I was fine when you were posting photos of cats – and they were not even your own cats. I was fine when you told me you woke up with a headache, had an itchy elbow or a boring day at work. I was fine when you didn’t like my post about the biggest fundraiser ever done in New York City. I was still fine when you flooded my Facebook feed with your uncle’s second cousin’s wedding photos from two years ago.
Today I think I have had it for now. I gotta tell you something quick and I hope you don’t take it personally. Listen, freedom of speech is a big deal, in my country it is considered a luxury, and I love how we all can say and post just whatever we want to, with no fear. But what do you really want to say to an audience of a few hundred people? I can no longer ignore your need for approval of how good you look, your need to be seen and liked, your need to keep passing on something that you think someone else might like – and then coming back to check how many people liked something that you so graciously have not written, not invented, not experienced – but shared.
Yes, I am a hypocrite. I also share my moments with you, all that human stuff, my sunsets, cheesecakes, mountains, books, blog posts and bus rides across Chile. I expect nothing and I want to think that I am sharing my joy or experience with you. Still, I can’t help but get slightly wired up while scrolling through the never-ending relay of identical shared posts and images. Do you really think you are the only one who found that link funny? I understand that Facebook is for entertainment and interaction – but when did our collective entertainment outlet become so repetitive, when did we become so discouraged? You are better than that, you are a good, thoughtful, intelligent person and there is an audience a click away waiting just for you.
I am not judgemental – I am observant. Here is my Facebook feed from today only. Does it look anything like yours? An article on Auschwitz and Holocaust (great!), how to peel an onion (thanks), an exercise routine with a cat, a dog doing sit ups, a beaver on the road, selfie, dancing cow, someone got admitted to a university (good!), selfie, selfie, selfie, puppies, travelling to Asia (cool), The Huffington Post on beer, social campaign (great!), selfie, artwork (neat), The Huffington Post on diet, Forbes on management (hmm), selfie, cat, dog, dog taking a selfie, TED talk (good), someone won a grant (good!), wedding photos, selfie, cat, selfie, dog, selfie, bacon, smoothie, soccer, selfie, traffic, squirrel, poker, selfie, wedding photos (again?), baby photos (ok good), quit smoking tips (good!), and another selfie to top it off.
Remember when you were twenty one? It is Friday night and you are going out to a club. You are a smart girl (guy), you know you won’t strike a random and fascinating conversation with a tall stranger that would turn out to be the craziest romance of all time, you won’t suddenly be carried away by how kind and caring that blonde with fake eye lashes and nails is, and you surely won’t have a one night stand that would lead to a happy ever after, marriage and seven kids. You know better than that. Everything will be just as it always is – line up in the rain, loud music, watered down drinks, dirty washrooms, dancing in high heels, sticky bar surface, tip jar, unbuttoned shirts, hair gel, someone throwing up in a stall next to you, someone tries to grab you, you try to grab someone, everyone wants to be liked, everyone wants to feel beautiful, a lot of people you barely know and all of them talking, drinking, dancing, 2am rush, smudged make up, pizza on the corner, sleeping till noon, birds singing, long shower, brunch and Advil. Did I miss anything? But every single time you surely, secretly, deep inside hope that this time something would be different. That it would be the time something happens; that there would be an odd thing, something or someone you might like, or something or someone that finally catches your eye. So you keep going out on Friday night, not because it is just so much fun, but because you are hopeful.
Same story with Facebook. This is how I feel when I log in to see what’s up and who ate what for dinner. Besides a few cool articles, major life events and opinions, it is often an abundance of informational junk for our eyes and brains to feast on and an easy way to spend 5-10 (ok, 15-20) minutes. And, like every Friday night ten years ago, I keep coming back online because I hope for something that would be interesting or worthy. But I think I might be looking in a wrong place after all… Isn’t it a definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over again and to expect a different outcome? Night clubs don’t change – and neither does Facebook. So before I go, let me tell you something.
I remember what you look like. You look good, damn good, all of you! You don’t need another selfie with 50 likes to feel that way. Cats are adorable, puppies are cute. But does it really make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you share a video of them? For the sake and well-being of all these creatures, post something different. Show me something I have not seen. Tell me what you feel, what you’ve learned, and, finally, what you (personally) think.
I, pretty much average and slightly overwhelmed Facebook user, am actually interested in your thoughts. Not your manicure, not your new shoes (ok, maybe occasionally) and not the fact that your neighbors are playing Frozen soundtrack again (mine do it too). I really don’t want to know what other interesting shit you saw on boredpanda.com today. I can go there myself (and I do!). For me, the idea of entertainment can also include a bunch of your actual thoughts, experiences, memories, stories. I want to know, if anything, what is inside your head and your heart, and I bet there is more than kittens.
There is an audience out there and it is listening, watching and reading. I am your audience, too, and I am tired, but still hopeful. There is a hell of a crowd to share what matters to you. It is a bejeezus of an opportunity to share a piece of your mind or heart (whatever is closer to you). Don’t be greedy or selfish. Do you want to make a little difference or add another photo of a parrot using the microwave photo to your feed? Hey gorgeous, how about we change the idea of what is considered entertaining. Wanna get out of here sometimes?
Olga Barrows, January 2015