Friday, July 13, 2012

Facebook - net positive or net negative?

Ah, Facebook. I go there to scroll through the latest postings twice a day - once in the morning and once in the evening. I can't quite decide if Facebook is, in total, for better or worse.

Things I hate about Facebook: how shockingly ugly our politics have become as illustrated by pictures of the president in a Hitler mustache or comparing his wife to a gorilla; animals who talk baby talk ("pweeze cum home cuz I wub yu" - ack!); totally false rumors presented as fact which then spread like wildfire; the proof Facebook provides provides on a daily basis as to the gullibility of many Americans (you are not going to help save a child from cancer no matter how many times you 'like' her pitiful photo and you're probably not going to win an Apple I-Pad either); how belligerent many Facebookers are via the computer screen when I doubt they'd be this in-your-face if you were face-to-face, especially the gun aficionados; posts that warn me to get the hell out if I don't love America in exactly the way they think I should.

Things about Facebook that aren't my cup of tea but, oh, well, I'll just scroll on by: religious posts (especially of the type that demand "if you love Jesus, 'like' this picture; if you prefer to burn in hell, scroll on by"); pictures of nearly naked women; any posts that have to do with games because I really don't care how many gangsters you've killed in Mafia Wars or how many sheep you still need to fill your Farmville pasture; salespeople who use Facebook to push products I'm not interested in buying.

Things I love about Facebook: staying in touch with friends or ex-co-workers you'd probably lose track of otherwise;, connecting with people with whom you have interests in common (many of my FB friends came by way of our passion for NASCAR); touching pictures of children and animals; inspiring stories of heroism; awesome scenery shots of places you've never been; dirty jokes; incredible videos of myriad subjects (child greeting home-coming soldier, boaters saving whale trapped in net, dog getting through to autistic child, banker saving ducklings from roof, flash mob, etc); YouTube shares of songs (especially ones that inspire an "oh, man, I love that song and I'd forgotten all about it" reaction); the occasional hard-bodied, almost naked man (especially cowboys!); instant local news bulletins (thanks to friends who seem to keep both Facebook and their police scanners running 24/7); salespeople who use Facebook to push products I might be interested in buying.

My mother-in-law was in a nursing home for nine years before she died. During that time, I developed a visceral dread of ever ending up there myself. Community Care Center was pleasant enough as nursing homes go but it seemed to me to be an island of lost and lonely souls. Most of the residents had a few visitors, as my mother-in-law had me. They had televisions (but televisions aren't interactive)  and telephones (but telephones aren't visual). For the most part, life was rolling on without them.

Now, I think to myself that maybe I could barely bear it if there was a nursing home with wifi (in each room, not just in the "social room") and I could take my laptop. I could stay hooked up to Facebook to keep up with friends and hear their gossip and see photos of their grandkid's weddings. I could stay up-to-date with what was going on in the world and continue to enter debates about politics. I could be stimulated by pictures and stories and songs. I could continue to discuss NASCAR races with other fans. My body might be trapped in an institution but my mind (assuming I was still in my right one) would be free to explore and delight and communicate and share.

Resolved: regarding Facebook, despite all its negatives, on balance the positives win out.