It sort of dawned on me recently what it is I don’t like about Facebook, or social media in general. For a long time, I’ve had this sort of inarticulate feeling that I didn’t bother to think about, a sense of looking through a window fogged by the cold into a large house with hundreds of parties going on simultaneously. I can hear but not follow the music; each party has their own sound system blaring as trumpets and tubas compete with screeching guitars and monotonous thumping trance beats to try and capture the fickle electorate of the dance floor.
Despite the noise, I can hear a few voices, but they’re mostly repeating other people’s words as everything is endlessly reposted, mostly without even the an interpretive comment. It’s as if nobody has an original thought any more.
If we could somehow wave a wand and remove the inanity from social media, it wouldn’t cease to exist, but it would shrink considerably, very considerably. I suppose it might resemble a hot air balloon that ran out of hot air and lay collapsed and flaccid on the desert floor.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but these days that saying has been devalued. You can’t enter the social media sphere without encountering post after post of some saying or quote that someone felt had to be placed inside a rectangular block of JPEG pixels. I realize this practice is a gambit for attention, but it seems as if the puritanical has overrun common sense to the point that even words aren’t allowed to be naked. Furthermore, the social media equivalent of a Hallmark greeting card is still a Hallmark greeting card. It may provide a brief warm fuzzy, but it provokes little contemplation, as triteness will, and besides, it is quickly lost (to be replaced by another) in the grinding machine of a news feed that must change every 30 seconds.
Fecebook is like high school. Within the circle of your acquaintances, there’s a small group of top cool kids. No matter what they say, no matter how shallow or unimportant, all the not-so-cool kids follow them around licking the so-called cool words like a dog will lick an ice cream cone. Of course, the not-so-cool kids want to become the cool kids and I’m sure some of them do eventually. The cycle repeats.
I guess I’ve never had much use for it, although I admit that ever since actual high school, a part of me wants to, badly actually, at least sometimes. But another part of me – the stronger part, the part of me that values originally and individualism, the part of me that wants to move away from the stale feel-good that everybody seems to need these days in order to shield themselves from the world – this part of me won’t let me lick the cone.
I know a lot of wonderful people, but I’ve come to the wonder of them in person. Or at least through individual one-on-one correspondence. The very broadcast nature of Facebook rules out the one-on-one. Except for personalized messages, people don’t care what you or I think, as an individual. They only care that somebody – anybody – acknowledges their existence. Social media has become a world where everybody shouts into canyons, hoping to hear a trace of the echo.