Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fear of the Virtual Suckatorium*

I just recently started a Facebook page.  This came about because of my own curiosity, and relations who kept urging me to go ahead.  Well, what the hell?  So I did.  It's fun, I must admit, to have that admission into people's lives that otherwise I would not.  It's fun to have yet another channel to contact friends (real ones . . . from before Facebook)  Yes, I am a bit of a voyeur.  I don't know too many people who are not.  It's cool to see photos of one's friends and people one hasn't seen since about 40 years ago. It's fun to banter over the net with people who might not pay attention to you if it weren't for the urge to respond to posts on one's page. 

Still, there's something about it that makes me feel vaguely silly.  I don't say that with any feeling of looking down upon it or on anyone who spends time on Facebook.  I don't look down on them or it.  I've been asking myself why I am doing it.  Even when I don't need to, while on there I have an urge to look over my shoulder to make sure no one is watching me.

This is consistent with the way I have been since I can remember.  I have been and still am a person who doesn't like to actively, knowingly join a crowd, to follow a fad, a trend or what have you.  For instance it took me 6 years to see Star Wars.  It took me 10 years to see the Godfather.  I don't do Twitter or even try to understand it. I have resisted Facebook since it's inception, and resisted MySpace before that.

Oddly, I often find that I have somehow over time started to do the things the crowd does.  I have started following the trend. Why do I consciously avoid that which I often end up doing anyway? 

I had a recent experience which fueled my reluctance where Facebook is concerned.

I couldn't quite put any of this into words until just the other night when I had gone out to the Safeway late to get last minute dessert items.  There's a Starbuck's in there and even though it was closed, the little fenced off cafe area still had three people sitting in it.  Two looked deeply forlorn, as though they knew life was passing them by and they were just sitting there watching it happen.  They were slightly disheveled and each between maybe 55 and 70 years of age.  They were just sitting there staring at nothing in particular.  They might've been a street people, and perhaps they just needed a place to be indoors for a while; a place with other people where they wouldn't have to breathe exhaust fumes from passing cars or be actively ignored by those from whom they'd asked a little change. They both seemed to fit with the overall dusty brown milieu. 

The third person was a guy about forty years old, overweight, balding and hadn't shaved in a day or two, had an empty Starbuck's snack bag and coffee cup, and stared listlessly at a laptop.  Dressed in grey slacks and a black Derby jacket, his skin was sallow and puffy.  He had one hand on the mouse and the other planted firmly under his left cheekbone.  I watched him for a moment from a discreet distance as I went through the checkout line.  Only his eyes and his right hand moved.  His mouth hung open and he didn't blink, but I could see his eyeballs moving back and forth every now and then.  He seemed to be running on impulse power only.  I approached him as I was leaving the store and looked back at his laptop as I passed and there was Facebook.  Being quite sure he hadn't noticed me, I watched him click through things on the page.  I couldn't tell what he was looking at; just photos and posts from people and the occasional link to some other site.  He'd go from one thing to another and back to the page he'd been on.  He'd click a link, then without being there very long, he'd return.  He seemed to be going nowhere fast.  The whole display made me feel queasy and I quickly scrambled into the cool semi-darkness of the parking lot to find my car. 

Perhaps it was only a case of guilty paranoia, but I couldn't shake the image of me doing exactly that about 5 months from now, having become a hopeless, overweight, insensate Facebook addict, staring at it by the hour hoping for a moment of . . .  of something; something elseAnything else.

It makes no sense, I know.  It won't happen.  If it were likely to happen, it wouldn't take Facebook.  I could long ago have done that with a set of old HP Lovecraft paperbacks.  To think of all the beautiful things I would not have experienced and might still experience gives me enough of a grip to prevent it, but just the mere image of me being him was enough to have me question the whole idea of finding social interaction over a web page.  Yeah, I know, I get social interaction here, but not on the scale of Facebook and I'm here for different reasons.    

I think perhaps I am fighting against the feeling that I am joining the crowd.  I just don't like knowing I'm doing that.  Why don't I like it?  Why have I never liked it?  What gets me interested enough that I do it anyway?

*Thank you, JF.


Blogger Don said...

You're not doing it because everyone else is but in spite of that, so you're good there. Frankly I'm happy you can glance at the pieces of my lives that I put on there. Just keep a strong grip on your preferred reality because if you become an insensate Facebook addict I will have you killed.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

I like your take on it. Never thought of it. I am doing it in spite of everyone else doing it. Say, that's a great excuse for all the other things I did late.

Aloha, Mr. Hand!

10:03 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

Facebook has gotten like TV was back when a certain number of people could always be counted on to say "I don't watch TV."
SO, I was never one of THOSE people, but I don't find Facebook as wildly entertaining as I suspect some do.

And does everybody really have that many friends?

7:19 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

So in the midst of being a big Facebook snob, which I hope I really don't come across as, I forgot about the poor guy sitting at the closed Starbucks. You could easily come to the conclusion that he is lonely, and feel sorry for him that Facebook is such a poor replacement for real human contact. Because the hype we are fed is that it is an enhancement, a tool to augment our already busy, sparkling, meaningful lives.
And indeed it is for some people, I'm sure.

7:41 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

You don't come across as a snob. I hope I don't either. There's just something about it that I can't put my finger on. It may have nothing to do with my fear/distaste of being a joiner. Check out this article:

The bit about envy seems to speak directly to your remark about the hype we are fed. I wonder if people buy into the hype, then find themselves less enhanced than they expected to be. When I saw that guy, I hadn't read that article yet. I thought about this guy later and felt bad for him, but then, maybe he was perfectly content. Maybe he was getting what he was looking for. He just didn't look like it.

11:44 AM  

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