The prescient Voltaire
The quote is Voltaire’s and so precedes Facebook by a few centuries, but would certainly have been uttered by him again had he had the distinct pleasure to read the daily, sometimes hourly, even minute-by-minute observations shared by his “friends”. Facebook has many uses for people, organizations and multi-national corporations. It’s become a sort of individually tailored town square through which we users all walk (some only occasionally, others never seem to leave) to greet our friends, hear the gossip and see the storefronts and street vendors. It’s ultimately a terribly lazy, and strangely passive (even camouflaged), way to go about experiencing the world. You can more or less hide in a bush by the sidewalk and just watch it all unfold from there (generally my M.O.).
That is my way because I don’t communicate well through anything like an online “chat”. The rhythm of the chat (or texting) is broken for me. If we are going to lay out long stories, arguments, treatises and the like and have another comment in return, then that sort of typing, sending and waiting for reply works just fine. But if we’re going to have a conversation with short sentences (not even) and shorter replies, then we must do that in person or with sound. To wait more than a half of a second for someone to reply to “Meet me at Luce” with “OK” is ludicrous. It’s a colossal waste of time and, keeping in mind the rule that 99 percent of all quoted numbers are made up, I would bet that we’re wasting millions of hours of time each year waiting for simple, often inane, replies.
The other problem with the chat business is it becomes chatty and chatty is girlie which is why I’ve always said that Facebook is for girls and chatty boys. Imagine any real man – real or Hollywood induced – and then imagine them posting their status on Facebook. John Wayne, no way. Bronco Nagurski, not a chance. James Bond, not unless it was really a trigger to a bunker busting bomb on the side of a mountain on an island somewhere in the ocean. That’s because it’s information lite; and these guys were men of few words and certainly wouldn’t waste any on “Having red sauce with fresh tomatoes and basil tonight!”
And that chattiness, especially in the one-way fashion it mostly unfolds on Facebook, becomes in its breadth, boring. No one can talk (or post) constantly and consistently say something of worth. And like the Menards commercials playing in the Menards while you are shopping, it first surprises, then annoys, then irritates and eventually slips a bit into the background as a minor irritation like a leg dotted with mosquito bites.
But like scratching the bites, I have this strange compulsion to read the incessant posts. Mostly it’s the proverbial train wreck from which I cannot turn. The gore, the sickness, the sadness, the sense of there but for the grace of the gods go I, are all somehow alluring, and yet simultaneously, and ultimately, boring.
That being said, here I am posting my own thoughts. There are two differences however: I don’t expect a reply and the related second difference, no one is reading this – my town square here is empty!
I guess we’re all broadcasting our thoughts with various degrees of thoughtfulness, intimacy and engagement.