I’ve been here before. It’s like those movies where the hikers get that feeling that they’re lost. “I think we’ve passed that burned out log a couple times already. I think we’re lost, we’re going in circles.” Well, if you’ve seen that same burned out log, you’re doing laps and – you’re lost. I feel like, no I’m certain that, I’ve been at this Facebook watershed before – many times. My burned out log, funny rock formation or random milestone is the Facebook blahs. Haven’t I said, probably on this very website, that I’m thinking of dumping Facebook? Haven’t I said it many times? Many, many times? And so here I am once again at the burned out log that’s Facebook, pausing and wondering whether or not to continue going in circles.
I’ve been off of Facebook for about two weeks now having deactivated my account around the beginning of this month. When you need a Facebook break you have three options. The first, which my daughter in law has opted for is to simply move the app from your home screen and resist temptation. I’m far too weak to try that option. I’d be posting pictures of the dog, two days max. The second option is to deactivate your account which is sort of like walking out of a room full of friends who won’t stop being annoying. Once you reactivate you’re simply walking back into the room. Nothing’s changed, your pictures and posts are intact and your friends are all still there (except for the ones who got huffy and dumped you when you walked out of the room). The third option, the nuclear one, is to delete your account. Deleting erases everything. You didn’t walk out of the room. It’s like there never was a room. I don’t know one single person who’s gone nuclear and regretted it. It’s become something to think about.
Facebook began as a benign, friendly place to visit. I started out by friending my daughter when she was away at college. I imagine that when you’re at a certain age and away at college, having dad friend you is one of your worst nightmares but she managed to get through that trauma.
Much of the Facebook run has been positive. I’ve joined interest groups and made new virtual friends, traveled with them and shared stories with them. I’ve taken Facebook friends on virtual vacations with Cora and I, shared recipes, bragged about children and posted photos of pets, grandchildren and of course one can’t properly experience Facebook without sharing pictures of food.
Facebook reconnected me with long lost high school classmates and family members in Wyoming and Europe. I connected with some of the kids, now adults, who I used to coach in high school cross country and it’s been a pleasure to see where life has taken them.
It was early in my Facebook experience that I made a discovery – politics are a big topic of discussion on Facebook. Who knew?
I’ve never been loath to dive into the muck of politics, much to the dismay and occasional mortification of my wife and children and other unfortunate onlookers. And so over the years I’ve never hesitated to jump into the Facebook political bog For the most part the political discussions/donnybrooks on Facebook are business as usual for me.
Still, it hasn’t been without some collateral damage. I’ve cut ties with Facebook friends and had ties cut by Facebook friends over politics. Depending on the political winds and the emotions of the discourse my friend count has gone up and down. Graphed, the ebb and flow of my friend count would look like the EKG of a man suffering severe atrial fibrillation. This has been particularly true since Donald Trump walked down that staircase and told the world that Mexico doesn’t “send it’s best.”
And so here I am, back to the burned out log, Facebook burn out. It isn’t the politics and it isn’t the silly memes and it isn’t even those “features” that I’ve long found objectionable; making fun of perfect strangers for their perceived imperfections, the doxing, the notion of outing people (“spreading their shame” as it’s often called).
What could possibly be giving me the Facebook blues? COVID-19. The coronavirus that keeps on giving – and taking – lives. It isn’t the virus itself. The virus has become a given. I’ve made peace with the notion that COVID-19 is here for the long haul, or as my son put it – forever. Check that, I’ve made as much peace as can reasonably be made.
What I can’t make peace with is having ignorance thrown in my face. Thrown in my Facebook? When it comes to the coronavirus Facebook has become a junkpile of nonsense. For 66 years I’ve never even given epidemiologists and virologists a second thought. Now Facebook and Youtube are lousy with self proclaimed microbiologists who wouldn’t know which end of a microscope to look through if you labeled the eyepiece with a Post-It saying “Lookie here”. You can’t swing a cat or log onto social media without hitting a self described infectious disease expert. I get sick as a dog seeing “hoax,” “plandemic,” “China virus,” “kung flu,” and the squealing of tyranny and masking without representation by a sudden glut of constitutional scholars being asked to bear the most minimal inconvenience of putting a piece of cloth over nose and mouth.
And those are just the people who I don’t even know. The ones who I do know have decided that since we’re in a pandemic why not make the best of it. Maybe I’m just thin skinned for being offended by seeing people who I know, putting up photos of their non-socially distant, maskless photos of their vacations to Lake Tahoe (Tahoe being a place that’s made no secret that they want out of towners to stay out of town) or Santa Cruz or anywhere but their own home town. Maybe I’m just jealous. Maybe I’m just a “get off my lawn” old grouch for being frustrated over seeing a laissez faire attitude over a pandemic being posted in living (and dying) color. My daughter says that people are just making their own personal risk assessments. I’m not buying that. A personal risk assessment is flying a foil kite in a lighting storm. Treating a pandemic with nonchalance is a public nuisance.
And then there’s Facebook itself and Mr. Zuckerberg who wants to have his cake and eat it too. On the one hand he’s claiming social responsibility and on the other his platform is doing a brisk business peddling bullshit. Don’t believe me? Do a Facebook search for pages and groups with names like Mask free Michigan – we are over it, Corona Virus Hoax Resistance, PLANDEMIC, Coronavirus Hoax, and Americans Against the COVID Hoax.
Yes Virginia, those are real pages populated by real charlatans who attract and appeal to society’s dim bulbs. Meanwhile Zuckerberg, hiding behind a tattered veil of the First Amendment is assuring the fed up that his minions are hard at work hunting hooey and giving it the heave-ho. I can’t vouch for how hard their working. It took me less than a minute for me to step in the aforementioned poopy pandemic pages and I’m just barely on the technological side of being a Luddite.
I suppose that I’ll post this on Facebook until the end of the month, see if it generates any discussion or outrage or even outrageous discussion. At the end of the month I’ll start a long Facebook break and test my resolve again.
It is truly wondrous the things you discover during a Facebook break. You find shelves filled with bundles of paper called books, and those people who you’ve briefly noticed walking about the living room are actually family. You might recognize them from photos in your newsfeed. If you happen to be in the working world you come to realize how many more uninterrupted job related tasks can get done in eight hours. A Facebook timeout can be just the bit of fresh air that you need.
A week or two and you’re often ready to go back.
Seriously how long can the human spirit survive without seeing pictures of dogs, kids, vacation trips to Iowa, a medium rare steak or a video of perfect (or imperfect) strangers making fools of themselves at a karaoke bar? I guess I’ll find out.