A Love/Hate Relationship
Posted by Whittier Strong
I love Facebook because it helped me to redeem my past. I was ambivalent about reaching deep into my past for people to “friend” on the site. I knew that I would have to fill them in on the whole coming-out narrative, and figured a lot of them would be upset about it. But I took the leap, and was pleasantly surprised. I learnt to give people more credit.
I hate Facebook because I have to face down what people believe. There is a hell of a lot more in the world than worrying about gay folks. And, unfortunately, it’s in a lot of those arenas that I bump heads with chunks of my friend list. I have to manage an anxiety disorder, and that often means managing what content I read. That entails using filters on Facebook that I’d rather not feel the need to use. I feel bad that I am unable to handle some of what people I really do consider friends have to say.
I love Facebook because it opens me up to new points of view. People can surprise you–especially if they are intelligent and thoughtful and know how to carry on a true debate without erupting into a volcano of ad hominem, quid pro quo, and other fun Latin words. I have certain friends who I love to read posts from, since I never know quite what their take is going to be on something. It enlightens me.
I hate Facebook because it’s a never-ending stream of news stories. There was this fantastic article awhile back (ironically, from a newspaper) that told of the dangers of exposure to news media. One of the issues is that the endless onslaught of tragedies that you can do nothing about can lead to an individual feeling powerless, even about the things they can change for the better. Sometimes I have to distance myself.
I love Facebook because it keeps me company. I am a student and a writer, so I spend a lot of time on my laptop. I also live alone–something I do not like–and a random chat can brighten up my day in the most marvelous way. Why, just today, I had a conversation out of nowhere that led to new personal insights. As an extrovert whose social life is presently lacking, that personal contact is essential.
I hate Facebook because I feel like I have to censor myself there. I’m perhaps a little bit better about this than I used to be. But I’ve run on the assumption that any potential employer is going to find some way to get at my Facebook account, as well as this very blog. (I already believe some of my entries on this blog have forfeited my chance to ever have a real job.) I decided that I’d rather be stone-broke and honest than comfortable and a liar. Still, there are many views and opinions I do not express on Facebook, and many articles I do not repost, because I don’t want to stir up trouble.
I love Facebook because it inspires my writing. Some of my blog posts start out as Facebook posts. Then I realize that what I’m trying to say is too complex an idea for a Facebook post, so I come over and write a blog post instead. In turn, I’m able to post links of my blog posts to Facebook, which helps get the word out about my writing.
I hate Facebook because it’s not designed to express complete ideas. When the site first launched, users were limited to posts of approximately 450 characters. Even though that restriction is long gone, it established the meme that Facebook posts are supposed to be concise. Not all ideas can be articulated briefly. Consider that I just went over 600 words in this post and still haven’t said a hell of a lot. This is a big reason why fights erupt on Facebook–people don’t take the time and use the space to explain ideas in a complete manner.
I love Facebook because it’s instantaneous. When you think about it, Facebook isn’t particularly novel. Virtually every component on Facebook is duplicated from Yahoo, which is what folks used ten years ago for pretty much the same purposes–games, instant messaging, interest groups. The beauty of Facebook is that it pulled these utilities from the realm of those who were more tech-savvy and placed them in everyone’s hands. And look–I can play a game of Scrabble with someone halfway around the world instantaneously. I can chat simultaneously with a friend in Vancouver, a friend in Chicago, and a friend in Madrid. I can go over and link this blog post when I’m done with it and instantly place it in hundreds of hands.
I hate Facebook because it’s instantaneous. This is another big reason why fights erupt on Facebook. In the time it takes for someone to post a comment, and then post a second comment to expound upon the first, a half-dozen people can jump and eviscerate the initial comment, before there’s been a chance to explain it. The ability to reply instantly is the antithesis to listening, which is essential, not just for everyday communication, but for the survival of our species.
I love Facebook because it opens my heart. Every day, there’s something on there that makes me laugh, and many days something that makes me shed a tear.
I hate Facebook because it demands that I maintain a switch on my heart, to shift from happy to sad to happy again in the blink of an eye. In this way, it’s destroying the human heart.
So what do I do? I just have to roll with it. Something else will come along at some point in my life to take its place. (Remember MySpace?) I have to be grateful for the ingenuity that gives me all of these good things in my life. But I don’t have to be grateful for the way it drags my life down.