I have a little secret that I would like to confess and I am not going to postpone it any longer… I am an addict and frequent user … of Facebook. I know there are those amongst us who cast aspersions and make judgment calls about those who use it, but I love the ease in which it has enabled me to stay in contact with friends, family and acquaintances. Some whom I see regularly outside of Facebook land, or others due to logistical considerations or the realities of life’s busy and competing social schedules, catching up rarely happens. In real time I have seen newborn babies being presented with delicately scrunched up faces, special birthdays or family holidays in faraway lands, bringing many a smile to my face and warming my heart. Old memories have been brought to the fore, and new memories made through the sharing of life’s memorable moments.
No two days in Facebook cyber land ever look the same. Postings morph according to concomitant personal or global events, mixed in with the more inane posts featuring angulated snaps of peoples’ lunches or dinners. The varied nature of posts provides a visually stimulating social commentary on life and all that it encompasses. Of course one can become ensnarled in feeds taking you to places many clicks away, but one’s day can also be enriched with social updates, inspirational quotes and videos, personal and political commentaries, opportunities to immerse in social action, and on a broader level positively effect global consciousness.
You don’t have to look further than the recent ALS ice bucket challenge that transformed Facebook feeds into a virtual icescape, as people from all walks of life from President Obama, to Homer Simpson, as well as plenty of every day ‘normal’ people had buckets of ice tipped over their heads for the cause. Hailed as an exemplar model of social marketing, funds and awareness levels for this disabling condition soared, its success in large part owing to the universal popularity of Facebook.
Lately however, my relationship with Facebook has been a conflicted one. Its very fickle virtual landscape means that no sooner is it doused by ice, then something else begins to trend, natural disasters, the death of someone prominent or even in one’s own social circle, to war zones. Yet we are denied the standard warnings to which we have grown accustomed from film and TV viewing, to decide whether or not to view such graphic images and harrowing posts. The G rated landscape of Facebook suddenly turns R, where feeds of a friend’s birthday celebration is curtailed by traumatic images of beheadings or other forms of death, despair or devastation sharing the same visual space.
These are the sorts of images that even if only witnessed for a split second, are so shocking that the aftermath of viewing them pervades throughout the day, or even longer. Yet alongside these images are the ‘likes’ glaringly inconsistent to the morally repugnant and unlikeable posts with which they are matched, where one’s response is limited to ‘like’, ‘share’ or just ignore. I decided to consult the experts, my teenage sons who swiftly rebuked my idea for a ‘dislike’ button illuminating potential issues of offence and cyber bullying. Where a ‘dislike’ could be misused, becoming a veritable self-destruct button for anyone with self-esteem issues. Further consultation with another expert in the field, my 20 something super-social niece, suggested a ‘support’ or ‘impact’ button such as a ‘high five’, ‘fist bump’ or ‘strongly agree’.
As a result of this unpredictable landscape, it is now with eyes wide open, and some degree of trepidation that I open Facebook. I appreciate that humanity as a collective is grappling with many challenging and troubling developments, but the creation of a mechanism, such as a ‘pop-up’ displaying advance warning prior to disturbing images and posts, may mitigate distress or offence.
It was therefore with delight that the other day as I logged onto Facebook, I immediately became submerged in a bright floral landscape. A former school friend had invited friends to ‘like’ a photo of a stunning flower, and in so doing she promised to post another flower especially for that person. Her mission was to fill Facebook with flowers, and fill it she did with an array of the most exquisite and unusual flowers, chosen with certain attributes aptly matched to her chosen friend. Their fragrant aroma lingered throughout the day. A blooming sight better than the horrific gun-wielding, war-mongering, ebola-ridden images, that had filled my feed in the days and weeks before.
Having said all that, time lost in virtual space travel should never be viewed as a substitute to real communication with real people, face-to-face in real, as opposed to virtual time. I do however dream of a Facebook future where negative tidings come with a prior warning so I can gingerly skip past them and immerse myself in social transactions that infuse the day, and those of others with joy. So as your fingers hover towards the mouse that is always within a hand span, stop for a moment and think. What will you post next?
In love and laughter,