Newsletters and Reunions
A newsletter used to come from my graduate school department twice a year. The front of the newsletter was information about the program — visiting writers, major accomplishments of faculty — but anyone could add an update about their life to the back page of the letter. Most of them were announcements about novels or poetry books, but sometimes people mentioned random life stuff like getting married or having kids or moving or a particularly memorable evening of getting drunk. There seemed to be few guidelines for what was back page worthy.
I loved reading this newsletter, and it even moved me to travel eight hours to go back to campus for a Grace Paley reading. And then it stopped. I guess the department decided it wasn’t the best use of anyone’s time since it only came out twice a year and Facebook held those sorts of announcements in real time, every single day.
I miss the newsletter.
I didn’t go to my last high school reunion for the same reason. Everyone I wanted to know about was reachable via Facebook or Twitter or their blog. But those first two reunions at the five-year and ten-year mark? I loved hearing what everyone was doing, where everyone had ended up. There was something about getting a clump of information, a deluge of news in one evening, that felt different to the here-and-now; the drips and drabs of updates and pictures and announcements in a scrolling feed.
Atlas Obscura had an article a while back about Chap Records and the switch from courting (in which the families of the two people arranged their meeting and hopeful marriage) to dating (in which random people met and decided whether they liked each other enough to spend eternity together). Chap Records, in this case, were small books where women could write about their male suitors. (Presumably, everyone in ye olden days only liked the opposite sex.)
But towards the bottom of the article, the writer talks about the contents of the remaining Chap Records:
Perhaps most telling about the Chap Records that survive on the dusty shelves of the small museums throughout the country are just how unexciting they are. The entries are always brief, seemingly rushed, the work of people who feel obligated to write something but can’t quite muster up the enthusiasm. As such, they reveal only unimportant slivers of the writers.
The Facebook memories feature bubbles up my old updates from random years, and while some of them are funny things that the twins said as babies, most of them are boring reminders of old blog post links or notes about something I ate. Why did I post these things in the first place? Because I feel obligated to write something when there is really no obligation at all?
Whereas here, in my own space, I think I provide something a little deeper than the online equivalent of the high school reunion/dinner with current friends. At least, while I don’t go back and re-read many posts, my perception (perhaps just due to the number of words?) is that it goes a little deeper than whatever ends up on Facebook.
I think, even if it’s a short post — only one sentence long — it still feels a little deeper over here. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m more comfortable in my own space, or if blogs feel less like a Facebook, a space where I write something because I have the account and I should probably fill it out.