remain online (I am conservative like that) but if perchance you think you have made some interesting connections that can go offline, why not?

"Real friendship is exchanging secrets, rolling over like a puppy and exposing the soft underbelly. You tell your friend the truth, and you feel the friendship growing - like a bank account - with each upfront opinion you give, with each honest answer you hear." - Adair Lara, Cosmopolitan

A former schoolmate recently posted this photo, which we took about 19 years ago, on Facebook and tagged us. Suddenly characters emerged after 19 years to post comments. That is what Facebook can do. I will of course not point out who is me on the photo.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Points to Ponder – My Take 3 on Staying Married

“You need to ask yourself whether you want to be right or stay married”, one of my friends remarked as four grown up men discussed marriage experiences while observing pigs on a pig farm. We all had interesting takes on how our marriages have survived and how our parents have stayed married for what seems like an eternity while we divorce left, right and center every other day. This was good advice to me as I grew up believing that I was born never to lose an argument, a belief that has fortunately been tampered by age now. Nevertheless I have still been known to try to prove that I am right when I get into an argument with Janet! I did not mention it then (maybe for fear of sounding like a sissy) but for me, there are three quotations/phrases that I learned some times that I have always held dear when it comes to the “business” of being married. I don’t necessarily practice them faithfully but so far I think they have served me well (maybe my wife could be thinking otherwise?). And they form my points to ponder for this week:

“Most people get married believing a myth – that marriage is a beautiful box full of the things they have longed for. Companionship, sexual fulfillment, intimacy, friendship. The truth is that marriage, at the start, is an empty box. You must put something in before you take anything out. There is no love in marriage; love is in people and people put it into marriage; people have to infuse it into their marriages.

A couple must learn the art and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising – keeping the box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty.” – J. Allan Petersen (Homemade)

The second passage:

“When I was in college, one of the professors said to us, his students, ‘the secret of successful marriage is this: marriage is not a 50/50 proposition. A 50/50 proposition is one where nobody is giving anything.

‘Rather, the secret of a happy marriage is 60/40. The husband gives 60% of the time and expects the wife to give 40% of the time. The wife gives in 60% of the time and expects the husband to give in 40% of the time. In a 60/40 proposition, you don’t clash in the middle and say, “now it’s your turn”. Instead you intersect and overlap because you are each giving 60%’” – Robert Scinller, Be an Extraordinary Person in an Ordinary World (Fleming Revell)

And finally:

“Those who want to become happy should not marry. The important thing is to make the other one happy. Those who want to be understood should not marry. The important thing is to understand one’s partner.” Hermann Oeser

And that is all I have to say on that before I start getting mistaken for a marriage counselor!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Imani Finally Goes To Class, But No Shaving Off The Dreadlocks!

She had been excited for the better part of the month, especially after Christmas, knowing that she will be joining big sister in school. Not that Imani had any idea of what school is like, but to her the whole idea of a bus picking her up in the morning and returning her home in the afternoon like her sister is what was exciting to her. My thoughts about school are well documented HERE (and of course everybody knows that I feel nothing much towards exams as well)but nonetheless for the sake of peace I have had to take them to school at an early age. Anyway, I digress, so, last Tuesday was Imani's first day in school and though these pictures don't reflect her excitement, she was as excited as I will see her in a long time.

Tamia gets ready to take her little sister to school

I don't recall my days in nursery school but I have often been told that when I was first taken to primary school, I ran away from school on that very first day! A few canes from my mother ensured that I stayed in school (and I think I spent the next 12 years in class because of the looming threat of punishment). It is now 30 years since that day and Imani follows in my footstep!

Imani ready for the ride to school

I heard she cried on the first day because she wanted to be in the same class as her class 2 sister. Today morning she cried insisting that she wanted her sister's books. Sometime I try to explain that they are in two different classes, about 4 years apart, at times I give up and hope the mother will sort it out. For now she finally understands that she needs to be in a different class but the fight over books and diaries will continue for some time.

Finally in class

There has been messages brought home by her older sister that we need to get rid of Imani's dreadlocks, they are not allowed in school. I want to see how long we can get away with ignoring that...what has hair got to do with learning?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year, New Attitude!

"How strange it is, our little procession of life! The child says, 'when I am a big boy'. But what is that? The big boy says, 'when I grow up.' And then, grown up he says, 'when I get married'. But to be married, what is that after all? The thought changes to 'when I am able to retire.' And then when retirement comes, he looks back over the landscape traversed; a cold wind seems to sweep over it; somehow he has missed it all, and it is gone. Life, we learn too late, is in the living, in the tissue of everyday and hour."

I got this passage (Stephen Leacock) from an old note book today and it seems like the perfect point to ponder on in setting the tone for the new year. I am not a new year resolutions type of person because somehow they just never work for me. I prefer to think more in terms of general philosophies and say that this is what I want to embrace in the coming year. And for 2011, the idea is to do away with any excuses and just get on with living and doing stuff that I will always have an excuse for postponing. No more waiting to save money, waiting to get in shape, waiting for the right the Nike slogan says, I will JUST DO IT! And folks that is my resolution for the new year.

At the beginning of 2010, I wrote about changing the nature of my blog, writing for myself. Did it succeed? I don't know but it suddenly made my blogging better! And on that note it has been wonderful having you all on my blog in 2010, and likewise I have discovered and enjoyed so many blogs! I hope for more in 2011!!