Getting Married And Quitting Facebook

Outside the church after the wedding

On Saturday the 19th of September Tenny and I were married in a small wedding ceremony in Yerevan. We had made a surprise arrival at the church on Armenia’s one and only cycle rickshaw with an entourage of bicycle activists leading and following us through the main streets of the city. After the ceremony we were back in the rickshaw for a few customary laps of Republic Square, before heading to the reception in a quiet part of town overlooking the city.

My parents came to Armenia from England, my brother from Canada and my good friends Beccy and Andy from England and Georgia respectively. It was fantastic to be with them for a couple of weeks – the last time my family was united like this was in a sunny square in Salzburg in July 2007 after I’d spent only a month or so on the road.

Many of Tenny’s family members from Iran and the USA had also made the trip to be there, as well as our friends in Yerevan. The celebration was small, simple and a huge amount of fun.

I’ve been putting off writing about it because the last few weeks have been rather emotional, to say the least. When I set off from England over two years ago, the idea of meeting my future wife on the road hadn’t escaped my dreams. Matters of love are impossible to plan for, and at times it’s been a source of great anguish to reconcile the relationship with my adventuring ambitions, which I cannot deny still play a huge role in my life.

However, we feel that we’ve done the right thing. We’ve announced our devotion and committment to each other, to ourselves and to our families and friends. Now it’s up to us to forge a life together – a prospect both daunting and exciting!

We are now planning to spend the few months until spring wading through the quagmire of post-Soviet bureaucracy to legalise and document our marriage in Armenia, and save and plan for our bicycle journey together, which we hope will begin as soon as winter begins to recede from this part of the world.

In the meantime I will be joining forces with Andy again for a couple of shorter expeditions in the local area, the first of which – an off-road mountain-bike journey through the Greater Caucasus mountains – will begin next week.

I’m sorry I don’t have much more to say about the wedding itself, but here’s why: I was saddened by some of the things that happened (and didn’t happen) in the days before and after the wedding. In particular, it was a bit of a shock to find out that large numbers of photographs of our celebration had made their way onto Facebook before Tenny and I had even returned from our hotel on the day after the wedding. This resulted in a brief flurry of messages from people I’d not heard from for years, nor honestly had ever really expected to hear from again, before the photos disappeared off the bottom of people’s Facebook’s homepages, and all fell silent.

Conversely, I’d heard nothing from many of the people who I’d considered my closest friends from back home in England. It reminded me how distant my life had become from those I left behind, and made me wonder how much I’d really succeeded when I set off with the plan to try and share my adventures with everyone back home by writing this blog.

I am disappointed at the vacuous mess that Facebook has made of social etiquette. I’m sure nobody meant to cause offence, but it’s not a good sign when people you don’t know very well see fit to publish to the world numerous unedited photos of one of the most personal days of your life. It’s a kind of frenzy, like shouting in a crowded room, to put as much of our and our friends’ and associates’ lives online as possible, but what’s the point?

Cards and messages flooded in from my older relatives and family friends who had been unable to attend, but my peer group was conspicuously silent. There was no Facebook ‘event’ for the wedding – has this become a prerequisite if you want people to remember what for you is an important date?

I feel that rather than ‘connecting people’ as they are meant to, these ‘social networks’ have largely done the opposite, reducing our perception of our friends’ lives to an endless list of status messages and dodgy photo albums, and disconnecting us from their real significance and meaning.

I don’t want to give the impression that the celebrations were ruined by this – they weren’t. It’s been a frantic and fantastic few weeks. At the end of it all, I resolved to take something positive from this small but upsetting experience – namely, that I would make sure to pay due attention to my friends’ and family’s affairs and concerns, no matter how distant they might seem to be, so as not to become guilty of being distracted from what really matters.

Or maybe I’m just being over-sensitive. What do you think?

10 Responses to “Getting Married And Quitting Facebook”

  1. Cezar

    I was married Saturday and the usual flurry of photos were up the next day. I saw nothing wrong with it. I do believe you are being over sensitive. Unedited photos are life. It's documentary. This will sound harsh, but if you didn't want there to be photos of the wedding online, then you should have not allowed photography except your own.

    People like to share with others, and they gain enjoyment from it. They connection may not be as deep, but they are connection.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Hi Cezar. Thanks for your comments. I'm sure you'll agree that each person has the right to his or her privacy if he or she wishes. Unedited photos may well be life, but they can also be hurtful and inappropriate.

      I guess that depends on the person in question – maybe you don't mind all aspects of your life being published to to the world, but I am sure that I'm not the only one who has a problem with it in certain situations. Just because technology makes it possible doesn't mean it's the right thing to do on a moral level.

      Luckily Facebook makes it possible to remove these unwanted links. It's just a shame that the situation had to arise in the first place!

      Reply
  2. Matt

    Firstly congratulations. As a recently married man as well I empathize with the pleasure of having those you care about share in such a special day.

    About facebook it depends entirely on how you use it. Personally it is a place to share things like photos with those of my friends who use facebook and the fact that acquaintances also see them is a side effect. I am in the same position as you that it is acquaintances who I hear from on facebook rather than friends.

    When you say you your plan with traveling was to share your adventures with your friends, maybe you have lost some on the way, which is sad, but think of those you have made including the one you are now going to share the rest of your journey and your life with.

    I hope this post wasn't too serious. It is part of life that as people grow they grow apart from some friends and closer to others. Facebook is a mess so perhaps letter and e-mail writing should be more important to those closest to you.

    Congratulations again and I hope that your journeys and life with Tenny are truly wonderful. To finish a quote from a prayer which always seemed apt for your journey

    "May the road rise up to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face"

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Thanks for these kind words Matt. The post was an observation on the effect of social networks on real-life relationships and social standards. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the internet is going to affect the lives of those who use it. There is always going to be a conflict between what's made possible by the newest technology and what's acceptable in the social realm, especially in terms of personal privacy. It's an interesting time to be part of it, that's for sure!

      Everything you said seems to be wise and thoughtful – thank you again.

      Reply
  3. Kevin

    Hi Tom,

    I totally agree with your argument about facebook. This does, however, make me a hypocrite as I spend an hour a day on the bloomin’ thing.

    I do not, however, subscribe to all the event invitation/wierd applications/general b*****ks that goes with it.

    Personally I use facebook to, especially in the last few months) to help plan my exped. Through facebook I speak to people who have done similar trips as I am about to embark on. It’s invaluable tool for me to advertise my expedition and keep ‘followers’ up to date with what evers happening.

    Had I not been doing my trip I simply wouldn’t be using it as otherwise it’s another useless site thrown into the ever growing pool of useless internet tripe!

    (Sorry if there’s spelling mistakes but I’m running for the tube as I’m writing this)

    Reply
  4. Peter Gostelow

    Hi Tom, Congrats to you both. I'm glad I have less hours in the day to waste on facebook. When are you back on the road?

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Thanks Peter! We're planning to get going as soon as spring creeps over the mountains – probably March or April. In the meantime I'm doing plenty of more intimate local trips in the back-country. Bon voyage to you…

      (Peter's cycling the length of Africa for Against Malaria – his fantastic site is at thebigafricacycle.com!)

      Reply
  5. Mark WIlliamson

    Yo Tom,

    Hope you're well mate. Sorry to see you off Facebook but it's only facebook! For what it's worth I was waiting for the officially sanctioned photos & your announcement before I barged in with congrats!

    Anyway, will catch you on Skype at some point hopefully, for me a much better way of chatting to friends but for some reason cannot seem to get anyone to sign up to the bloody thing! Think FB video chat is coming in soon but like standard FB chat there will generally be more people on there you don't want to chat to than do and so everyone will end up going offline!

    Got you in my rss so will keep an eye out!

    Cheers mate,

    Mark

    oh, and congrats by the way!

    Reply
  6. Jackie D

    Hi Tom,
    I'm not sure if you will see my comment since this posting is several weeks old… I stumbled on it because I'm researching the manners of social media. Your words are right on and they echo my feelings exactly. "Just because technology makes it possible doesn't mean it's the right thing to do on a moral level." This should be taught to all people, starting in grade school!
    People really need to take a step back and ask whether they have a right to post photos of friends / family without their permission. Unfortunately, most people don't have the sensibility to consider other people's wishes or the fact that everyone has different levels of comfort. Congratulations on your wedding and thanks for your thoughtful post.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      You're right. I think that technology's rapid advance has far outpaced society's ability to form moral standards for the new abilities it gives us. The information age is still in it's infant phase and it's very difficult to see where it's going. Very interesting to watch, as well!

      Thanks for the comment – I'd be interested to see where your research takes you, if you are planning on publishing anything at the end of it…

      Reply

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