Friday, December 5, 2014
The Day I Divorced Facebook the Hussy
"Doctor, I'm in a dysfunctional relationship."
"Tell me about it."
"She's abusive to me and I can't trust her."
"What's the woman's name?"
"Facebook? Facebook is the woman's name?"
"Facebook. She's a hussy. I've written about her before, Facebook the Hussy."
"So what is the nature of the relationship?"
"She lies, she cheats on me, she hits me, I blow up at her. And then I leave her and she woos me back again and tells me she's sorry and she'll never do it again. And for a month or so everything's perfect. And the sex is great. And then I notice she's been lying, she's been cheating on me. I confront her, she hits me, I blow up at her. And we start the cycle all over again."
"But ... Facebook is not a woman. Facebook is a thing."
"Look, Doc. She's a woman, and a shallow and bitter one at that."
"Perhaps I should prescribe some ... medication?"
"No, listen! When I first joined Facebook, I had a few friends, actors who worked for me. Facebook looked at her algorithm and decided that I ought be be friends with my friends' friends. But my friends' friends were all losers and drug addicts. She kept throwing pictures up at me of losers and drug addicts. She wanted me to "friend" these people, to have relationships with them. I should have known then that she didn't care for me. She did not have my best interests at heart."
"You actually had actors as friends?"
"It was foolish, I know. And then one of them publicly complained about me (by posting on Facebook) and all of our mutual actor friends left comments consoling her and agreeing with her, so I unfriended the whole damn lot of them then and there."
"I see. So this rage of yours ... "
"I'm not finished. I swore off the Hussy at that point. But we worked out our differences and got back together - or so I thought. We had a deal. No more actor friends. Only Super-Catholic friends."
"I know! I know! That also had disaster written all over it! Posts on novenas and devotions and all that Catholic stuff - I had hundreds of friends, and they were all Super-Catholics, fans of my EWTN work, fans of theology and saints. Then one day I put up a post quoting from the Catechism and I got over 140 comments - all disagreeing with the Catechism. With the freaking Catechism of the Catholic Church! A ton of Super-Catholic friends were furious that I had quoted from it because they disagreed with it."
"So ... "
"So I broke up with Facebook again. But I began to miss her - the smile, the laugh, the great sex."
"Then I compromised. We'd get back together, but I would 'unfollow' all but about a dozen of my friends. I simply would not see the posts of all of these whackos who were bringing me down. And I'd do my best to ignore their comments on my posts."
"How did that go?"
"Fine for a month or two. It was our second honeymoon. But then I noticed something."
"I couldn't keep my promise to stay out of the fray. I started getting sucked in to pointless arguments in the comments to posts that I was putting up, posts that linked to my blog. People wouldn't comment on my blog posts at my blog site, they'd comment on Facebook. I'd respond to their comments, and then they'd rip into me and lecture me about how judgmental I am or how naive I am or how arrogant I am."
"But you really are all those things."
"I know, but that was beside the point! I was trying to discuss issues or insights I'd had about spiritual matters or stuff like that. I'd be attacked personally as a way to discredit the argument I'd be making, as a way of short circuiting any genuine intellectual engagement."
"Did you say, 'genuine intellectual engagement'? This is the internet, you fool! You really are nuts!"
"So finally, after about a dozen times back and forth, I've had it. I'm giving her up for Advent - and for good."
"That's a bit extreme, wouldn't you say?"
"No, Facebook the Hussy is extreme. Maybe not for everyone - though I've seen her hurt many of my friends, who not only become addicted to her, but who form intensely intimate so-called relationships with members of the opposite sex who are not their husbands or wives. That sort of thing has happened to me as well, and it's devastating in every conceivable way. It's a trap, you know."
"It's not a trap. It's technology. Technology is neutral."
"Technology is far from neutral, doctor. Take the microphone, for example. The microphone changed singing from stage-singing to crooner-singing, bringing in a whole different kind of music, revolutionizing the culture, for better or worse. The automobile brings the benefits of quick transportation along with the burden of suburban sprawl and a kind of isolationism. No technology is neutral."
"But it's not the technology's fault. It's our fault."
"I agree. But certain kinds of technology facilitate certain kinds of reactions. The internet allows us to connect instantaneously with far away friends, but it also allows us to access unlimited pornography in the privacy of our bedrooms, the kind of pornography that only the most degraded of perverts were aware of fifty years ago. Humans have always had the potential to find soul mates in far flung places, and humans have always had the potential to give themselves over to hard core porn. The internet has facilitated both by the very nature of what the internet is. Certain kinds of technology facilitate certain kinds of responses in us. So perhaps you could say technology is neutral, but our use of technology never is. Technology provides grooves that are more conducive to certain kinds of behavior and not conducive to others."
"But getting back to Facebook ... "
"The Hussy provides a false sense of intimacy. Facebook friends are not real friends, as a rule. Oh, maybe if you stick with sharing photos and videos of kittens, you're OK. But beyond that, you'll find that Facebook friends will drive you crazy."
"Real friends can drive you crazy, too. In the real world."
"Yes, but there's a humanity there that's lacking in Facebook. For one thing, no real friend in real life would say the kinds of things many Facebook false friends are emboldened to say with their keyboards. And for another, things like smiles, laughter (not LOL cyber laughter, but real laughter), tone of voice - all of the give and take you get when you're with a real friend in real life - these things bring warmth and context, these things convey humanity and real affection, or sometimes real frustration. That's because real friendships exist in a real web - not a "world wide web", but the kind of web that's like a fine silk or a gauze, connecting people in a frail and fine and delicate way, just like a spider's web. There's a finesse to real life relationships, a give and take, a kind of gauze that cushions much of what we do with one another and that operates on many levels in many subtle ways at once."
"So, to use an analogy ... "
"To use an analogy, Facebook is like a garish daytime talk show with celebrity hosts and insipid guests - too loud, too stupid, too contrived, too self-absorbed. Real life is like the novels of Henry James."
"Well, maybe you've made the right decision - at least for you, at least for now."
"It's not a decision, doctor. It's a deliverance."