Do you have a love-hate relationship with Facebook? I know I do. It has this devious way of sucking me in to its viral vortex, where I can get lost for longer than advisable—as my darling wife Elyse likes to remind me. I have to admit she’s not wrong. Ever.
Facebook is aptly named. It’s a mirror—often a fun house mirror—of our personal culture, defined by whomever we choose to connect with in our circle of Facebook friends. In the end, it’s a reflection of who we are: our personality, tastes, likes, dislikes, ego and so on.
There are highly functional uses for Facebook that include fundraising, event invites and sharing useful information that can help others in your network.
There also are less functional uses of Facebook, such as when people overshare, a practice that of course is in the eye of the beholder. In fact, there’s a website euphemistically titled STFUParentsblog.com (you can figure out the acronym). It calls out parents who might be offensive on social media or whose behavior might go overboard in some way.
One habit of Facebook I could do without is when it flashes a slice of my past life in front of me. I didn’t ask to see what I looked like when I grew a beard to play the Rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof” at Yorktown Stage five years ago, but there it is nonetheless: Facebook follicles.
And do I need to be reminded that we lost power in October 2012 because of Superstorm Sandy? I’m not exactly nostalgic to relive my moments of powerlessness.
Facebook can be lots of fun, too. Like the quiz I just took that proved uncanny in its accuracy to predict which cold cereal I prefer. It was a very quick process, asking basic questions like what’s my favorite color, which celebrity I most identify with, what animal most reflects my personality, and so on. It picked “Life” cereal for me.
Even though I stick exclusively to hot oatmeal as a daily regimen, just a couple days before taking the quiz I had an impulse to buy a box of Life to eat as a snack out of the box. I can’t remember the last time I did that. When my daughter Elissa took the same quiz, it picked for her “Lucky Charms,” which she loved as a youngster. Come to think of it, that quiz is sort of creepy.
People use Facebook as a real-time channel of communications to react to live television. During the debates among Presidential aspirants of both major parties, Facebook was firing on all cylinders. I posted a comment that Ben Carson’s speaking style reminded me of Kevin Costner, and several people immediately concurred. I won’t share my other thoughts about any of the debates, because this is a family newspaper.
When Los Angeles Dodgers “hitman” Chase Utley upended New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada to break up a double-play in the playoffs, Mets fans and others instantly offered their own instant-replay commentary on Facebook, weighing in on whether Utley was justified or should be crucified for his move, which broke Tejada’s leg. On Facebook, everybody either is an umpire or wants to “kill the umpire!” as the old figurative expression goes.
Facebook also can be very confusing. I recently shared a political graphic to make a point about how I find most of these political statements simplistic and misleading to the point of uselessness. That backfired on me when somebody accused me of agreeing with the poster’s political posturing when instead I was discrediting all such superficial expressions as a lazy alternative to serious discussion. It amounts to little more than childish name-calling. Of course, you could indict Facebook in general as the enemy of deep thinking, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
At election time, as we’ve just experienced this past week, social media lends itself quite happily—and often quite “ugily”—to very animated, uh, discussions, if that’s what you want to call some of the online orneriness.
The week before Election Day, I moderated a debate in Peekskill. To prepare, I audited several Facebook pages that included Peekskill People Unplugged, Peekskill Community Network and Concerned Citizens for a Better Peekskill. Whoa! Quite entertaining in a certain way, but don’t visit them if you are faint of heart. There’s some strong stuff, like Facebook fisticuffs.
I used Facebook to document the last time I would shop in an A&P, which happened to be the store in Goldens Bridge that now is an ACME. I walked in without realizing the store was within a couple of hours of closing—for good. When I saw the eerie sight of empty shelves all over, I had to share it with my Facebook friends for old times’ sake, with the inevitable tagline “R.I.P. A&P.”
To end on a high note, at its best, Facebook can be joyously life-affirming.
A remarkable video clip shows a young boy with cerebral palsy finishing a triathlon. It deservedly has almost 28 million views. When I posted it with the comment, “This is the kind of courage and inspiration that brings you to tears in awe and admiration,” it received 174 likes. I liked that a lot.
Facebook is most welcome when it shares the blessed event of parents welcoming a newborn into the world. That’s how I and many others learned of the birth of “Baby Charlie” to Kellie and Matt Slater, chief of staff for New York State Sen. Terrence Murphy.
I haven’t met Charlie face-to-face, but, thanks to Facebook, I already have seen the handsome young man several times and feel like I know him.
That, my friends, is a shining example of social media at its finest...and truest.
Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is chief content officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency. He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency that works with The Winery at St. George, Yorktown Feast of San Gennaro, Jefferson Valley Mall, Yorktown Stage, Axial Theatre, Armonk Players and others. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Reach him at email@example.com or 914-275-6887.