The other day I discovered that a cyber family, much like a real one, acquires overtime unique lifelike qualities. It happened when I found in my inbox letters from people suggesting that I will update, fix, resolve duplicates, and respond to birthdays. I don't know them; I don't believe we ever met. My careful and polite inquiries as to the nature of our relationship did not produce satisfying results, and then it dawned on me.
It happened when I agreed to merge my family tree with someone I did not know well. Merging with a stranger would seem rather hasty, to every reasonable person except those surfing on Geni (an online family tree creator). And so, without further ado, I 'approved' the procedure which granted me access to his tree with hundreds of new relatives.
A few months later, I noticed that these people I opened my heart and family tree to, are inching, ever so slowly, into my nicely organized creation contaminating it with their inaccurate information and endless requests. Frantically I tried to unmerge and almost like in real life, found that merged tree cannot be severed without putting the whole family at risk.
Actually, it started more than nine years ago when one night, I keyed- in my name into the Google search box, pressed enter and came up with nothing.
It was the first time I really understood the phrase 'if you are not on the Internet, you do not exist.' I cursed myself for giving up to the cheap temptation, seeking false reassurance in the limitless cyberspace, but it was already too late.
And so about nine years ago, in the middle of the night, I did the only thing I could do to alleviate the situation and 'created' myself.
All I had to do was to let go of the old notion that the fact that I breathe, sleep, eat, and see my reflection in the mirror, is sufficient proof of my existence. Instead, I pressed on the empty rectangle box in the center of the computer screen and typed my name in.
I kept typing and inserting other names; my parents, my husband, my children, and in front of my eyes like magic, my family, with me in the center, came alive.
Blue rectangles for the men, pink rectangles for the women, many lines running horizontally and vertically connecting them all to one elaborate net, growing and growing and filling the screen.
The sense of relief was immediate and so rewarding.
When I last checked, my family tree had 543 people.
It is an elaborate constellation, created mostly by me. Names, most of which are fourth cousins twice, trice or even four times removed. People I don't know will never know, and frankly don't even care to meet.
Still in the middle of the night when the quiet disturbs my sleep and all by myself I surf, I am surrounded by my cyber family, I exist.
Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband left sixteen years ago and now reside in Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. Ariela blogs regularly at Paper Dragon.