My Friends

David Walsh | Posted on May 14, 2013

I just made a Facebook friend.

For the most part there is nothing particularly interesting about that. In my case it is unusual, though. In fact, it is unique.

I didn't create my own Facebook account. A close (but often annoying) friend spoofed me, and she knew enough about me to get my password right (meaning I could guess it).

I wasn't the only one who could guess it. Another friend (that proves I have at least two, but not on Facebook) logged on in my name, and randomly befriended a bunch of people before I snatched the iPad out of his hand. He was taunting me. He wouldn't have bothered without some potential for me to discover his misdemeanour.

I never checked my Facebook account, but I didn't delete it (I assume that's possible). I found it came in handy. The smart bastards that built this insidious system hold out access to some parts of Facebook when you are not logged in. And I wanted to know Mona stuff.

A couple of years ago I went to a wedding dinner. My newly nuptialized mates told me what time the dinner was because I didn't commune electronically. Everybody else was told on Facebook. They all turned up an hour late because the time specified on Facebook was wrong. I sat with the bride and groom for an hour, a self-oiling third wheel. It was rather pleasant. But also rather edifying. I discovered that everyone I knew was on Facebook.

Occasionally, very occasionally, it crossed my mind that trying hard not to be like everybody else doesn't really work. It seems okay to be a rugged individualist, but communication, honest communication, isn't just an extension of your own consciousness. It also extends someone else's. You and they, that's the definition of need. No one benefits from being themselves alone.

An ex-girlfriend had a new partner. Some time ago she thought he might be a danger to himself. But, actually, I knew him better than her. He was part of my family. And he wasn't a danger to anyone. In fact, he was kind of lovely. So I ignored her.

Just now, wondering if I failed him, wondering if I’d failed his family, wondering if I'd failed our mutual-ex, I checked my friend requests.

There were 263 of them. Many, perhaps most, were people by the name of David Walsh, and they were recommended by David Walsh. Do people think that coincidental characters, in a coincidental order make one compatible? Does coincidence define character?

But there were people in that list that I like, and love, that I've hardly communicated with for years. And some that I've spent some time with recently, and maybe they don't know my Facebook habits (which might be the habits of a lifetime) and they think I've spurned them. Maybe not taking the time to care, maybe not being suckered into a medium or process that everyone is a part of, maybe that's what spurning is. Maybe, sometimes, you have to sell out to the shysters, to keep your integrity, to maintain your shit.

One of those 263 requests was, as I expected, from Aled Garlick. He was the brother of a man who is my brother’s son, but is nearly my son, because it isn't just biology that makes one a son. But Aled was not my nephew, because my brother died too soon to be his father. He is the son of two people that have other sons, and a daughter, but he will not be less missed because he is not all they have. And he will not be less missed because they have lost before, and because they didn't understand then, and cannot understand now.

He is, too late, my first Facebook friend.

Graffiti wall at Mona's Moonah office

Aled Garlick, 2012


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lydia cavaleri | May 17, 2013 at 09:41 am

Poignant and confrontingly true. Thankyou.

Nemo sibi nascitur

Bob Rutherford | May 20, 2013 at 09:43 am

Thank you David for saying things I would have liked to say but couldn't , can't let out. I was Aled's uncle by marriage. I still love him as an uncle. I was born when boys still had to use fountain pens and learn Latin but I agree with you about the egoism of not using the tool of Facebook.

Tim Lynch | May 14, 2013 at 07:45 pm

The brother of a man who is my brothers son. Ouch that hurts. My uncle was a maths wizz, used to send these types of riddles my way. Only ever really got the hang of the statistically stuff.

Kirsten bacon | May 14, 2013 at 08:19 pm

So sad . So beautifully written . Can't imagine how hard it is for everyone

Romaine Scott | May 14, 2013 at 09:07 pm

David, I am touched to read your words about Aled. He was the sweet, gentle and loving friend of my daughter, Elia Basser. The two of them came together again after a bit of a false start as boyfriend/girlfriend at the Friends School and both are supremely talented artists. At the Theatre of the World opening, Elia modelled while Aled painted her, each of them very comfortable in the other's company.
Their friendship was such that they could spend the evening lying on the floor together in a dark, deserted MONA looking up at the ceiling and breathing in the goodness of the time and place they were in without needing to talk. Both of them possess brilliant, open minds, are honest, trusting and trustworthy and expected the same of others. Life can therefore be hard going for such souls.
Aled and Elia were united in their love and respect for you, David, and spoke of your kindness and generosity. In fact, Elia sends her love from Ireland where she is currently living.
Aled's death is very, very sad for his family, friends (including Facebookers) and all those who came across him. I am glad he became your first Facebook friend. You couldn't have had a better one. I was also so favoured.
Thank you for your blog and honouring the brother of a man who is your brother's son.

Kirsten Oswin Oswald Thow | May 14, 2013 at 08:12 pm

It is a tragic loss for everyone. My heart goes out to everyone that knew him, and his family and friends. What an amazingly talented individual. The world has lost a great artist and friend. May he rest in peace.

Kim Anderson | May 14, 2013 at 09:38 pm

A sad but poignant reminder of what our relationships have become in this virtual world.

Ann Porteus | May 14, 2013 at 09:40 pm

David, I am so sorry for your loss and the loss being so sorely felt by so many of his friends. He is missed and will continue to influence all who knew him. They will remember him and he will live on in them.
Thank you for your beautiful words.

atom | May 15, 2013 at 12:53 am

thanks david for your words xo

Contemporary Art Blogs | May 14, 2013 at 05:40 pm

A lovely piece of writing. Thanks for doing it.

Virginia (Ginni) Allen | May 14, 2013 at 07:07 pm

thanks for the enlightening my reservations and inner confusions with regard to FB, everything has its place in our society, just like email took over the handwritten letter. My thoughts are with you and your wonderful team at this sad time, still it is comforting to have had this remarkable man, cross your lives' paths and for that you are blessed indeed.

Lisa Browning | May 15, 2013 at 05:31 pm