According to Facebook – the We Never Sleep! social extravaganza that has so many of us entangled in its sticky clutches – I have been a mostly willing participant since 2009. In that time, I have been glad I joined, happy to connect with old friends, LOL-ing over funny, cute, amazing, heart-stopping, concerning, worrying, frustrating, horrific – where was I? That’s the thing. I’m finding it both fun and troubling.
- Reconnecting with old friends. Were it not for Facebook, I would not be back in touch with women who were my best friends in grade school, junior high, and high school. I would not have known that Sharon had turned into a maker of amazing quilts, nor that Cindy was riding horses in Oregon, not to mention that Deb had become a mender of sailboats and a hostess at teas for her friends in Virginia. (Names changed – I don’t want to be unfriended for oversharing.) What surprising paths we’ve taken.
- Finding out about my graduating class in Davenport. Plans for our 40th reunion took place in a private FB group, just a handful of our huge class of ’71, which numbered somewhere around 900. I didn’t make it to the party, but our online reunion helped immensely when some of us gathered to mourn a classmate who died too soon.
- Hearing confessions from at least one super nice guy who, completely unbeknownst to me, harbored an actual crush on me, sometime in high school. Good grief, Steven. If only I’d known. Maybe if I’d gone out with him, instead of the guy I ended up marrying and then divorcing, my life could have been better all around. I’m glad to know he found someone, and that they’re still happily married. With six kids, yet – exactly the number I’d dreamed about.
- Learning more about people I know right here in Dubuque. Only through Facebook can I see what they cook for dinner, how they deal with Christmas, or just how much they love cats, or online games, or opera, or crocheting, or gin. (Your identity is safe with me!)
- Keeping up with the news. I have “liked” both the New York Times and the Washington Post, and they broadcast all sorts of news and weirdness happening all over the world, in real time. Now I sound like such a know-it-all. Every time I go downstairs, I announce something new. “Brian Williams is suspended without pay for six months!” “Tiger Woods is throwing in the towel!” “Gordon Lightfoot is going on tour!”
What’s Not so Great:
- Keeping up with the news means never being able to get away from the worst of it. Like any good global citizen, I want to be aware of everything going on, but sometimes I’m not up to hearing the gruesome details. What do I do with this information? How can one woman stop ISIS?
- Some of my FB friends post things that make me cringe. How do I keep myself from telling one young mother I’m concerned about all the photos and details she posts about her children? Can I resist lecturing the guy who posts pictures of every deliciously unhealthy meal he consumes? I need a new acronym: SOMH – Sitting on My Hands!
- I have learned, to my dismay, that some of my favorite people, the old friends who got me through the day in our K-12 years, have taken a very sharp turn to the (choose one: Bleeding-Heart Left, Wingnut-Right) and we now have little in common but memories. Must I stop following them to avoid posting a comment I’ll live to regret?
- Speaking of my dear old friend with the horrific diet, it appears that some of the children in my extended family – we’re talking toddlers here! – are subsisting on a diet of donuts and beef jerky. Ack! How can I not comment? But no; I continue SOMH.
- I learned that Facebook allows people to follow other people even if they are not Facebook friends. Does anyone but me find that creepy?
- Here’s something that drives me nuts. People whose status reads: “What the hell?” or “This is sooo ridiculous.” They seem to be inviting the rest of us to post concerned messages in response: “R U OK?” “Whut happened?” But not me. No ma’am. I’m just going to keep scrolling. I can’t help you if you don’t give me a little more information.
- Bored Panda. I swear, Bored Panda.com has the BEST, the FUNNIEST, the MOST TOUCHING posts and pictures, and it’s going to be my undoing. I find myself staying up way past my bedtime on work nights just looking at Bored Panda posts of adorable cats sleeping on equally adorable dogs. Please! Stop it! I need to go to bed!
- Finally – regrettably – there is the unassailable fact that looking at a computer monitor brings me headaches Every. Single. Day. <sigh>
When I first ventured onto Facebook, a friend commented, “Welcome to the black hole that is Facebook.” Then Dylan got married, and he and his wife had a son, a darling boy whose every day was captured in pictures and words and logged on Facebook by his loving dad. Until one day, Dylan told his Facebook friends he couldn’t do it anymore. And he got off. He got off! Completely gone!
I have no idea what he and his wife and son are doing now. Working, maybe welcoming another child into the family. But not posting about it to his 687 closest friends. Imagine that. Having a private life, only semi-documented in snail mail and photos shared with family and real-world friends. But can I go back? It could happen. Just as soon as I check my news feed one . . . last . . . time.