The Kevin Bacon of the Party

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a social gathering and, faced with explaining your presence, traced your connection through more than two friends/relationships?

    Q: Hey, how do you know Billy?

    A: Oh! Well, I went to college with his roommate from last year, George, who convinced me to join a bocce league that Billy’s current roommate, Seamus, is in. Seamus is right over there. (gesture emphatically at Seamus)

Inevitably, you have a moment where you question yourself. Why ARE you there? Fear not. You are not just an awkward addition to the party; you’re the Kevin Bacon of the situation!

Who is this Kevin Bacon and what does this have to do with parties? You may ask. Well, there’s a trivia game where you connect anyone in Hollywood to Kevin Bacon in 6 steps or fewer. Kevin Bacon is an actor. He was great in the animated feature Balto as the voice of Balto, which my cousin made me watch twice in a row in the theater when we were 11-ish. He is perhaps better known for his work in Footloose, Apollo 13, and Mystic River.

Ok, back to the party. Sure, you’re on the fringe of the group, but without you it would just be another night of the same people! It’s also not totally your fault that this happened.

Back in the day you would have run into our hypothetical friend George on the street on your way to get a bag of hangover curing Hint of Lime tortilla chips, and after enduring the usual post-college random run-in pleasantries, you would have gone back to your couch to watch House Hunters in private. But not in today’s world, oh no, instead you come home and see that George has friended you on Facebook. Facebook complicates everything.

This interconnected online world of ours can put us in some pretty limber real world social situations. I’ve found that when this happens, it’s best to embrace it. Call it out – you’re the Kevin Bacon. You’re there to spice up the convo a little with a new perspective and maybe even accidentally (?) spark a few conflicts. Enjoy it!

So get out there, Kevins. And maybe add another layer into your connection at the next party. I’m going to try to get a real reference to a bocce league into my next one.


It’s Complicated (with) Facebook

Did you ever think back in 2nd grade that the kid picking his nose in the corner would one day be asking you for help with the harvest on his virtual farm? That you’d find out exactly what he thinks of the 3D re-release of the Star Wars series or how excited he is that the Arrested Development movie is actually happening?


Me neither. Facebook is a fascinating beast. I say beast because it turns out that the glossy picture our news feeds paint of each other’s lives might be making us depressed. Unfortunately, this hypothesis makes a lot of sense to me. Has it ever been easier to build a measuring stick for yourself against your hyper-extended peer network? What was once reserved for alumni magazines and the oft New York Times wedding announcement is now just a Facebook newsfeed refresh away.

We watch close and peripheral friends alike post life milestones, amazing travel pictures, instagram-ed images that make even their left thumb appear deeply remarkable. It’s like only watching the movie trailer and comparing that to the full-length film you’re stumbling through.

The implications for the reverse of this phenomenon are interesting as well: could the happy faces we’re cultivating on facebook prevent our friends from reaching out and checking in with us? By only sharing carefully filtered day-to-day information with each other are we cutting off opportunities for real intimacy? Does that potential sense of inferiority prevent us from reaching out to those we see as living “perfect” lives?

I don’t know. I’m not qualified to answer those questions in any kind of linkable, scientific way. I can say that I suspect that these things are happening to us to varying degrees.

If you’re sitting there thinking this sounds familiar but wondering what to do about it, I do have some advice for coming to terms with Facebook:

  • Don’t judge yourself: remember that all we’re seeing is the highlight reel
  • Revel in the moments when you learn something truly remarkable about someone you never would have discovered without this online connection
  • Check in with your friends, no matter how happy they appear to be
  • Laugh out loud at the shared hysteria of the latest cat memes and Daily Show clips
  • “Like” George Takei, seriously, he’s hysterical
  • Remember that we’re all closely curating our posts…and sometimes just making bad booze fueled decisions
  • Sign out, go outside, take a walk

And now I shall step down from my pulpit and see if that kid from 2nd grade got more birthday messages than me…