The much-discussed and debated life activity that keeps the world engaged and connected. What did we all do before this revolutionary sensation took place? How did Grandma Eleanor back in 1930 ever find out about the new recipe for butter beans? Or how did Aunt Mary single handedly notify the entire town about the dirty and maniacal affair between her saucy neighbor and the married yet “oh so wealthy” attorney down on Main Street?
Oh, the things we discover on Facebook. But, what are we really uncovering about the world through this social media frenzy? For one, we have learned all the latest gossip in nanosecond speed. We know what our classmate from back in 1989 had for dinner, we learned in great horror how Ted’s grandmother died unexpectantly at the age of 92, and we have witnessed the wide range of emotions from all of our 592 close virtual friends from dire sadness to grandiose elation.
Do we, after hours parked in front of a computer screen, understand our human counterparts any better after this barrage of intricate details hitting our newsfeed every ten seconds? Probably not. Engaging in Facebook is complete and total entertainment in the age of reality TV fascination. Only in this form of media, we know the characters, and we can actually communicate with them. We are all actors on the stage of life as Shakespeare would say. And in regard to understanding humanity any better, I don’t think we do. The world is still populated by the same old archetypes; the shy wallflower too scared to post for fear she may be thought stupid (yet she reads every line and knows by heart the exact “goings on” of everyone in town), the “woe is me guy who’s every life step is wrought with agony and pain after losing his girlfriend for the nineteenth time, the picture taker who gives you moment by moment shots of her child’s first step from every angle, and the political experts who will fight to the death for their party at election time, but have no idea what in the world their politicians do over the next four years.
But, for some of us, Facebook is a virtual keeper of life events; a place like “Cheers” where everybody knows your name. You stop in to vent and unwind, offer a word of encouragement to a fellow Facebooker, and then you go your merry way. You cry to the world and the world cries with you. You laugh, and the world laughs, too, only sometimes it’s at you and not with you.
What makes the most interesting characters are the privacy pirates. These non-Facebookers take a deep distaining look at those of us who share our truly fascinating lives with the world. They are the Non-Facebook elite, having no part in allowing their private existence destroyed by computer voyeurs. And, quite frankly, this is a valid viewpoint.
It’s become frighteningly well-known, in 1984 Orwellian prophecy, that anyone and everyone can find out about your life if you unleash it to the omnipotent web. It’s a scary thought after all, but we do it anyway. We are defensive about providing our phone number to a third party and guard it with our lives, but we share the most intimate of detail to…let’s face it, total strangers. Sally, a fictional fellow Princetonian graduate from 20 years ago, I am sure is not the same Sally today. A friend? Surely not. More of a faded memory and shared participant in senior skip day and that’s all I truly know about Sally, except that she has three children, lives in Iowa, and likes Johnny Depp. Other than that, I don’t know that we have much in common. But, I will certainly keep her as a virtual friend.
So, it’s all quite humorous really. However, as human beings surely we weigh the benefits and the risks associated with virtual networking. Or do we? People are fired everyday by posting harmless quips about their jobs. Criminals are arrested by over sharing their drug paraphernalia laden party clips on-line. Relationships are destroyed by failing to use the history delete buttons or erasing those chat options.
However, Facebook does seem to accomplish some good. Animals are saved from a certain death by shelter volunteers and good Samaritans through the sharing of photos. Recently, at our local shelter, it was posted that several adoptions took place in one day all due to Facebook sharing; an astounding and heart warming event.
Likewise, prayers go out for the sick, friends reunite after many years, and families come together in time of need, and everybody celebrates their birthday with you. All of this possible through instantaneous access of information.
So, between all the naysayers and supporters alike of Facebook, there is no doubt that this social sensation has its pros and cons. We still live in a society with the usual suspects….I mean characters. Human nature hasn’t changed even though the viewpoint into it has.
We still find pleasure in gossip, only with Facebook it’s often not hearsay but right there in black and white, and even in color. We can just gossip faster and with hard evidence.
But, one day Facebook will disappear and we’ll have another technology to become our new addiction, and predictably, history will repeat itself. Human nature won’t change any and life will still be riddled with the same old characters. But, as long as we keep communicating and caring about one another’s lives, it can’t be a bad thing, right?
Now, if you will excuse me; I have to post the cutest picture of my cat, Willow, lying in this basket.