Unfortunately I cannot accompany this article with a photograph of an elephant pinning me to the floor with its massive foot because when it actually happened my husband didn’t think to pick up the camera. Let me explain. We were at an elephant show in Thailand when the, er, ringmaster asked for a volunteer. A stony silence fell among the crowd and after a while it got a bit embarrassing. Frankly, I felt sorry for the elephants who were standing round shuffling their feet and looking awkward. I don’t know whether it was that, or maybe I was thinking about Facebook when I slowly raised my hand. Possible new profile pic? Status upgrade?
“And now our volunteer will lie face down on the ground and get a lovely massage from Jumbo (I am using a pseudonym here because I cannot remember his or her name) First there was a little light slapping of trunk on my back but then a sudden gasp from the audience as the great beast raised its wrecking ball of a foot and brought it down on my spine. It was enough to knock the wind out of me but bearable. Much applause as I went back to my seat.
“Let’s see the picture then?” I asked.
“Oh, sorry,” said Mick, “I didn’t take one”. Now this is where we differ. Over the 10 day period of our holiday, I took, roughly, 250 photographs, mostly of Mick and the kids and some of myself at arm’s length in front of various temples etc. He took, roughly, none. I am going to be generous here and say he did not take the photo, not because he is unthinking or lazy but because he lives in the ‘Now.’ He was able to enjoy the ‘Moment’ of his wife possibly being crushed to death by an elephant without feeling the need to record it for posterity. Whereas I have increasingly come to validate my life through Facebook.
It is interesting that a middle-aged technophobe such as myself feels the need to edit only the good and interesting parts of my life and present them in a polished montage through a social networking site. I Facebook, therefore I am. I am sure this has only come about since I became an ex-pat wife or ‘trailing spouse’, if you will. (I always have this image of Mick dragging me along by the hair when I hear that.) Have I lost my identity? Am I trying to create a new one?
I read about a teenager in Thailand who crashed her car and killed a man and had updated her status on Facebook before the police arrived at the scene. I’m not that bad yet, I hope. Though perhaps I should make my profile page a bit more representative of my real life here in Mumbai by including a picture of all the human excrement I had to jump over when I took a wrong turn on my morning run in Aarey Colony today. Or mention in my status that I watched a man get beat up by the police until he confessed to stealing my phone. (I had to withdraw the accusation to stop the beating.)
On the whole, I do believe Facebook is a good thing for us ex-pats as it keeps us in touch with friends and family and allows me to cyber stalk neighbours and acquaintances when I feel like it. Though perhaps I shouldn’t feel envious of their lives as I study pictures of them building snowmen and tucking into fish and chips on Brighton Seafront because you never know what they’re not putting on.