Confessions of a (Former) Facebook Goddess

disco queen 

   Most people would die rather than quit the social media form known as Facebook. Yes, I said that, and you’ll get no quantitative research turning living, breathing human beings into numbers from which to draw conclusions for my opening declaration. I speak from five years of experience. Though I did quit Facebook and, as you can see, lived to tell about it. Quitting FB cold turkey was not easy – is not easy. I have been forced to come face-to-face with some personal truths – those two glasses of nice wine truths that slip the dark bonds of one’s heart and make it to the light of the page – this page.

  I miss Facebook now, in a calm moment, because I understand the democratic beauty evident in offering everyone a platform from which to put forth ideas. I am sad too because it is the birthday of a dear friend and I can’t show her (and others) how clever I am by sending a picture of a cute birthday cake (purloined from some other site) and telling her to take a “BIG slice of HAPPY.” Personal truth # 1: Until I quit, I never acknowledged those self-aggrandizing Facebook moments (of which there were many). Why did I spend so much time on Facebook in the first place? Surely time could have been better used to complete (more than a few) writing endeavors, listening to lectures, reading novels and book reviews, and attending to my personal blog left unattended with no creative additions from me. Personal truth # 2: I was (am?) a Facebook addict. Many times I had been accused of being addicted to Facebook over my adamant objection to the contrary. I even invoked the addict’s creed, “I can quit anytime I want.” I couldn’t acknowledge any thoughts of addiction as I continued on what had become one of the major slippery slopes of time-wasting elements in my retired life. My thinking became corrupted with all the power afforded me by the Facebook platform (read soapbox). I found myself judging others who would spend entire days on Facebook complaining about their hyper-active, rambunctious kids, messy houses, absent spouses, rowdy students, and rude coworkers. “If they didn’t spend so much time on Facebook maybe their kids wouldn’t act out, their houses would be cleaner, and their spouse would return.” I had dissolved into an opinionated mass of objection and lecture on anything cultural and, especially, anything political. I have used my timeline as an emotional bully pulpit to further my political judgments and set any offending white person straight on their misguided use of cross-cultural expressions. I was an equal opportunity offender; everyone deserved the right to my opinion. It wasn’t long before I started my morning, coffee in hand, at my keyboard attempting to insert some creativity in what should have been, if anything, simple responses. And by the end of three hours I could be found sitting small and emotionally exhausted in my desk chair – having leaked all creative energy in responding to misspelled info-graphics (a pet-peeve that I felt compelled to share with everyone), ignorant politicians, and horrendous, heart-numbing videos that pulled back the curtain on some of the most heinous, inhumane examples of the human species. And there I was – ultimately reduced to railing against the darkness in us all. I knew I was approaching addiction when, in an effort reduce resistance, I culled my list of Facebook friends, jettisoning all those whose politics ran antithetical to my own. (So much for enjoying a diversity of opinion). In-spite-of this culling, I managed to offend – even those people with whom I was in total political affinity. I was hell-bent on getting my opinion across by any means necessary, letting readers know my 60’s & 70’s big-city California job, Compton High School street-cred as I angrily pounded the face of any disagreement with my varied life experience. I was right. Always and forever. It wasn’t long before this anger infested every part of my social discourse on and off Facebook. I was rabid – snapping and  biting at any thought of injustice in my self-righteous attempts to single-handedly stamp out ignorance and wickedness. I’m sure I had no pulse until I responded to some bit of backwards wisdom in need of social correction. Many times I lamented that stupid people should not be allowed on Facebook. As a Facebook Goddess (and addict) I could say that. Personal truth # 3: I spent so much time on Facebook because it was a way of feeding my ego. Facebook presents a quick fix for the narcissist in us all. But for me, it afforded undiscriminating recognition of the underappreciated writer within. On Facebook, I’d get my acceptance in small sweet doses administered when unseen hands simply clicked the word “like.” Oh, the power in that word and the time wasted in believing it a code for ‘worthy.’ Personal truth # 4: The fault was not in Facebook but in myself. I failed to see that I am on the same road as every other author aspiring to a book offer. I took a Facebook quick fix that doesn’t quite feed a soul in need of honest feedback. There are no shortcuts to writing and editing. We all deal with the demon of procrastination – a demon strongest when we sit down in front of the blank screen; a demon easily sated with the neat white print embedded in the inviting blue background of my Facebook Log in. Now, all I have to do is sit at my desk and perfectly order those 26 letters at every writer’s disposal – a task not nearly as easy as becoming a Facebook Goddess.

   Currently we are experiencing a social upheaval regarding privacy and how much information purveyors of social media should be privy to. A month ago, I too, entered the argument castigating Facebook and other social media for using information about us in secret ways. But yesterday, as I listened to the radio and arguments pro and con on the use of information that is freely offered up by most users of Facebook, I was reminded of an old Polish saying (yes, from Facebook). I turned the radio off knowing this Facebook argument is “[no longer] my circus – [no longer] my monkeys.

Technology: Be Good or Be Gone!

ReadingGiantBook

I know by writing this essay I will have allayed any suspicion that I am a happy, practicing member of this new electronic age.  I am not.  But neither am I a hard-core Luddite – running away from any decent potential that new technology may harbor. My first foray onto the electronic highway (more like the median strip) was in 1982 when I became the proud owner of an Apple II computer.  It was Halloween when we set up the computer. We suddenly became the first place for parents to look for their tardy offspring. The (real floppy) floppy disk containing the game Falcons was better than candy as more than one child sat down in front of the black screen to take their turn at shooting green dots that turned all sparkly as they fell to the ground. I realized that owning a computer made us almost as popular as the 10 puppies our dog had given birth to the spring before.  But, from this communal camaraderie, we have come to a cultural crossroad with one direction leading straight to this zombie producing nation of kids plugged in and plugged up as they walk along busy streets with the ubiquitous dangling side-locks of the earpieces.  I cringe when I see young people today, staring glossy or vacant eyed waiting and thumb typing the time away.  These young people seem to measure their lives not in coffee spoons, but in text messages and Facebook tags and likes. They walk along busy streets, seemingly, emotionally blind to their surroundings, blind to any beauty and (sadly) any potential danger lurking unnoticed.  Also, I am uncomfortable with the idea that young children have to be entertained all the time. As a culture we put this canard front and center in our capitalist zeal to sell. Witness the car commercial in which a high angle camera shot follows a luxury SUV traveling through some of the most beautiful landscape this country has to offer – U.S. Coast Highway 1. Once the camera moves inside the car we see all the external beauty going to waste, unrecognized as the faces of the young occupants in the rear seats are cast in the sickly blue light of the video being run on the latest, built-in technological baby-sitter. Looking back, I’ve always been at odds with new technology in way or another. I was living in L.A. when the first rumblings of pay T.V. started shaking the cultural ground. Yes, I too gave the derisive sneer along with, “Please – who is going to pay for television?”  I was obviously blind to the concept of Home Box Office  – the great and lucrative idea of showing movies on television.  Once we moved to rural western New York I did not have to consider paying for television.  Our one-hundred and forty-year-old farmhouse sported the latest in aerial technology – meaning the antennae was easy to reach when we wanted to change the channels and get better reception with less snow. It wasn’t until 1986  – when my beloved Mets were on the fast track to a world-series championship – that I relented and agreed to a satellite dish. I was a reading teacher, at the time and fully aware of the message given by the huge, in your face, aluminum mesh dish in my orchard.

 As a writer, technology, for the most part, has been my friend giving me any number of innovations to improve the look and content of my writing. But I always left the computer store fearing that by the end of the two-hour drive home my new acquisition would be obsolete. But obsolescence, I know now, was not planned.  Those inventors, in their rush to figure out ways to push information faster and further seemingly, gladly, never slept in order to be on to the next new thing that would help us improve our ways to communicate important news and information. But what now? We can pass information around the world in nanoseconds, we can explain, detain, and maim in social networking environments with some restricting the makeup of our word-based weaponry to 140 characters. And innovation makes all of this good?

 My fear is that while we may be on the cutting edge of electronic expertise, that technological Damoclean sword will certainly cut just as deeply on the backswing.  Nothing pushes my point home better than the television commercial for Google Nexus 7 in which a middle-school boy asks the meaning of the word glossophobia. Does he ask an older brother or sister? No. Does he ask mom, who is sitting right beside him? No. Does he ask dad, who is nowhere in the picture (but that’s another rant for another day)? No. He goes to his beautiful android-tablet device for the answer. And the viewer is taken in with a sweet historical vignette in which the young boy learns about another “ordinary” individual (King George VI) who suffered from the same fear of public speaking. And yes, it ends well – he gives the speech of his young life and gets the girl of his dreams. In all fairness, there is another longer online version of this commercial in which FDR is featured telling us what it is we should fear. And in this longer version the mother uses the reminder app to wish her son luck on speech day. Cool technology meets warms and fuzzy. But, for me, the warmth did not last long as I fully expected the boy to get up and go find dad and ask him how to ask a girl out – you know, like handing down gender tips from one generation to the next. The boy does not seek any help from his parental units because the electronic parent is there to answer all questions – even the hard ones, without any parental wisdom for the child to store in his own arsenal of future references.  The underlying message here is that mom and dad are obsolete and unnecessary for this generation of hooked up, plugged in, self-absorbed adolescents. And this is what makes me angry; the idea that we live in a culture in which we pay (mightily too) to stand in line for the right to become hardened to beauty, nature and, saddest of all, human contact.  We will not survive as a species if this becomes the case.