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No Friend Of Yours

Some friend of a friend of a friend of mine – Petty, “What’re You Doin’ In My Life?”

“Share Your Facebook Memories” is a recent feature on the internet titan that allows users to auto-generate a post from four or five years back and re-distribute some enthusiastic highlight from their past. I’m not sure how Facebook distinguishes and chooses these posts from the more dour “Sue has contracted Crone’s Disease” ones, but with face-recognition and virtual reality not far on the horizon and a zillion dollars in stock value, it can’t be any huge trick. This company may be getting too smart for their own good and is now compensating for the weariness of their massive user base in having to daily generate and project more interesting and enjoyable lives. “If you’re no longer buying the illusion,” they seem to be saying, “let’s show them how great everything was when you were.” Facebook is recycling old dopamine and offering a nostalgic high. I find most of the site to be a large-scale exercise in duplicating the mind-set of a friend of a friend, who was once described to me as never answering a question directly but instead turning every reply into a compliment for his wife. “I don’t know about that,” was this guy’s standard response, “but if I had it to do a million times again, I’d marry Linda every single one of them.” Yes, but the topic at hand was global warming, you moron. It’s this kind of inane positivity that dominates Facebook and makes us shape our days as an interminable series of life-affirming photos, comments and observations. Sure, you’ll get the occasional post when someone kicks the bucket — “Carbunkle Family Matriarch of 98 years and the rock at our center ..” But it’s a sanitized zeroes and ones obituary that only serves to emphasize the “you’re OK .. I’m OK, right?” nature of the deal. I’m not sure if birth announcements are proper fodder for the digital domain, but I surely don’t want somebody clicking a button to re-share the day I bit it, four years after the fact.

Or perhaps I’m just exceedingly bitter. Historically, this has been the case. Connectivity is the buzzword. We all know what the other is doing (or at least what the other wants us to think he is doing) and don’t have to wait for the morning paper on our doorstep to get the latest political news complete with spin. That spin can come from a variety of sources — paid “professionals” on various news sites, our personal group of 3000 close “friends” or Larry the Electrician texting us from our vacation home where he’s repairing a fuse box “did you see where Trump fired his FBI director?” There are two distinct differences from the past: it’s coming at us 24-7 and in much larger quantities, and there is no digestion-time. We used to have to wait for things: the paper, the six o’clock news, a phone call or letter or family get-together. We’d consume this information and then have some down-time to put it together in our own heads or find some way to put it aside. No such luxury anymore; we’re getting fed around the clock and all feeling the information-equivalent of being on one of those Caribbean cruise lines with no port in site.  I know how Benmont Tench feels about Sean Spicer because I’m on the former’s Instagram feed .. when all I was really looking for was some cool overhead piano shots from the latest Mudcrutch tour.

And what of these more “serious” political discussions on Facebook? I suppose one could view them as reprieve from shots of our buddy’s eighteen year-old daughter in her first low-cut dress readying for prom night or banal up to the minute postings like “look — a wasp has landed in my milkshake.” But in most cases the vast majority of these “friends” reading our opinions on Washington or Syria or healthcare are of like-mind and this “discussion forum” more resembles a closely-knit circle-jerk. We’re steeling and fortifying our already like-minded clique and creating this illusion of cohesion and shared “common sense” when in fact it’s no more accurate or reality-based than that picture of your friend’s eternally-happy extended family enjoying a ten-course meal around a perfectly decorated dining room table. If you really want to change minds or get an accurate reflection of those outside your group, jump into an Alabama discussion group if you live in San Francisco or Brooklyn .. or reach out to France if you’re from Tennessee. It’s never been easier to do so and they even have the language-barriers figured out. Of course you just won’t see this happen. We all enjoy being told that we’re right and smart and insightful. Nobody wants to go looking for instant dopamine only to be informed that he’s got his head up his ass.

I struggle with using the word “irony” correctly, even being familiar with it all my life and having looked it up in Webster’s on many an occasion. I’ve heard it said that Americans don’t fully “get” irony .. but I think it was by some pussy Frenchman or effete English dude with bad teeth. At any rate (what about six and half percent?) I think the term can be aptly applied to elements of our modern world, and more specifically the idea of information dissemination. Here we are at a time when it is easier to reach out or be reached than ever in history. And yet the result seems to be more disillusion, extreme personalities as figureheads, and the re-affirmation of bubble-living. We’ve bridged huge gaps only to ramp up the process of closing our minds. I guess it’s no great surprise, and if we’re to believe the film “The Social Network,” Zuckerberg created Facebook primarily to get laid. And the site has reportedly led to more infidelity, break-ups and divorces than at any time in our history. (The more pronounced side of staring into our phone and lusting after our buddy’s eighteen year-old daughter in her prom dress.) I still like to believe there is a basic good in people and I’ve had one shining, indefatigable, remarkable example in my life: my mom. She never got near a computer, didn’t own a smartphone and didn’t even trust ATM machines. Take that for what you will.

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One Comment

  1. Coleman Miller wrote:

    Nailed it.
    again.

    Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

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