When I was a kid in the 1970s, I remember what kinds of changes would be in the world when I was an old man. You know, in my 50s like I am now. (Now that I'm here I don't think of 50s being old). One invention I thought would be cool was a device where you could see what family and friends were doing no matter where they were in the world.
Then came Skype and Facebook (FB for short). Not quite what I had imaged but it's close.
I'm one of those approximately 1.3 billion FB users in 70 languages and 680,000 mobile FB users. The average person with FB has 130 FB friends. Approximately 48 percent of all FB users log in at least every day.
I think I have a love-hate relationship with FB. I've been tempted on a number of occasions to get rid of my FB account because it tends to become an addiction of sorts. I find it a compulsion to check it numerous times daily on my smart phone in this incessant feeling of needing to be connected, to find out what is happening out there.
Apparently I'm sure I am not alone.
But every time I get the desire to cancel my profile, I realize that it's a valuable tool that I cannot do without and I just need to keep things in check.
This is not your grandpa's world anymore. Most of us do not handwrite letters or call people to find out what's going on in each other's lives. Letters have been replaced by texts, which more often than not are about facts and planning events and not matters of the heart. We don't pick up the phone to call anyone to see what they are up to. We pick up our iPhones or Droids to see what they have posted on FB.
Or at least that's how it's become in my world.
I have a son and daughter-in-law with a new baby in Denver. I have seen Evelyn only twice since her birth in August but I get to see her growing up on Facebook. I can't cancel FB for that reason alone.
I have another son in the Air Force stationed at Lackland in Texas. I get to see what he's up to, and that he got to see a Miley Cyrus concert. It was only through a photo he texted me that I know he met Robert Gates who signed a copy of "Duty" for him.
Likewise, when I caught the Michael McDonald concert at the Gallo last Wednesday evening with both my girlfriend and my mom, I felt compelled to post photos so the rest of the family could see what I had been up to. Maybe it's my way of saying "See, I have a life too."
I confess that I have a level of angst about FB though. I've heard John Tesh say that the most popular things on FB are photos and quotes that inspire thought. Exactly. I want to see what others are doing. I could care less about the sharing of links for they don't tell me a thing about your life. By the way, Tesh says that the least favorite things on FB are when people share things and links that most people don't care to look at.
I admit posting a photo or two and question why it hasn't gotten more "likes," which is a stupid term anyway. I'm sure others have felt the same thing. We feel like we have to get "likes" to feel valued and for that I can't blame FB. That comes from our own insecurities as human beings.
Sometimes the need to share goes a little too far. I don't know what possessed my daughter to recently post a photo of a soiled diaper of my month-old grandson. She said she did it because my Air Force son saw it - I don't even want to know how - and suggested that it looked like some kind of pastel artwork. Bad taste indeed, and to think that a kid of mine did it.
Photos are not necessary on all posts. When a friend recently broke her ankle, she felt the need to post photos of the swollen body part. I am not into pictures of feet, period, let alone swollen feet, so words would have sufficed.
Sometimes you feel you have to copy what others do, but I resisted the notion of posting a photo of bloodied up hand when I took a tumble during a run and grated it into asphalt. What was I hoping for? Some "there, there now" sympathy?
Psychologists say social media is making us lonelier too. Why? Well, if you see nothing but vacationing couples, happy kids and lifetime milestones posted publicly, you start thinking your own life is way too boring and lackluster.
FB has brought about lots of good, too. When I held a yard sale two weeks ago, I posted photos of my sale items on both the Central Valley Trash and Treasures and Vintage & Collectibles FB pages. It was my first-ever virtual yard sale. In my down time I was busy "working" a FB sales strategy which allowed my in-person customers to freely view my items without feeling like I was watching their every move (which is awkward for buyers and seller). Thanks to FB, I lured buyers to my location who otherwise would not have known about it.
Even the Ceres Police Department is using Facebook to get the word out about traffic conditions and such. Last week when cows got out into Whitmore Avenue near Eastgate, the department issued an advisory, with a humorous note to "please use caution in the area until they are MOOOOOved out of harm's way."
Through FB I can see what acquaintances out of my immediate daily encounter are doing. Dennis is still apparently donning his beard like the folks on Duck Dynasty.
On the other hand, I am watching two sons battle out theological points about lifestyles on FB that is unsettling for a dad to read.
I guess I'm not alone for unfriending a relative for her nasty political posts slamming my guy, Mitt Romney, years ago. The Mashable user poll taken during the 2012 election noted that nearly 47 percent of respondents admitted to "unfriending" at least one person because of political rants.
I also have "unfollowed" certain FB friends who think they must share everything, including complaints about having to decide what to cook for dinner or getting up to go to work. Imagine my dismay when she felt compelled to tell about a son whose vomiting awakened her. Some things are better left off of FB, including the urge to tell us what you eat or what you're watching or that you are so tired. I really had to remind my daughter that NOBODY wants to know how many diapers she had to change on any given day. We all get that new mothers must change diapers so the drama is not necessary for its survival.
FB is a great tool and most of us can't imagine being without it. But let's keep it real. As Jefferson Bethke said in his book, Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough: "We refuse to turn off our computers, turn off our phone, log off Facebook, and just sit in silence, because in those moments we might actually have to face up to who we really are."
How do you feel? Let Jeff know at firstname.lastname@example.org