PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
When I log into Facebook, I have a certain expectation of what I am going to see on my newsfeed or who I am going to interact with. You know, the usual: someone’s mad at so and so, new love is in the digital ether, Bobby Smith thought of something really witty to post and did a favor to everyone by posting it, the Red Sox won, the Red Sox lost. Recently, that expectation has drunkenly fallen down the stairs. I have seen more cinnamon roll pancake recipes and tributes to nieces and siblings on Facebook in the past week than poorly written status updates and adorable cat pictures.
It was a rapid change; abrupt enough to jar me out of my mindless morning Facebooking session to think to myself, “what in the blue hell is going on?” Why am I seeing a pepperoni pizza casserole recipe at 6AM? Why the hell would I want a pepperoni pizza casserole anyway? Has pizza become so boring that we need to casserolize it? Why does everybody suddenly adore every family member, organic or removed, that they’ve ever been related to? Why am I seeing religious propaganda? If I want to be told that I’m a Godless heathen, I will go to Downtown Crossing and listen to the Angry Jesus Man for three seconds. And above all, guns don’t belong on Facebook, because it’s a goddamned website. You can’t even shoot people there.
So far, I know this: I did not change. I’ve gotten a few years older, read a few more books, and even shave more often than I used to, but I have not undergone a large enough paradigm shift to warrant noticing drastic sociological changes on Facebook. On the opposite side of the keyboard, Facebook did not change. While Facebook does abruptly change the way it appears with either organizational changes or site redesigns, the fundamental identity of Facebook did not change. It is still the Internet town hall where the world’s masses gather to publicly urinate on each other and swear loudly while others are watching.
That leaves only one culprit: its user base.
The collective we changed. I truly believe that we are devolving as an intelligent people. The always on, everyone has a voice culture of Facebook has encouraged anyone and everyone with a working mouth to open it whenever the hell they want to. If pepperoni pizza casserole is on the mind at 6AM, well, why not just shout it out to the whole world? Here’s a picture of my dinner. Here’s what I did for my workout. Here are the intimate details of my life that previously only me and my mirror knew. Check out my new abs! Here are my likes and dislikes; in fact, you are one of them and I will passive-aggressively let you decide to which list you belong.
Here’s the issue that I have that precious few people understand. Facebook isn’t an intimate setting like your home living room where you and five of your friends are sitting around shooting the shit. It’s a public space, like a mall or a stadium, and when you open your mouth a lot of people will be listening whether they want to or not.
To wit: if someone walked up to you while you were shopping for a pair of pants at the mall and handed you a recipe for peanut butter cheesecake scones, you would probably have more than a small problem with it. The same goes with religious propaganda and the gun debate – while there is a small targeted audience that will receive the message, the larger part of the audience will go around the crazy town crier and into more comfortable spaces. Such as continuing to scroll until seeing something far more interesting or entertaining.
That isn’t the solution, though, even though it’s what I do now to cope with it: when I see some crazy on my Facebook newsfeed intimately telling me how to prepare goat curd yogurt from expired milk to avoid spending an extra 12 cents at the evil grocery store or why banning 50 round mags is unconstitutional and everyone in Congress should be thrown in jail, I keep scrolling, because I wouldn’t entertain it for even a second in a public space.
Facebook has taught us to become extremely comfortable with telling everyone exactly what is on our minds and in our hearts to the point that normal discourse with fellow human beings has been irreparably affected. “Did you see on Facebook” has become a standard lead for a sentence. We should be ashamed of that. “Did you see on Facebook that Bobby posted a picture of a man in American flag underwear holding an AK-47?” Currently, human intelligence has no problem processing that thought. Let’s change the locale: “Did you see at the mall that Bobby was showing people a picture of a man in American flag underwear holding an AK-47?” Why does it become reprehensible when it occurs in an actual public place as opposed to a “fake” public place?
When Mormons, Unitarians, and Jehovahs come knocking at the door, we run and hide and pretend that we’re not home. You can’t do that on Facebook because it is the most public place that has ever been invented by man. Let’s change that by cutting the bullshit. Let’s go back to posting pictures of our cats waging war on bottle caps and posting our celebrity doppelgangers and posting witty things that will make your fellow man laugh rather than break the last political straw he has left.
Tard the Grumpy Cat endorsed this post.
ADDENDUM: Bill Gates is one of the most philanthropic people the world has ever known. He is not going to give you $500.00 for sharing a picture. Get a grip. You’re embarrassing the rest of us.