Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11 Day 11

Today's song is the clever opening number from the Book of Mormon;

I'm on day 11- not much of a landmark. But today I woke up and was reminded right away of the habit of distraction that is Facebook. I've moved my computer to the "breakfast room" table though I never eat breakfast there. So every morning, I still automatically go to the kitchen island to where my computer used to be. It's like quitting smoking- there are no more cigarettes, and you might not miss them any more and even be proud of yourself, but you'll still look for them- for just a second- but you still will. 

Facebook taught me to be distracted. It trained me to stop what I am doing to go see what the newest notification is. Right there on my kitchen counter.  I am relieved for the 99 days because I no longer respond with Pavlovian enthusiasm to a machine telling me that other people are doing something I should know about.  I hear all those complaints about video games taking people away from their families and lives. Well, at least with a video game there is a purpose to it and, often, you are playing with other people whose looks, religion, politics and  race mean nothing. It is all about the camaraderie and competition. On facebook, you are literally watching other people live their lives and, a lot of the time, it shouldn't even be your business! And there is plenty of judgment- even if people don't actually write it on someone's page.  There is a big difference between being entertained (tv, video games, etc)  and/or living in a virtual world where nothing happens. You are still in your house- you didn't go anywhere and really achieved nothing. One is a way to relax and open your mind, but Facebook becomes a way to be involved in a world that doesn't exist. No one posts bad pictures or tells you how much they hate their life. It is an illusion for most people, and a source of envy and unhappiness for some, too.   I guess it isn't really that simple- in fact, it is almost inexplicably complex. That's why I'm doing such a crummy job here trying to explain it.  

I'm kind of unusual in that my adoptive parents were alive during the Great Depression. Not just alive, but almost adults.  Their lives consisted of paying attention. No computer programs did their addition and subtraction, no one carried a map and address book on a cell phone, nothing kept them entertained when they sat in a restaurant or dinner table- nothing but one another. They never had the cloak of anonymity and invisbility the internet provides. Real words were exchanged with real people. And not while they were wearing pajamas, either. There was a civility to their behavior- even if their anger simmered below. There was no freedom to just punch a neighbor out (physically or verbally) and then expect life to go on as  normal with a "how are your kids". As if nothing had happened. But there you have it with Facebook. And the results are the same- sometimes irreparable  and unforgettable.

The first time I heard the word Facebook was when my daughter went off to college. Princeton (yeah, I used the P word as opposed to saying 'a school in New Jersey') had a freshman Facebook.  It was simply a little book with pictures and hometowns (I think I remember that right) of all the freshmen.  It was a way for freshmen to feel more connected to their new environment. I'd never seen one before because I went to a plebian university where all the underperforming high school graduates were given at least one semester to give college a try.  My school didn't publish acceptance rates because they were one of the few in the nation to simply accept everyone. My college yearbook was done by "colleges". We majored in things our parents hoped would provide us employment.  The college of engineering was several hundred white guys with white shirts and black ties, and a couple of foreign girls. The college of nursing was a few hundred women and a couple of men freshman year- and by senior year, I'd guess 70% of them were gone. Dreams crushed by the reality of organic chemistry.  (damn near got me, too).  We didn't have a facebook- we just wrote down names and dorm room numbers in case we needed someone's notes. We weren't interested in someone's SAT's or valedictory status because we chose a school that wasn't very selective. But our faculty came from all over the world- and some of them came from very prestigious schools indeed. And it was cheap. And fun.  But we were expected to find our own way and learn names and hometowns on our own. It worked out just fine.   No Facebook. Just friends who introduced you to other friends. And roommates. So when I see "Facebook", that is what I think of- a little online book where I tuck all the people I've wondered about into a space where I can reach them.

I'm not sure Facebook really works out. Initially, it would have been nice to collect the names and faces and family stories of all the people in the world that I or my husband knew. But it probably should have stopped there- frozen in time as a reference you could check when you began to wonder how a friend is doing.  I assume that sociology and psychology majors have finally found something new to marvel about and research.  We, a nation that SCREAMS about its privacy, voluntarily go online and post everything from our birthdate (complete with the "steal my identity" feature of year of birth) to the fact that we are out of town on that vacation you'll never take. People I've never met know things about me that would never come up in casual conversation.  It is probably true that when this social experiment finally comes crumbling down (and it WILL because they all do) we will look back and say "What the hell were we thinking?"

Facebook ended Christmas letters, a lot of "catch up" phone calls and dropping in on a neighbor just to say hi. I sort of miss that. 

I had a Facebook discussion with an idea for a very hi-tech friend- I called it VennPage. You could collect friends and assign them a primary color or two. Say blue for "my favorite friends" and maybe yellow for "college friends" - some would overlap and those would be the favorite college friends.  You'd do that with all primary colors and have the overlaps. Then when you posted something, you'd use the color blocks to decide who could see it. The logo would be a Venn diagram of many colors. If you wanted ALL, you could click ALL. You would have the little color blocks or dots appear next to a friend's name, and you could simply unclick if you started to dislike them or they wouldn't shut up about politics you didn't want to hear! So I told my friend all about it, thinking this would be great if he'd pick up my idea and do it.  A week later, he left to go work for Facebook. :-(   Someone please make a VennPage for me. I'll pay to be on it. No ads, please. I think lots of people would pay to do that. Privacy guaranteed.  It'll make you a billionaire and make me rich when I sue you for stealing my intellectual property right off this page!! (let's not go back to how LAZY I am).

The view from the table today:
Zoubisou is wondering if India is on tv.

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