We used to meet for coffee, lunch or share a long letter across the miles. The conversation was lively and included all aspects of our life and the greater life around us. We shared pictures we could touch and hold and marvelled at how everyone had grown or changed. We were excited to get the mail and find a handwritten letter. We would wait until our work complete, make a cup a tea, get cozy and savour the words of dear friends and family. The letters were thoughtful, complete with full sentences, complete words and spell checked using a dictionary.
The first days of Facebook, we were treated to updates daily and sometimes moment to moment. It was fascinating reading, mundane for certain. Still, an honest glimpse into the human existence in real time.
“going to the gym”
“back from the gym”
“back from shopping”
Facebook evolved with the ability to include photos. How wonderful to share in the joy across the miles perusing photos of marriages, births and exotic locations in our bathrobe. Our life paled slightly in comparison. We learn by posting our own happy updates that this is not real, it is our best foot forward. Our updates while joyful and exciting are only a small part of our life. Like a photograph it tells a sliver of the story, though few ask for the rest.
We enjoy cat videos in a way we cannot comprehend. We discover and play games. Some friends play along with us, and its cool to compete, though I wonder if they know how competitive I am? Other friends threaten to unfriend us to block all requests for virtual lives, crops and livestock. They are unaware of how to block the requests while keeping the person.
Some of us, needing contact, affirmation, post provocatively, begging us to respond by coaxing for more information.
We can’t help but try to get more of the story and yet that is the story.
We view many “selfies” of our friends and wonder why we need to see the same poses so many times. Perhaps they are afraid we will forget them?
Gradually, the advertising that we have been free in the cancellation of our satellite service appears on our page. We notice an item we looked at just yesterday flash on the side of the page imploring us to pull the pin and buy.
The sensationalistic news stories that sell papers and begin the evening news insert themselves into our news feed, their video running automatically. Years ago I had walked away from this type of news in favour of understanding the story from all angles, through careful research and reflective thought. I learn how to shut off the automatic video, though the pictures remain etching into my psyche as I scroll, compelling me to view. Its too late, I’m altered.
A news worthy item is posted and immediately its believed and shared and liked and commented all within the space of moments. It becomes the truth, spun to suit our cause or belief. Many famous people have died more than once on our news feed, the sharing rampant. Once discovered the celebrity still walks among us, it is radio silence. We are fed and full of the information. There is no standard to uphold, no journalistic integrity, the truth less important than the story itself. There is too much to read, not enough time to search for answers as quickly one story is replaced by another, our news feed changing moment by moment. We are changed.
We used to be gullible and now know that the baby will not get a new heart if we collectively like, and that Bill Gates will not share his fortune if we all share. We do not have that sort of power, there are limitations.
Polite conversation in the past omitted discussion of Politics and Religion and now we are bombarded with both on a daily basis. All sides of every debate seem to be represented in my group of eclectic friends. It is interesting, a controversial post is shared or stated, followed by the requisite likes, an opposing stance incites, the lines are drawn. Emotions run high, disparaging remarks are posted, slurs follow, all with a shield of relative anonymity. It ends in bloodshed as friends are blocked, posts removed, the carnage remains.
We need to search and understand the entire story from all angles. We need to understand the latest atrocity, political stance or religious persecution and search for the rest of the story before we shout and share our opinion. We need to be seekers of the truth, not the flashy story that goes viral.
We laugh as we view Pinterest fails and know that we are not alone. We do tests that showcase how bright we are, though know that they are rigged to display us in the best light, prompting us to share.
We listen to Musicians that we might not have discovered, hear Orators speak on subjects eloquently and are changed. There are many positive moments as we scroll and perhaps this is the best use.
Still, we need to have real conversations with each other to learn the many sides to each important issue from many different points of view. We need to meet in person unplugged and search for meaning in our friendships. We need to be there for each other whether in sharing the joy of the moment or the sadness. We need to remain human.
As for my Facebook page, I’m happy to have it crowded with happy cat videos and what’s right in the world today.