op-ed

Dear Facebook: You’re Boring Me

Cheryl Colan, Flickr Creative Commons

Cheryl Colan, Flickr Creative Commons

My social media feed consists of roughly 40 percent marketing and promotion, 10 percent photos and cat videos, and 50 percent bitching and moaning.

The latter number hits 80 percent during an election year, and thanks to Trump we may be well over 90 these days. I pile on now and then myself, so I’m not innocent here.

Many of my online friends seem to define themselves around a central issue. For some it’s pro-gun, for others it’s anti-gun. Some veer left and others right. I have feminist friends, animal rights friends, men’s rights friends, and fatherhood advocates. You name the pressing issue, and right now somebody on Facebook is reminding me to remain somber and humorless about it. Don’t misunderstand: Their concerns are valid and their advocacy is admirable. I share many, if not most, of their perspectives for a better world, but when it comes to reading their impassioned posts I just don’t give a fuck.

Maybe I’m cynical, or perhaps I’m still recovering from my mother’s death. I dreamed about her last night. She was singing in church — not during a hymn, but rather in the middle of the sermon. The version of my mother in the dream was still sick, so the sudden return of her singing voice was nothing short of a miracle and we recognized it as such.

Anyway.

When I was growing up, my folks exercised a flavor of Midwestern privacy that is at complete odds with social media. My father never told me who he voted for or what his salary was. “That’s nobody’s business” was the best I ever got out of him. I had no idea how screwed up my mother’s childhood was until I was an adult. It wasn’t just them, either: My aunts and uncles kept their cards close to their chests, too.

So that’s the world in which I was raised — not the most fertile soil in which to sow the seeds of a future writer, but damned good training for getting through life without signing a lot of petitions. I think their culture of stoicism might be a factor in why I’m such a poor joiner, too. I can’t relate to the organizing principles behind a lot of the social media noise. I take parenting quite seriously, for example, but I can’t imagine joining a fatherhood group. Similarly, I can’t get behind viewing my world through the lens of my gender. The fact that I’m a man doesn’t strike me as something to invest a whole bunch of identity in — it just is. My race, politics, faith: All are in play on social media if I think I can get a laugh, but very rarely do I raise such topics in a serious way.

Perhaps what it comes down to is differing perceptions of what social media should be used for. When some folks log on, they see a soap box or a bully pulpit. I see a brick wall, a fern, and a microphone. We’re coming at this thing from completely different angles, you and I. While I’m trying to find the puns in today’s headlines, you’re finding the rage in those same headlines. Since I started drafting this ramble, friends have posted passionately regarding immigration reform, Cuba, the plight of the middle class, and Trump. All important topics, and all topics that I have opinions on — they’re just not why I log on to social media.

It’s not that I don’t want to read about what’s important to you, it’s just that I want to enjoy doing so. George Carlin talked almost exclusively about important stuff (blue food aside), but it was a hell of a lot of fun listening to him do so. Richard Pryor did, too, and it’s not just comedians: The Boss does a fine job of jutting his jaw and talking about the working man, as did Charles Bukowski.

I guess the point here is that we don’t have to be social media stoics who never post about anything important, but if we want people to care about what we have to say we need to bait our hooks a little better. Let’s stop inundating each other with links to cruddy articles that prove (“prove”) our points and posting hyperbolic nonsense designed to show just how much we care about our pet causes. Post about whatever floats your boat but be social about it,  because the truth of the matter is that I do care. You’re just boring the shit out of me with your preachiness.

That’s my time. Don’t forget to tip your waiters and waitresses, and try the veal unless you’re an animal rights person, in which case I’m sorry that I offended you by suggesting that you try the veal. Please don’t link me to an article detailing the horrible treatment of baby cows. You made your point much more eloquently with those cute photos that you posted last week from the farm animal sanctuary. Thanks.

Categories: op-ed

9 replies »

  1. It’s hard to spin on issues
    If there isn’t a creative bone in your body
    At least that’s my take
    That’s why it’s hard to listen to people
    That just want to whine and complain
    Instead of putting it into something creative
    As always Sheldon

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Two newbies on Fb, my mother & father (84/85 respectfully), use it to say hi (messenger is easier than e-mail right now, baby steps… baby steps) and to look up things they find interesting. My mother has found like minded artists, that she first found through me, and now interacts with them all over this tiny globe of ours. My dad looks for great music videos and finds himself over on youtube seeing tuxedoed Japanese precision dancers in Japan, then Georgian dancers (the Georgia over there, not here), then to Greece, to the Appalachians, to well, you get the idea.

    They will willingly talk politics ON THE phone with me but we do not engage on Fb in this area. They have enough screaming through the boob tube. My nephew is passionate about this election and I quietly support him. I’m glad a 23 year old cares. I don’t need Fb to give him a pat on the back. Fb in short bursts seems to be a saner use for me.

    Being passionate about something is fine, but we as a species never would have survived if everyone was always PASSIONATE during every social occasion. Weddings, births, deaths, saturday barbecues, and all social interactions in-between have a natural flow to them, where we interact in a set natural way. The Fb you experience is the one I managed to not be logged onto for 23 days after my birthday. Did I miss the ‘passionate’ part? No. Did I miss the enjoyable natural funny/fun ‘social’ interactions of my friends? Yes.

    You, James, are one of ‘those’ friends I rely on to give me a chuckle, or have me think about something from a quieter state of mind. I just wonder how many more times I will have to hit the “Hide Post / See fewer posts like this” button before Fb gives up on me and hurls me into the socially unknowable pile? Soon I think. Until then I will patiently wait for the next – Bob Dylan Knocked Out Loaded – poster and wade through all the noise people think Fb was made for to find the gems.

    Liked by 1 person

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