The glories of being out-of-date
I’m not dead yet
It’s the worst time of year to be a cyclist. In fact, it’s the worst time of year to be a Canadian, unless you’re one of those wrong-headed people who actually enjoy winter.
Yes, I know that I’ve claimed in past columns that I love riding down ice-covered roads, my tailored tights flecked with salty grime and my moustache frozen solid. But I was lying. Once the charm of the first snowfall has faded (about 30 minutes after it stops falling), I hate winter. I continue to hate it until the last of the spring runoff has trickled down the storm sewers.
So what do I do at this time of year? I spend inordinate amounts of time online, browsing hither and yon, looking at bikes I can’t afford and don’t deserve to ride, checking the prices of waterfront properties from Palm Beach to Lake Como, and in general falling prey to the incredible time-wasting powers of the Internet.
For all my time spent online, however, almost none is devoted to social media. Anyone who has tried to look me up will find scant evidence of the full and merry life I lead. A few years back, when I started writing this column, I did join Twitter. I sent a total of two tweets, and within a couple of days I had eight followers. This is more people than I know in real life, so I considered the experiment a success, and I never sent another tweet.
For reasons I can’t recall, I joined Instagram last year but I’ve never looked at it, so I should probably cancel my account before someone hijacks it and damages my good name by posting the falsified adventures of Cranky.
Likewise Facebook. I joined in 2012 when my kids were born. I posted occasionally for a couple of months, but the novelty quickly wore off. These days, one post every two years would be a generous estimate of my activity.
A few weeks ago, a long-lost cousin of mine from the U.K. was in Canada on short notice for the weekend. I haven’t seen him since we were kids, but I was delighted when he contacted me through Facebook Messenger. I replied. The next day we were across a table from each other at a Chinese restaurant, sharing a large plate of General Tao chicken and catching up on the past 40 years. The chicken, I must say, was delicious.
“It’s great to see you,” he said between bites. “Though I have to say, you look a bit older than your profile picture.”
Cheeky blighter, I thought to myself, while conceding that he was right. My profile photo is an image of me on the starting line of a bike race in 2012, when I was fitter, thinner and far more full of the optimism of middle-age than I am today.
Then he said something more alarming.
“I looked at your Facebook activity and I saw that you last posted in 2017. I did actually wonder if you were – well, if something had happened to you. Then I decided that someone probably would have told me if you were dead.”
“Something did happen to me, matey,” I replied. “And someone should have told you. I had kids and stopped engaging with t he outside world.”
He nodded, scooped up another piece of sticky fried chicken. The conversation moved on to Brexit, the Royal Family and a long discussion on the restorative properties of the Yorkshire pudding.
But his comment – that he thought I was dead – stuck with me, possibly because I j ust t urned 52, and I realize that I’m more than halfway through my life and I’ve achieved none of my aspirations (aside from being published in this magazine, of course). Or perhaps I wonder whether I actually am alive if my life is not visible through social media. Maybe
I’m like the tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it.
These are deep philosophical musings, and I’m certain I won’t find any answers before the end of this column, so let me turn my attention to a more practical matter: the fact that my Facebook photo is so woefully out of date.
I should change it, so why don’t I? If I’m honest, I want to believe that I’m still that mighty masters racer, poised to capture glory in the top 30 places of a local Ontario road race. And if that’s what the world sees of me online, then that must be reality. So I will choose to protect that reality, however steep the price – even if it means never going out for General Tao chicken again.