In 15 years of doing these essays, I’ve always tried to focus on something about the State of Jefferson — and now it seems time to realize this includes an invisible new layer called Facebook. Most of my 600+ “friends” live in Jeffersonia and this is how I know and communicate with them.
Many I never meet, though I have specifically gone to coffee with two or three because they were so interesting and fun and we had gone beyond being digital friends. Sure enough, they were fun in person and we have become real, 3-D friends.
I notice people love to diss Facebook and call it a time suck. It gets ridiculed for all the cat pics, angry political memes and tiresome reminders that you are loved and should get rid of the negative people in your life. So you learn to scroll fast. Stopping to watch a video is almost out of the question. Incoming “personal” posts are mostly promos anymore and only deserve a quick scroll.
So, it’s not perfect. It’s in its first decade. But it’s a miracle that has changed the world, given us a “town square” in which to hear and be heard — and to reach hundreds of people instantly. And it’s free! If they charged $40 a month, would you pay? I click the FB icon almost instinctually, happy to find one red flag in the top left corner — or to have a meme or scenic pic of mine get a like! Wow. Someone sees me and thinks I matter and gives me a stroke! Such an adolescent need but there it is.
People say it’s addictive. It is. But that shows how starved we were for connection, community, being seen!
I am puzzled by people who aren’t on Facebook and still email everything. They say FB exposes them and robs their day and they insinuate it’s childish and they are above it. If asked why I love it, I say that’s the whole idea, that it exposes me! I let the world see who I am, what I think, what my values are, what I find funny, what the kids are doing, what is beautiful enough that I take a pic of it and post it.
These hours are not wasted. They form a permanent timeline, a scrapbook, an album of what I’ve done, thought, been, said. And I get to know theirs. I unfriend fundamentalists and rightwing nuts and, I’m sure, get a tilted but happier view of the world. Like-minded people are attracted to me and their posts get programmed by Facebook’s curious intelligence to be posted more often on my wall. I get 50 birthday wishes. That feels good.
I feel people haven’t really learned yet how to talk on Facebook. We’re conditioned not to talk too much about ourselves or be too opinionated — and to “be positive.” But the platform is essentially asking you to reveal yourself and tell us who you are, even your opinions and dark side, isn’t it? But keep it concise; don’t go on and on every day about it.
There’s a tendency to think you “should have something important to say” or very witty or helpful (something Deepak Chopra might say). But we can’t always do this, so we just “like” a few posts and click on our way. Like you! Like you! Bye!
Facebook brings up a big question — one we deal with all our lives: should I be the real me and risk ridicule or should I conform, be pleasant and be sure of acceptance. Most go the safe route, making Facebook 95 percent tedious pablum.
But I am trying something new. I am posting my “Stories of the Last 24” which breaks all those rules and treats all events and even thoughts equally, no matter how innocuous — such as: Had lattes on Noble’s sidewalk with son Colin. He put in his earbuds and read the whole time. Loved it. What is better than this on a spring morn? Stubbed my toe, painful. Planted kale, corn, tomatoes. Taught him how to do it. He liked it. Couldn’t get in Playwright Pub for the Suspects, so danced on sidewalk. Read book on the Curse of the Kennedys. They were driven by the shame of being seen as drunken Irish apes. It got 15 likes! People read the whole thing! Clearly, it was a “Day in the Life,” with no big meaning, message or wit. It was “meaningless” but fascinating. It was harmless. It had no point. It just was. I honored my pointless day and essentially said, hey, if I have but one day on this planet, let it be like this one.
In sum, I am astounded at Facebook. Who foresaw this web of friends, each communicating to the other at will and being seen by all? We walk around, taking it for granted (ditto Google, YouTube, iTunes, all of it) but, far from dissing any part of it, I will get on my knees in gratitude for this miracle that has changed the world, sucked a lot of boredom and isolation out of it — and made it fun.