Last Tuesday a friend stopped me in the lobby where we both work and told me a political meme that I had posted the day before was false–or at least Snopes.com claims it was false. That was good enough for me. In reflection the quote Vice President Pence supposedly said was crazy. Now, he has said and done some stupid things, but saying that the American people don’t need healthcare, but Jesus Care should have sent up a red flag when I first saw it.
But it didn’t.
Before I got back on Facebook to look at the quote and the comments Friends had left, I knew it was a lie. Then why in the hell did I post it? What I believe I did was part of a massive problem in social media. To be honest, I’ll get over the shame of posting this falsehood, but this kind of thing has been bugging me for a long time–people posting shit for other Friends to see. It’s an epidemic and I just added to the disease! David Harvey, author, distinguished professor of Anthropology, Geography at CUNY, and leading Marxist scholar says social media has had a radical democratizing effect on society, but it also is a form of social control and part of the Consumption of Spectacle. He suggests people, alongside using social media sparingly and responsibly, cultivate a circle of friends to discuss issues of the day. This works as a form of “group truthing.” He also suggests creating or joining reading groups.
My wife and my brother find social media a colossal waste of time. My youngest son and his best friend (who is an activist and I hope to interview for this blog someday) don’t have social media accounts because they value their perceived privacy and know whatever valuable information they can glean from Facebook they can access directly from its sources. I would be a pompous ass if I said I am leaving Facebook because of the Russian influence on the social media or Mark Zuckerberg’s reactions to that fake news scandal. However, some of the latest revelations are a concern. However, the problems with my relationship with Facebook are many. Here are the main ones.
Not Checking Sources
Too often I don’t check my sources before posting a meme or a quote. This incident was the last straw. I posted a political meme that a friend pointed out was false. This event was very embarrassing. What’s worse, it wasn’t the first time it happened. I have probably done this half-dozen times. I have also been one to bust others on this kind of activity.
Trusted Source, Excellent Writer, Hard-Hitting Title. Meh, I’ll Read It After I Post It
Too often I don’t wholly read an article before I share it. This is a big problem (see the first point) though I always post articles from reliable sources. Still, posting something I did not wholly read (or did not read at all) is believing in a source, but not necessarily the actual text. After years of putting up with followers and sycophants who seemed to take every word he said as the infallible truth, Noam Chomsky began to end his arguments with, “It’s all right there in the documents. Read them for yourselves.” I have the utmost confidence in sources like The Intercept, The Nation, and In These Times, but it is lazy at best, arrogant at worst to tell someone they should read an article on corporate farming on the assumption that whatever I read must be the truth.
My Facebook Page is Intended for the Serious Reader (That’s why it’s on Facebook)
I should be posting videos and pictures of cute kittens instead of damning quotes from/of politicians. Maybe I should change my material to better suit people like my wife. I think the only things she likes about my otherwise useless and negative Facebook page are my humorous videos, extended family photos, and images and videos of cats (dogs too, but mostly cats). The funny thing is, I would love to share more stuff like the adjacent image, but most of my Facebook Friends don’t post that kind of stuff. That’s the Zuckerberg algorithm at work (i.e. I painted myself into this corner). I have friends and family members who almost exclusively use Facebook as family albums. Almost as if Facebook was created especially for that. If I wasn’t so damn ugly, I might have used Facebook in this manner more often. Finally, there are the positive vibe posts. There are plenty of memes of Jesus, Buddha, Rumi, Yogananda, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other philosophers that I could choke my FB page with. Yesterday I attended a talk with the health expert and author Ruben Guzman who reminded me how when it comes to self-improvement I have always been un grand saboteur or as the philosopher James Allen said: “You are today where your thoughts take you.” And I just referred to myself as ugly. Un grand saboteur strikes again!
Can I Get a Hallelujah, Somebody!
When it comes to my posts, I’m preaching to the choir. Over the years my Facebook Friends list has been sifted to separate the politically faithful from the infidels. I rarely did the sifting. The chafe separated itself–sometimes with angry adieus. The few exceptions include conservative family members who, I am confident, gag on my political posts all the while hang on as a Friend for the occasional family image (not to mention a wine-drinking joke or a video of kitties sliding around on a moving turntable). So this business of posting something Bernie Sanders said or Kshama Sawant did so we can all metaphorically slap each other on the proverbial back seems foolish when a moment like the impetus of this blog post occurs. My Facebook posts aren’t converting anybody, only making some of my political kin feel good and in turn, making me feel good when they click on the Thumps Up.
… and the Obvious
I spend too much time on social media. From time to time I have looked for a time-motion tool that would tell me just how much time I burn up on Facebook. Between checking my feed at work and on my phone it has to be in the double-digit minutes each day, with a slight drop during the weekend and days off. Hanging out on Facebook is so unproductive, but who am I kidding? The void created by leaving Facebook will not be filled by Bible study, re-thinking the way I do my job, or thinking of what home improvements I can do this Saturday. Is there a cool zombie-killing app that can take the place of my deleted Facebook app on my iPhone 6?
The Other Time Wasters
Facebook takes up the lion’s share of time I spend on social media. I’m so glad I don’t take a lot of pix. Otherwise, I might spend as much time on Instagram as I do on Facebook. If you looked at my camera roll you would wonder if there is anyone more boring than me: pix of unique cooking ingredients taken at a grocery store, images of bike and scooter parts; also, a lot of pix of stuff I send to myself to investigate later. None of it the kind of things you usually see on someone’s Instagram.
Images of my wife and me on vacation? We rarely take those kinds of vacation pix, at least not us together. Pix of me far far away against the background of the Thames, or a famous Cape Cod restaurant, etc. When I first got Instagram, a weird error occurred. I would see that I had some new images of two or three young ladies crammed into a narrow picture, eyes full and up, lips in a pucker a la Marilyn Monroe, one of the young ladies wearing plastic sunglasses in the shape of stars. Over the next couple of weeks, I kept getting these kinds of pictures. It couldn’t be sex spam–the women were too scrubbed, the settings kooky, not suggestive–like the photos were intended for friends. I initially ignored them after wondering how they made it onto my phone and if the other account holder knew I could see these pix. Then I began to worry, would if the account holder might introduce a boyfriend into her/our photo library? Would if the pictures started to show more skin, intimate kissing, and, well, you know. I didn’t want to feel like a peeping tom so I finally broke my silence and commented on one of her “My Friends and I Having a Rad Time!” pix. The sender said we had the same handle so the pix were getting mixed. She must have seen one of my rare posts. Perhaps an image of an old fat fart in an A’s cap stuffing his hole with a hot link, the Oakland Coliseum in the background. There’s nothing cute or kooky or rad about that! Finally, the Instagrams from her stopped. Perhaps my brutal gray-beard double-chin close-ups did the trick and she changed her handle. Poor girl. Better changing your handle than gouging those pretty baby blues out, Sweetie.
Being an avid reader and a nut for lists I will always use Goodreads. Even if all my Goodreads Friends left me I would still use it. Of course, because I’m losing my marbles I often add a title to my Want to Read list then, a few months pass and I’m checking out the list and wonder what this book is and why did I add it to this list. The same goes for my Read list. I’ll hear about an exciting book and login to Goodreads to add it to my Want to Read file only to find I have already read the book. Getting old is a bitch.
I can’t say how many times I have downloaded then later deleted Nextdoor just to download it again. If you don’t know, Nextdoor is a social networking service for neighborhoods. At first, I thought it was kind of handy and I still do today (mainly because this time around I turned off the notifications). I have now made peace with the app. I think the notification part of the tool is supposed to make the social networking app helpful. Do you see a stray dog running around in your yard? Check your Nextdoor app. There’s no information on a missing dog? Create a post. If someone is missing a dog that fits the description of that pooch they might respond. In the meantime, your phone will sound off whenever a fellow Nextdoor neighbor has a notification.
I do turn on the notifications if I see something strange, the power goes out, or I can tell a police helicopter is flying circles around my neighborhood. When there is some kind of activity happening in my hood I’ll turn on the notifications and my phone will go off every few minutes with a neighbor chiming in. About 80 percent of the announcements are dumb-ass comments or redundant information. Someone posted something they thought was important without checking the thread and wasted everyone’s time. Recently, there was a murder on a street adjacent to mine. An abusive husband did his wife in. A fraction of the updates was helpful–information someone got from the Sacramento Police Department. The rest of it just annoying beeping on my phone–Gladys Kravitz gossiping all night until I turned the notifications off. The developers made a useful tool that is often abused by the users (at least in my neighborhood).
I’m also on WeChat, a Chinese multi-purpose social media app. (Think Instagram with a messaging service.) Since China restricts most of the social media tools we use in the U.S. my wife and I use WeChat to keep in touch with our son and daughter-in-law and see the latest pictures of our granddaughter. I use the image viewer part of the tool the most. Being a stepfather means not being the point of contact. Sad.
Speaking of one-word sentences, I don’t think I will ever part with our President’s chief mode of communication to his citizens. Assuming I really stick with cutting back about 90 percent on Facebook I’ll keep my political ravings to Twitter. Did I say I was going to cut Facebook entirely out? Hmm, I’m reconsidering that. I logged off of my account on my work PC and removed the icon from my phone. If I don’t log in using either of these two devices I will have drastically cut my Facebook time. I’ll stay logged in at home. Gotta keep up with people’s birthdays, right?
Oh yeah. I almost forgot.