Hi everyone! So glad you’re here visiting Austen Authors! I am a longtime lover of JAFF primarily because of how my incessant time-travel trips make me reflect on the values and ideas I hold dear in my decidedly modern times. For example, once upon a reading, I sighed and thought:
“Man, how cool would it be to have servants?”
Then the reality of strange people touching me, dressing me, cooking for me . . . and I shudder. I raise an eyebrow at my husband’s cooking; he always adds too much pepper for my tastes! Nope. I’m just hunky-dory with my Mr. Vacuum and Miss Dishwasher and The Washer/Dryer siblings.
The concept of mass media was just becoming a normal staple of everyday life in the early 1800s. Newspapers received news from all over the globe, albeit at the speed of a ship, but still, it was likely just as novel to get that much information as it was the first time I clicked my AOL to sign on and my modem made that god-awful noise! Why? Why did NO ONE come up with a better noise than THAT??!?!?
In many JAFF stories, the society papers are THE source for who was out with whom, who was engaged, married, etc. Gossip, intrigue, and initials galore! It was part soap opera, part cryptic puzzle!
Living in the States, there is a newspaper where I live, but hubby and I do not subscribe. Honestly, it feels wasteful, not money-wise, no, there its a bargain, I just mean in the trash it creates. Even the online edition I must admit I mostly ignore unless there’s school closings. And the society papers/classified ads? Nope. Don’t read those either.
No, I have Facebook.
Facebook tells me who changed their status from single or to single, who had a baby, who went to what concert, movie, or event, and who is getting divorced. Yes, many of my friends are online acquaintances and I have learned about more divorces from a Facebook post than I have from an in-person or phone conversation. And I’ll be honest, when someone has some major stuff going on, I stalk a little. I lurk. I read and don’t always comment.
Like the gossip column of Jane Austen’s time, some unknown force decides who is and who is NOT worth space on my Timeline to fill me in on the latest dirt.
And let’s not forget vaguebooking.
Vaguebooking is when someone posts a juicy status with no details so your imagination runs wild with possibilities. Example, if I wrote “So sad, major life changes happened today, can’t say more. Prayers needed,” people will express empathy and all ask a question to try to rule out their idea. “Oh no, is it Mr. Fluffles? Did the vet visit not go well?” or “Hugs! Call me if you need anyone to talk to (which really means, I’m dying to know the scoop), is everyone ok?” No, it’s not quite as direct as Lady A attended the theatre with Mr. W of C-shire, but it’s fairly close!
This year marked a first for me. I attended a party I was solely invited to attend via Facebook for another child’s birthday. My daughter doesn’t get many invitations to birthday parties because she has quirks (she falls under a special education program here in the States), and social interactions is one area she struggles. I actually didn’t even hear about the party until AFTER the RSVP date (completely the fault of that invisible Almack’s of Facebook that decides who I do and do not get to dance with), and had to private message the mom to apologize. Now, some would find this an utter tragedy that our social manners have degraded to party invitations by Facebook. But I don’t mind. Manners are the respect we give to others and I certainly wasn’t offended to be thought of in our society that moves information faster than nanoseconds. And the party was great!
So yes, perhaps Facebook does behave a little like the gatekeepers of the London Ton in my life. And don’t forget, when you make a new friend on Facebook, it’s polite to pay a call to their Timeline and say “Hello.” The button click was just leaving one’s card. 🙂