Column: Your Facebook Wall is Shit

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The greatest single contribution made by Facebook to society is an unintended byproduct of the ubiquitous social media platform. By having a Facebook Page you can no longer hide in the closet. The process of "coming out" is a thing of the past.

Your posts, your "friends,” your pictures, the videos you upload, tell the story of your life for you. On Facebook being gay is soooooo 1990. Once you sign up you relinquish everything about yourself, you make your life a 24/7 broadcast. You trade privacy for public exposure. It makes it so much easier, especially for young gays, or anybody fitting one of its 56 gender identity options, to come to terms with themselves.

Statistics say that 70 percent of Americans have at least one gay friend on FB. Society's perception of who we are today, the progress we have made (see the speed of gay marriage), is in part due to the openness of social media. But that is as far as I go. Otherwise I have no use for Facebook. It's email or texting or spam on crack.

I don’t need, or want, “150 digital friends.” A person's circle of actual (e.g. real) friends remains small and it is limited not by technology but by human nature. The psychological stress that a close relationship requires is considerable and we all have limited emotional capital to spare. The paradox is that, courtesy of social media, we have become more detached and isolated from one another, even lonelier, because this hyper interactivity is shallow if not ephemeral.

I am blessed with a few special, wonderful, friends whose face-to-face interaction I would not trade for a Facebook page. I would miss their laughter, their facial expressions, their quips, their jokes, their heartfelt impromptus comments, the sound of their voices, the animated conversation about a movie or an event, the eyes rolling, even their anger. Things that digital media has not yet achieved in transmitting through the glare of a screen. We meet fewer people now, we gather less and when we do our bonds are not as meaningful because we are distracted by wanting to contact those who are not present. It is as if people are instantly bored with whoever is sitting in front of them and so they click and wait and click and wait for somebody else's page to chime in.

Don't wait for me. I promise that if I want to see pictures of your trip to Bumfuckville I will ask for them. If I want to know how bad the latest restaurant you tried is I will call you, or we can discuss it over two, or four, glasses of wine. Otherwise I really don't give a damn about what you had for breakfast, how your ferret is doing or if you picked up your dry cleaning. My interest in your digital life would be sparked, perhaps, by an Instagram of you on your knees, in the middle of the desert, with Jihadi John behind you brandishing a sword. Then I would probably spend a few seconds checking it out and evaluating how becoming orange is on you. Otherwise I have better ways of wasting my time.

It is called the Transparent Age; to me it's the Opaque Reality Age. Most people live in a state of absolute dependence of their own, often imagined, views. Face it, you are muttering to yourself. Nobody really gives a shit about what you say on your wall. "Your friends" might hit the like button only because they want you to do the same when they post some inanities on theirs. Your comments have also the power to piss off somebody else reading them even though they were not directed at them. The emptiness of it all makes me want to turn the TV on and find a televangelist. He is certainly more stimulating. And if I want to read something boring I will print the transcripts of a Ted Cruz filibuster. It's verbal garbage, blatherskite plain and simple. All those bits and pieces of useless narcissistic information are forever circling the internet like space junk. Everything is swallowed into oblivion but nothing goes away, and it is always retrievable, coming back to bite you when you least expect it. And all those pictures? Please, you are not taking and posting a selfie you are taking a lonely.

The fad is "personal branding" and over share. In order to over share you need something captivating to share. Furthermore a "status update” is NOT status. The truth is that often we are more interesting when we remain silent. Facebook allows its users to “like” everything from photos, to pages, to comments, to statuses. The obsession is to garner the public approval of everyone on the web, checking the phone every 20 seconds to keep track of incoming likes and then reaching a virtual orgasm from witnessing the number of "thumbs up" increase.

Teenagers find it boring these days, the novelty is gone. So, does FB really matter? Is it still relevant? In the early days there was a rush to find everybody one could think of, amazed that it was possible, not considering whether they really wanted or not to reopen a contact with a long lost school chum or an estranged family member. Now people are busy with the sophomoric practice of "unfriending." It is so pointless; it’s a passive aggressive act. I long for the door slamming and shouted threats of never speaking again that got the point across clearly, not the cowardly click that quietly disconnects us. If you must, just grow apart, like you should.

A friend of mine made the mistake of posting the announcement of her father's death. She was devastated when she promptly received 53 "likes.” Sadly, not one of these 53 "friends" picked up the phone, or wrote a card, to convey their condolences or lend a word of support. I loved George Clooney when he said: “I’d rather have a rectal examination on live TV by a fellow with cold hands than have a Facebook page." I am so clicking the "like" button on that.


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