Whenever anyone condemns Facebook as a waste of time, I find I must demur. Not for me. Not for a student of character. I may not be interested in what you had for breakfast or who your dash cam caught running the stop sign at Pine and Fifth, but I am profoundly interested in why you feel compelled to tell me these things, by what it is you hope to achieve.
We do things for a reason — not necessarily a good reason, but a reason none the less. When defending Facebook, I have likened the social networking site to a vast Agora, or marketplace, filled with people from disparate and disconnected parts of my life, all milling about, bumping into one another, talking over each other, each with his own agenda, each with her own axe to grind. It’s like a Resurrection, where everyone I have known in all my sixty three years suddenly reappears all in the same place, only nobody’s died. Well, actually, some of them have died, but that hasn’t stopped them from being on Facebook. That’s the Zombie part of this Apocalypse.
As with any market place, there are those who use the site to hawk their wares – their business, their art, their service, their product line. There, too, are the critics, whose self-imposed job it is to recommend or promote or deconstruct. In one corner, someone is treating whoever appears game to a slideshow of their recent trip to Istanbul. In another, a teenage acquaintance attempts to lure passersby into the dark alley of Askme in the perfervid hope that some male will ask her a titillating question, while another, forlorn, posts non-stop selfies of herself to elicit compliments that emanate largely from her girlfriends. Elsewhere someone is just itching for a fight or preaching the Gospel according to themselves or rousing a rabble or building a following, while others self soothe with memes or present as cats with captions or endlessly narrate their uneventful lives in minute detail . . . why? To impose upon it some kind of coherence. To give it meaning. Like Turkish carpet dealers who theatrically unroll their wares for prospective buyers to inspect, they lay bare their loneliness for all to like.
And then there are the lurkers.
One post is a fleeting thing, but many, many posts over time accrete into a very real persona; the face the poster has chosen, wittingly or not, to present to the world. Indeed, the word “persona” derives from the Latin word for a theatrical mask. Often, the persona a frequent poster creates for him or herself bears little resemblance to the person as they present in the “Real World”. No matter. Both are fabrications and, as such, equally real, equally false, and never not revealing.
I have always been fascinated in motivation – it is what interests me most: not what people do, or how, but why. Inside my own head, I have always tried to be honest about the not infrequently pissy reasons I do the things I do. Jealousy, envy, vanity, self-pity, vengeance, snobbishness, self-righteousness, noblesse oblige, schadenfreuden . . . . I am guilty, daily, of them all. Is there any wonder I find Facebook a virtual smorgersbord of unintentional delights?
I am what I would describe as a kamikaze Facebooker, a sub species of lurker who, for the most part, floats beneficently along, buoyed by thermals, taking in the view, liking all things Democratic, Pope Francis, dogs and Tiny Houses, but who, upon spotting anything pro-guns or Republican, becomes utterly consumed with rage and proceeds to rain down fiery poop on their parade. And that’s my Facebook persona in a nutshell: half Harpy, half Old Hippy Dog Woman in a Tiny House. Who really likes Pope Francis. And Elizabeth Warren. Did I mention Elizabeth Warren?
And now I really must pay a visit to the Agora and see what everybody is up to. There’s undoubtedly some loathsome Teabagger I can excoriate and a video of a golden retriever who, to the delight of all who behold it, expertly executes the merengue.