Birthdays in the Digital Age

I read all of those little birthday notes folks post on Facebook… and reply to each one. It’s not an algorithim. I don’t cut and paste, I read, I note, I appreciate. It’s a flood of love, and memory, and stories. Folks trickle in from the folds of time, a wrinkle in the pattern of reality that puts Race Bannon and Pete Lazretti on the same screen. I am sitting in a panel at Kink LINCS in Seattle, discussing the politics and play of titleholders in the Leather community. I am standing against a wall wearing a red pvc catsuit with a drink in hand, flirting with Klingons. Time folds. It is 1996. It is 2013.

Birthdays in the digital age. I got a handful of lovely text messages. I got to talk with my father (and because it was Thanksgiving and they were all together, my grandmother and uncle as well). I had a delightful conversation with my mother, who I always call to say “Thank you for taking the effort/pain/etc to birth me.” I got a few amazing presents from folks off of my wishlist. I got to spend a quiet Thanksgiving/Birthday/First Day of Hannukah at home with my Sweetie, cooking half a turkey, green beans, cabbage, garlic mash potatoes, yams. She made me pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting. But the bulk of birthday contact came through Facebook.

geek-cakeIt’s strange. A little icon in the top left corner of a screen tells us of birthdays. Windows pop up to say that someone is in relationship. My “feed” tells me that a friend has died.

Does social make us more social, or more automated? I blink and find funny cats. I blink and see a friend whose house burned, and folks are trying to raise funds for her.

I’m torn, as someone with a tribe that stretches around the globe. I realized recently that even if I hit a different city every week, I would not be able to see all of my friends even every 2 years. Even if they drove a few hours or more to come to where I fly in. They are around the globe. My skin aches for the laughter and wisdom of Dylan, for the deep conversations of JD, for Mitch and I talking into each others’ spirit. Edmonton, San Francisco, Phoenix. I want Deborah and I to eat at a table discussing life, Hunter and I to consume gelatto and discuss death, Raven and I to cut up vegetables and discuss nothing at all. Oakland, Melbourne, the middle of nowhere in Massachusetts. There are not enough days.

And yet, this series of electrons brings me voices across time and space. Yes, I miss them, but a note of laughter from on high brings a smile to me, and there is Kwei-Cee before me, even if we have not sung together in well over a decade. There is Paige, and we’re back on camera… all of together, before things changed. Everything keeps changing. And yet – we are on here, the pixels spelling out the time past, the time passed, the time we have each taken along out paths.

It is argued that we have lost the art of spending time together. We know the details of people’s recipes from last night’s feast, but we don’t know how they are doing. We know that their pet is sick, but they don’t even know our name. They just “like” and move forward with life.

But it is a breath when I miss you.

My use of social media is shifting again. When I have lived alone, or spent time alone sharing space with other very busy people, I reached out a lot. Let me not be alone. Let someone else see that I did work today. Let me share a laugh with friends around the world. Let me not be alone. But living with someone day in and day out, and where, gosh, I am learning to take time off (we’ll see how I do with that)… either way I see my sweetie every day, and we catch up on each others lives every night, if not more often. I have someone I am sharing those moments of fear with. I have someone that I am sharing the little moments where  reach out, where I ask that I not be alone.

She is not my only source mind you… I reach out to others. But I have found that as of late I am reaching out in a directed manner. I call up a friend. I sit with myself (which has been profound). I brain-dump with a co-project human. I have, in short, been out of touch with my digital tribe. I’m not yet sure how I feel about this – but this wave of birthday notes has me thinking about it. Because those breaths of fresh air, those folds in time – they made a difference in my life. I feel blessed to have you, to have this, to be part of this digital tribe.

Time passes and it is another year. Same lifetime, even if I can see other lifetimes in the mirror. I look at the blanket in the corner though, and it is an anchor to which lifetime I am in. This one. The one with the lopsided haircut that needs fixed, the one where I am living in the frozen north, the one where soup is simmering on the stove, the one where friends are getting together tonight. I am in this one. The one where my legal/bio age makes no sense (each year I keep hoping it will make more sense, but the number of years still does not match up to my life experience and self-vision). I am in this one.

Another dance around the sun. A dance into the electrons. A dance, with both feet on the ground.


If so moved…



Lee Harrington

Lee Harrington is an internationally known sexuality, relationships, and personal authenticity educator. Having taught in all 50 states and in 6 countries, he brings a combination of playful engagement and thoughtful academic dialogue to a broad audience. An award-winning author and editor on gender, sexual, and sacred experience, his books include “Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Journeys,” and "Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond," among many other titles. He has been blogging online since 1998, and been teaching worldwide since 2001. Welcome to his world, and your chance to expand your mind and heart alike.

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