In 2004 I was in London to accept a Commonwealth award for a short film I had created. While there, I met two other awardees – a film making couple (Vandana from India, Timothy from Sri Lanka). Our instant bonding and lively conversation over dinner inspired us to keep in touch, creating connections that exist to this day. While I subsequently saw Vandana again (she spent a few weeks with me in Trinidad one Christmas/New Year), Timmy’s life took a huge turn months after we met. On Boxing Day 2004 he was in Sri Lanka when the deadly tsunami hit.
Thankfully he survived, becoming somewhat of a hero when he and a friend walked for miles through debris, the skin of their bare feet stripped to raw flesh as they carried various suffering and injured people to safety.
As soon as he was able to, Tim started a blog on a platform called Blogger. Sharing the blog link with friends, he was able to update us easily on his post-tsunami experiences. Prior to that, what little I knew of blogs left me wondering: “Why do people keep posting photos of what they ate for lunch or breakfast?” or “Why do I need to know what this random person did today?”
Blogging started making sense to me only when I began reading Timothy’s meaningful posts. Soon I was inspired to start a blog of my own, documenting creative ventures and personal life observations and philosophies. Every day, after pre-dawn yoga, followed by a long walk, I would return home to write a blog post. I loved writing about projects and perspectives and enjoyed the local/international connections formed with others, some of whom I met in person and know to this day.
When I moved to Tobago in 2012, my blogging frequency slowed down dramatically and petered out in 2018...partly because of the largely non-existent wifi signal on the coast in Goodwood where I lived in my first year here...and partly because (as a friend once predicted): “One day Facebook will take over from your blog.”
I met Facebook while spending two months in Toronto over a decade ago. Almost everywhere I went I would overhear conversations in which the name would pop up with annoying regularity: “Bla bla bla Facebook bla bla Facebook bla Facebook bla bla...” There was no escape. Laughing at my "Facebook bla bla" saturation, my cousin said “Facebook is great. Try it.” It took some months, but one day out of curiosity I signed up to "FB." Initially, I missed friends writing personal e-mails as opposed to updating me (and everyone else at the same time) via FB statuses. It seemed quick, shallow and uncaring, as if life had become too busy to communicate with one-on-one depth. I felt similarly when emails took over from snail mail. Eventually I also got absorbed into the Facebook matrix...writing regular status updates and occasionally posting "food pics" as I became one of those "this was for breakfast/lunch/dinner" people (initially to share raw cuisine techniques with others when I was raw vegan). My friend was right. FB had taken over from my blog. Years later I can’t believe how long I have been on it. It has pros and cons, but generally has become an important "tool" for me in the sharing and promotion of creative projects, yoga and most significantly, animal rescue/adoption. It has enabled the formation of valuable connections with local/global kindred spirits, discovery of/by long lost friends and ease of keeping in touch.
Last week when Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp (all FB-owned) became unavailable due to a global outage, various people went into a frenzy, having become so dependent on these platforms for instant communication. With phones and e-mail still functioning, I did not feel the communication "pinch" as some did. In the break from pings and notifications I completed many offline tasks without distractions.
Others reported baking bread, doing house chores, spending more time with human and animal loved ones, napping/relaxing, reading, being creative, etc. Some who feel anxiety due to constant "pinging" were glad to be free of the pressure to read and respond to messages; others missed the easy communication.
One friend described the blackout as internet covid...unexpectedly shutting down the online world and sending many into panic. What would life be without these platforms? What would be lost? What would be gained?