Has FB and social media in general become a platform for our worst selves? Back in the day, when mean girls wrote in “slam books,” there was always the scary or thrilling possibility of confrontation. With FB even the meanest comments have a protective distance that was never afforded to the average 6th grader on a school playground. If, for example, you feel moved to react to a comment that a stranger (to you) has made about a post, you can safely attack a person you know nothing about, using all the eloquent invective at your command. Or you can be nice and understand that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, however stupid or uninformed. The old aphorism about not saying anything if you can’t say something nice seems to have gone by the wayside along with other archaic courtesies.
If you felt defensive or insulted when you read the previous paragraph, I’d like to point out that it is just my opinion, which is all anything is on FB, Twitter, or so-called mainstream news. There hasn’t been real news since Watergate when the media figured out they could market outrage and turn it into ratings. Think about it. Is anything on cable or networks really news? No, it isn’t–it’s opinion. And we tune into the bias we embrace so it feels like news because it supports our bias. My husband, the news junkie, is an historian by training. So he has a broader perspective which does not, however, stop him from talking back to the commentators he disagrees with. To his credit, he watches all the big media ….. — cnn, fox, msnbc, you get the idea. I don’t know if that’s because he’s broad minded or if it’s the 21st century equivalent of “mortification of the flesh.” If you went to St. Bernadette’s, you know what I mean. Looking back on it, it seems the nuns had a little too much delight in scaring the hell out of us with tales of saints beating themselves and then donning hair shirts. Basically the hair shirts constantly irritated the self inflicted wounds. Maybe that’s how Sister Frances Mary felt about teaching 45 terrified third graders.
Anyway back to FB, which is what I think this blog is about, sort of. I haven’t looked at my FB page since since September when bile overwhelmed curiosity. So I’ve missed seeing vacation/ travel photos and pictures of family; I haven’t kept up with the adventures of former students or cried over trending pictures of abused cats and dogs. Mike forces me to watch cute animal videos (not at gunpoint) so I’ve seen those. I haven’t missed political commentary as access to that was ubiquitous. No conscious American was spared the appalling spectacle of the presidential election.
If you’re on FB 24/7, thrilling to every pinged notification, taking every quiz, religiously following the activities of your 403 friends, good for you. I mean that. My curiosity doesn’t rise to that level and I’m sure I miss a lot because of that. But I’ve always been that person who doesn’t know what happened at the party, who hears about things way after everyone else, who is surprised that so and so did such and such. Not saying that’s a good thing but it does shed light on my lack of commitment to the trivial nature of some FB posts. It’s not that I have a negative opinion about someone’s constant posts (coffee with friends, picking up my mail, etc.). It’s just that I’m exhausted by so much information. Do I wish that people would limit their posts to pictures, incredible insights, truly hilarious or inspirational videos, and rare instances of pithy commentary? Sure–don’t you?
For some of us, FB is a diary, for others it’s a confessional. For me, it’s reading and there’s so many other things I would rather read. So I didn’t really miss my FB hiatus beyond the occasional twinge of social guilt (” Didn’t you see the pictures of the wedding, hear about a new job, move or baby?). And I’m back to skim, read, select, and ignore, and hopefully get a few more readers of my own. 😏