Anti-Social For A Good Reason

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Just to refresh my personal feed: On Saturday, February 23, I took my friend to the urgent care clinic and this whole adventure started. Ten days later, on March 5, he was moved to the skilled nursing facility, where he remained for a couple of weeks.

That was also Ash Wednesday, and thinking about Lent as I always do, the idea of setting aside a few weeks every year to mix things up, I decided to try a couple of things.

The first was this, a little blogathon to keep me on my toes and with luck allow me some insight into what I’m up to. For those of you subscribing, we’ll return to our usual programming on Easter, which will be whatever it is. Your email boxes will thank me.

The second was Facebook. I refuse to get cute and refer to this as social media. Facebook is its own thing and we all understand it, at least those who use the platform (odds are all of us, to varying degrees, but I envy those who never got on the train). I almost never tweet, although I use Twitter every day, and Instagram is just fun.

What I didn’t like about Facebook—the thing I’ve never liked about the experience—is the compulsion to toss in my two cents. It’s bad enough that I assume I have a superpower that allows me to understand the souls of essentially strangers, people I don’t see or touch or talk to. To use this as an excuse to express an opinion or otherwise just stick my nose in another’s business is something I’d like to change. I thought a break might help, and I’ve stuck with it for the most part. I think I posted once about the blogging, just so people knew where I went, and aside from a couple of Facebook groups I keep updated that’s been it.

My eyes have been opened, trust me. I probably don’t spend more than five minutes a day on Facebook now, just dipping in to look around, and still I get triggered. A friend just posted something in which he used a word that doesn’t mean what he apparently thinks it means. Or whatever, just a brain hiccup, but my fingers were itchy.

Was I going to tease him about it? Was I going to make it a joke, or what exactly? Doesn’t matter, actually. What I was going to do was inform him and everyone who reads the post that I know stuff. Like words and stuff.

That’s the tip of the iceberg, too. As I back off and just observe the behavior of others, I realize that it’s my behavior, too. We’ve all been tricked. We think we’re communicating, when really we’re competing.

We have prettier houses, or lawns, or pets. Our kids are more accomplished, our cars are newer, our vacations cooler. And our occupation is under attack! Seriously, if you have Facebook friends who are teachers, do you ever get the feeling that these are the biggest whiners on the planet?

Of course that’s not true. And everything they say about the job and its challenges at least feels true. And I’m married to a teacher.

It’s just the cumulative effect of every teacher I know posting about something that points out that teachers are special. That’s what’s going on, but it’s certainly not just them.

I see something like this, or I did, maybe 3-4 times a day. I began to suspect books were bad.

I see something like this, or I did, maybe 3-4 times a day. I began to suspect books were bad.

Book readers. Yes, yes, all you want to do is have days free to read all of your books, that’s your idea of heaven, I understand. But it’s every freaking day, from someone. Reading starts to feel like a cult.

And on and on. It’s a distorted view of our friends, and I’m not sure we even understand what that word means anymore.

Then there are the people who apparently haven’t read a single article on the subject in the past several years, since they continue to hand our personal information willy-nilly, textbook examples of data mining, and it’s all for the same reason: HEAR ME, LISTEN TO ME, I AM HERE AND I KNOW THINGS.

I dunno, man. I don’t know how to quit Facebook. And I don’t have to; I can just be like one of multiple friends I have, IRL friends, who seem to lurk and like but that’s about it. Those 5 minutes a day should really be enough.

Maybe they will be, too. The whole point of this exercise was to learn something, to change something, to figure out what might be getting in my way and ditching it.

So, maybe. And maybe this is at least ironic, if not outright hypocritical, commenting here on the behavior of other people there.

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But before I go, let me leave something here. Just an idea, if you want to play. Something to try, if your feelings line up with mine to any degree. Maybe for a week, just to see how you feel, and again—some people have figured out how to keep Facebook from running their lives. This is not for them, or you if you’re a them. Carry on.

·       Don’t comment on a post from anyone but a Facebook friend. Not a public page, not a friend of a friend, not a news organization, nothing. Just friends. And as you refrain, ask yourself what compelled you in the first place, since the chances are no one is going to read your comment, not when there are hundreds or thousands of them, and even if they did, why would you care what a stranger thinks? And if you’re responding to another comment from one of these thousand strangers just to point out how wrong they are, congratulations. You’re a troll. That’s the definition.

·       Don’t share. Just pretend that function doesn’t exist. Doesn’t matter what it is or where it came from. If you didn’t create it, don’t clutter your friends’ timelines without asking. Just don’t do it.

·       If you’re going to comment on a post, lift your fingers from the keyboard for a moment and think. Is the post about you? Then why is your comment? If a friend posts a cute picture of their puppy, and your comment is along the lines of how much you love dogs and how you miss your pup and how you need another one, here’s an idea—maybe you should write your own post instead of hijacking theirs, which is what you’re doing. Again: This isn’t communicating, it’s competing. We can skip that part.

I’m not saying any of this constitutes bad behavior. Leaving a note on a local business’s Facebook page when you like what they’re selling is a great thing to do. Sharing interesting articles is one of the best things about Facebook. And turning a post into a conversation is all about communication, amirite?

I’m just saying maybe try it for a bit, and then see how it feels. See how it looks with some time and distance. Maybe it’ll be a big nothing. Maybe you’ll react as I did and think about how we’re all being conditioned into behaviors that, had I described them 25 years ago, would have terrified you. Figuratively, anyway. I’m just saying, try it.

Also, don’t be racist. OK, we’re good.

Chuck SigarsComment