When you look at a herd of cows, do you recognize individual bovine faces? or do they all look pretty much alike?
This must be how we appear to those outside our own particular group: not individuals — not unique — just another (in my case) typical white female of a certain age.
Maybe we cows can tell each other apart, but even a distinctive coat is not enough for a non-cow to see me as a person and not just one of the herd.
But as a particular individual within the group, I am very much aware of what I perceive as my differences from every other member of the herd. I suppose each cow may also fancy herself as unique from all other cows. Do all cows experience the world in the same way? Do all humans?
The reason I ask, reader, is that I suspect it is my own wavering cognitive impairment that allows Facebook to suck my brains out.
I had never intended to sign up for Facebook and I didn’t open a Facebook account entirely voluntarily. A daughter-in-law told me that if I wanted to see photos of my grandchildren they would be posted on Facebook. It was convenient for her to share the pictures with the entire family at once. Did I want tons see the pictures? Guess how fast I set up a Facebook page.
At first I only “friended” family members and I only accepted as Facebook friends people I actually knew outside my computer. But then I made a few acquaintances through the comments section under the posts of friends and I accepted those friend requests, too. Then I set up an account in my maiden name so I could play Scrabble against myself (we are pretty evenly matched) and catch any old school friends who might be looking for me.
Since this was before I’d heard of Pinterest, I set up a third FB page just to repost and save amazing images or thought-provoking quotes or just over-the-top funny stuff.
Before I knew it, I wasn’t only checking Facebook for new pictures of my grandchildren, I was also reading about my husband’s cousin’s Alaskan cruise or a friend’s remodeling project or an update on a former classmate’s surgery or an obituary for someone’s dog. Because of my illness — CFIDS/ME, Fibromyalgia, SEID — I am not out in the real world as much as I would like to be. It can be hard for me to nurture or maintain friendships. These glimpses into the lives of my Facebook friends were a nice connection. And I like looking at pictures of other people’s children and grandchildren.
Of course, for a while politics consumed everyone on Facebook to an even greater extent than it did for the same people just walking around in the real world. Instead of an occasional post pleading a worthy cause, my FB feed was a barrage of political re-posts with little personal news.
I think I lost some FB friends during this onslaught. I don’t keep track, but I think some people unfriended me. When I read racist, bigoted, or factually challenged posts, I called the person on it. I was never nasty and, I hope, I wasn’t self-righteous. I unfriended one nephew myself: he didn’t even make sense and he wasn’t nice.
I am delighted to report that some of the comment threads on my FB feed were genuine exchanges of opinion. Civility reigned. Understanding, if not total agreement, was reached. Respect was burnished. All this in Facebook conversations.
Though the election is over (well, except for that pesky recount), there are still more political posts on Facebook than the normal stuff like cat videos and inspirational prayers and photos of roasted turkeys with cranberry sauce. I skim over the partisan to catch the more personal posts: a new granddaughter for some nice people, a fellow writer’s newest book or new blue car, a movie review, etc. All good. But maybe there’s too much of it?
When I am tired but still, for some reason, am compelled to check for private messages on Facebook, I find myself reading the public posts, too. And before I know it, I am zoning out. Here’s a music video — with dancing! Here’s an insightful comedy sketch! Oh! these baby possums are SO cute!
Two hours later I am still flipping through the posts, looking for the next good thing. This happens more often than I want to think about.
So here’s my question: Is this just happening to me or is Facebook sucking the brains out of you other cud-chewers, too?