Today I logged into Facebook for the first time in quite a while. I was immediately confronted with a picture of myself in an album specially created to show the world my many accomplishments in 2014. It contains posts and photos of mine, most notably the announcement of my retirement and our move to Florida. As usual, Gorgeous looked, well, gorgeous. I never really look that good in pictures, so that is one reason why I’m not crazy about this album. As I looked further down the page, I saw other Friends, including one of my sisters, sharing the same kind of album that was generated for them. Seeing all of this, I quickly rejected the opportunity to share my own. This is my problem with Facebook– everyone seemingly imitating each other. Or so it seems anyway.
I’m not a big fan of social networking. Prior to leaving Oregon, I actually created a LinkedIn account in the belief that it might help me network for a part-time, second career job. But after a couple of weeks of really annoying e-mails and alerts (yes, I know you can control the notifications), I closed the account. I realized that even if I do find a job in my previous field — something I’m not sure I really want — I am not looking for a second career. I just want to find a job that pays a few shekels for a handful of hours a week. Having to “network,” one of those old buzzword bingo words, makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up on end. I’ll find it the old fashioned way, thank you very much. Probably on Craigslist — so 2010 of me, don’t you think?
Earlier this month I had a birthday and turned the big 55. The week before, I purposely closed my Facebook page and chose whatever their electronic version is for temporarily removing myself from that world. A day later, I checked on Gorgeous’ computer and was satisfied that I was indeed gone. I did this to avoid all those rote birthday greetings from people with whom I’ve either had only passing contact, or the relationship was so long ago that it really doesn’t count anymore except in a virtual sense. I figure if a person is sincere and close enough in my life, they will either send a card or call me, which my closest family members and friends in fact did. It’s better this way. I’d rather hear from people who actually mean something to me rather than, for instance, the grad student whom I met at my neighbor’s backyard barbecue two years ago.
Perhaps I’m being just too jaded or unfriendly; or perhaps I just need to weed out my Friends list.
When Facebook presented itself to us in the previous decade, I will admit to being pretty excited by how it all worked. It was fun to have electronic contact with friends and family members other than by email. Except for a few very close boyhood friends, I hadn’t been in touch with many of my high school or college classmates. As all of us began to come online, it was exciting to see so many names from the past. In most instances, it was and still is wonderful to have contact again. In a few other cases, and in particular with one specific person, it became something for which I unfortunately have regret. But in the main, I have been very pleased.
The greatest joy I can claim, though, is that but for Facebook I probably would not have reunited with Gorgeous. She left me love notes on my locker in junior high school, and then in high school we became each other’s first kiss. When her father suddenly died during her sophomore year, we stopped seeing one another. I would think of her now and then, and even tried searching for her online. But I always came up empty until one glorious day when I received a wonderful Facebook message from her after my divorce. My life suddenly became very happy and filled with meaning, and I owe that entirely to Facebook. And Gorgeous too, of course.
Now, though, I feel slightly different about both Facebook and social networking in general. In addition to have grown tired of those friends and family members who use it to trumpet the most mundane of their daily routines, I also see a darker side that involves jealousy, depression, loss of privacy, and more. Since most postings are happy and positive, they also have the affect of making someone reading them potentially react with feelings of regret or sadness. So many of Gorgeous’ clients are often upset because of things they see posted by a lover or potential love interest. Even if not true, what is said or displayed online can be injurious to someone’s feelings. Viral can mean more than simply a post that is popular.
I see Twitter and Instagram, etc., to all be in the same vein. Although I used Twitter in my previous job to keep up on the news, and I have laughed my ass off at tweets from Steve Martin and Albert Brooks, I still cannot imagine why on earth I personally would need to proclaim my interest or opinions about anything in 140 characters or less. I bet Gorgeous sometimes fantasizes that I could be more concise, though. I get my verbosity gene honestly from my mother. She could spin a yarn about any topic for 40 minutes or more, and we would all pray for the moment towards the end of her oral dissertation when she would say, “and consequently…” She never could have tweeted.
I recently restored my Facebook account. I can once again view the activities of my friends, see pictures of people’s grandkids, read the hourly ruminations of a family member, and laugh at what sometimes truly are hilarious or heart-warming postings.
The genie can’t be put back into the bottle. Facebook or whatever follows is here to stay. My only hope is that we can collectively come up with an alternative to Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” slogan. Something perhaps like “Don’t Be Banal?“