A little late in life and in my career, I guess I should confess to being a peeping tom.
Well, not exactly. More of a voyeur.
It’s something I have always known: Being a journalist, you tend to spend your life watching others live theirs. You watch and document people living, doing great things, committing crimes, running, working, flying, speeding, crashing, loving, hating and dying.
Many journalists do this and this only. At least I have occasionally made the effort to be a participant. In the old days, I as often as possible participated. I flew a paraplane. I operated a speedboat. I learned to rappel. I took part in numerous police operations, from routine tactical patrols to dangerous arrests in the middle of the night, to early morning or late evening drug raids — and in the end, I did the other part of my job, I wrote about them.
Despite all that first-person participation, I nevertheless was watching, always watching, which is what journalists — and voyeurs — do.
These days, I do less participatory journalism. Fears of lawsuits and liability keep law enforcement agencies from permitting people like me from going along on raids and such. And, at 68, I’m not rappelling from 50-foot-towers anymore, thank you very much.
Watching, however, seems to have gotten easier. All I have to do is log on to Facebook.
There I can see who’s leaving an old job or starting a new one. I know when friends have babies and when others have grandchildren. I know which friends are on the narrow ledge, just one step away from becoming cat ladies.
I know when loved ones die, when relationships end, when birthdays are celebrated, when spouses do really nice things for each other.
I know who spends all their time online playing Facebook games and who doesn’t want to be bothered with requests to join in.
Sometimes, I can tell when someone is drunk.
I have a slew of Facebook friends, many of whom are ACTUAL friends, but I’m not the kind of guy who spends a lot of time with my friends, so Facebook enables me to stay in touch. It also provides a way to communicate without feeling the need for a bunch of meaningless small talk. You can say what you mean without hemming and hawing, in and out, quick and done.
When I ended my newspaper career, hundreds of people conveyed kind messages and generous views of my work to me via Facebook.
When I started my online career shortly thereafter, the same folks offered messages of encouragement.
So as the year draws to a close, I realize that I should come clean: I am a voyeur and it’s grand knowing all about you.
Now if you’d just do something scandalous, that would be icing on the cake.