By Shelley Wildgen
Let’s face it. We all like to be liked. And now, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and his college buddies, we can forever alternate between receiving compliments and delivering our opinions with barely a hitch. It would have been hard to imagine 30 years ago that this is where progress would land but it’s a warm, soft fact that social media now makes the world go ‘round. Nowhere is that more apparent than aboard the far-reaching tentacles of Facebook.
For centuries we’ve searched for the perfect vehicle to convey our every thought. From hieroglyphics to photo albums to blaring our favourite tunes out an open car window, we have laboriously attempted to present our favourite things to our peers but reaching everyone wasn’t possible until now. The tablets of today bear very little resemblance to the etched stone tablets of our primitive ancestors but strangely the idea is the same. Add a little unlimited data, some handy dandy cameras and strong opposable thumbs to a virtual platform called Facebook and the beast is unleashed. The possibilities are limitless as we reveal our own pockets of personal information, and finally exceed our own expectations. Every hour of every day our food, parties, gardens, pets, funny faces and far off places can be laid out in mere seconds for absolutely everyone to see and approve of with their big, blue thumbs ups.
All positive, right? Well, yes for the most part. Plans can be made super easily; isolated folk can now socialize from home and those pictures! Pups, babies, ball games, weddings, re-memed memes. I mean can you even? Well, we love them (big heart next to the blue thumbs up) don’t we? And if we don’t, we learn fairly early in the Facebook game to scroll past or ‘unfollow’ pics and posts that disturb our day. We can even unfriend a nuisance online presence but really, all of it is so sanitized and easy to manage. Does life get any more perfect than this?
I’m fond of saying “Facebook can be whatever you want it to be,” and it is. It provides fantastic promotion for a small business and it’s made the term ‘pen pal’ obsolete through its instantaneous ‘add friend’ option. A brief catching up on life chat with a hospitable pop-in from time to time, it’s the cocktail party of life. Ooooo, we’re all so popular. Never mind that a percentage of our Facebook friends are passing acquaintances or fully passed away, it’s still wonderful to see their smiling faces and see what they’re up to. Even the deceased friends continue to celebrate birthdays while we flock to their page to add memorable anecdotes. Nice. The occasional scroll through the pics of a life gone by never hurt anyone. Odd, yes, but I like it.
Fun, frolic, tributes, testimonials, new purchases, daily complaints. Everything gets posted and acknowledged like never before. There is one danger, however - if we choose to acknowledge it - and that’s admitting how readily we’ve allowed Facebook’s replacement of real news. We no longer have to go through the exhausting process of watching an entire newscast because we can get the highlights on the right side of our Facebook page while copying a recipe and thumbing up our neighbour’s dahlias. Why poke our head outside when we can rule our kingdoms seated in our jammies and, barring anything earth shattering, our lightweight method of navigating the outside world is pretty harmless. Second thought. The recipe and the dahlias don’t pose any imminent danger but perhaps gathering our news in much the same way as we used to read the funnies is somewhat problematic.
If reports are true, the Russians allegedly saw fit to alter an entire country’s way of thinking and voting through strategically placed newsy Facebook ads. Of course, I can’t flesh out the details on that story because it flew by in favour of Kim Kardashian’s latest thigh report. What is clear though, is that Mr. Putin and his brightest brains must have shaken their collective heads when they realized that they can influence the behaviour of an entire continent simply by purchasing nonsensical political news ‘ads’ alongside Dr. Oz’s anti-aging cucumber fizzes. And no matter what your political leanings, the rubber has definitely met the road with this latest internet capability. Envisioning how that Kremlin board meeting looked is nothing short of ironically comical. Laugh or cry, what are we going to do?
Serious snags aside, my own wee universe was affected recently, due to some unknown malfunction. Facebook disappeared for several hours. It was nothing short of agonizing having to wait to see if my just posted red berry bush pic was acquiring blue thumbs and if my friend, Lisa had replied to my east coast weather inquiry. A dozen Scrabble games were put on hold and updating my summer cottage rental pic had to wait as well. Here’s what I learned about myself. I am an impatient, compulsive, woman of a certain age with the attention span of a toddler. Ugly. Repeatedly launching and relaunching my Facebook page to no avail became mind numbingly frustrating. As it turned out, no cavalry was needed though because nothing takes long anymore. Facebook fixed itself. Sure as day follows night and I follow likes the problem mysteriously cleared and all was right with my virtual world once again.
Big blue thumbs up on that!