Tuesday, August 8, 2017

And Now, A Word on Facebook

The reason I’m not on social media such as Facebook and Instagram is because, for the most part, it’s not real.

Oh, the photos of where people live and travel—be they exotic, bucolic or uber-hipster-urban, are real. And the people in the photos are real.

It’s how the photos are selected, filtered and arranged that is suspect.

Often times, what looks good on film, looks good on Facebook, even if, in reality, it’s sheer boasting, exaggeration, delusion or folly.

These self-orchestrated filmstrips of people’s lives have a tendency to play with the minds of those posting, as well as those looking.

As a communications major in college, I studied, at length, Marshall McLuhan’s famous phrase,

 “The medium is the message.” 

His slick proclamation makes so much more sense to me now, in the age of digital media, than it ever did back in the early 1980’s, when I first heard it!

The “form of a medium,” as Wikipedia explains his quote, “embeds itself in any message it would transmit or convey, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.”

Facebook, Instagram—any place where life can be staged or professionally photo shot—becomes the design studio of a person’s wished-for psyche or drummed up persona.

With photos, we can present ourselves in whatever light we want.

And when our moods don’t match the smiling face we’ve assured the world of, or someone else seems to be winning the “great life” competition, we begin to either doubt or hate ourselves for the discrepancy. We loathe others because surely, we convince ourselves, they experience no discrepancies, and they actually are the ever-so-cheerful souls that show up daily in their feeds.

People can take another, darker route as well. 

Those who love drama or devil’s-advocacy can have a ball on Facebook, toying more with their observer’s minds than their own. They go all “bad-A” and hope they are getting someone’s goat in doing so, or they pose as a disaffected punker while in actuality they work in IT and live as normally as the next person.

"Enough!" You doth protest. 

You love Facebook, and have no clue as to what I’m talking about! Great. Continue to share those pictures of kids and grandkids (the reason I so often hear people give for being on Facebook).

I hope you don’t mind my asking if those kids and grandkids gave their permission, and actually want, you to parade them to the world on your personal page? (that’s a whole other topic: are images of children and grandchildren the child’s private property which the adults in their life have co-opted—stolen—for that adult’s own purposes? My heart breaks for all of the children who are being used by parents for the parents’ own self-promotion on Facebook).

If all is good with your life on Facebook, I applaud you. Enjoy. If you are “yourself” on Facebook and don’t feel that it keeps you at arm’s length from even your closest pals, then don’t read another word.

But for those who want to stop Facebook, but so far haven’t been able to, and for those who don’t even know why they want to stop, but wish they could, perhaps these words will help clarify what might be creating your angst.

For the people I have talked to who were bothered by Facebook but not quite sure why, when they finally closed their accounts and removed themselves from it, life got instantly better. They realized they didn’t need to “keep in touch” or “see what was happening.” 

In fact, they were much more at peace not knowing.

They looked at their own motivations: why did I feel I needed to know what my kids were doing (or the neighbor, Aunt Mazie or old high school classmates)? 

Is it because my kids never talk to me, so this is the only way I can be in their life? Well, many parents are discovering that that one-way street isn’t very satisfying, nor is it a sign of maturity on their kids’ part.

If people value their relationships with friends and family, they’ll make an effort to relate to them beyond, and in the absence of, Facebook (and not need to quantify every interaction with friends and family on Facebook!)

Everything about Facebook is motivation (for those posting and those looking), and motivations are easy to check, especially if we have a standard against which to check them, and that is Christ. He will absolutely let us know where our true motivations lie, and if they are sinful or not.

The saddest thing with Facebook—sad because it is so unnecessary—is that people look to and experience it as actual reality. More often than not, it is instead an open-ended, subjective format in which what we see very often isn’t even remotely close to what’s really going on.

At some point, Facebook users risk losing sight of, and the beauty in, the authentic and genuine. They stunt themselves by never learning sincere, non-competitive interaction with others. They lose the concept of healthy boundaries.

Without this transparency and practice of one to one in-person communication, real life, and real people, will, over time, become unrecognizable, and eventually, fade away.

copyright Barb Harwood

Although I’m sure he wasn’t writing about social media, Tom Petty’s song Don’t Fade On Me sums up my take on the effects of social media:

Don’t Fade On Me by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell (partial lyrics)

I remember you so clearly
The first one through the door
I return to find you drifting
Too far from the shore

I remember feeling this way
You can lose it without knowing
You wake up and you don’t notice
Which way the wind is blowing

Don’t fade
Don’t fade on me...

...Was it love that took you under?
Or did you know too much?
Was it something you could picture?
But never could quite touch?

Don’t fade
Don’t fade on me.

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