‘From Jonty Rhodes’s Facebook photos,’ I replied.
‘Since when are you friends with someone famous like Jonty Rhodes?’ he asked.
I am not. It was at this point that I realised my addiction to social media had reached its demented peak.
I vaguely recall clicking on a friend’s profile, then clicking on one of their friend’s open profiles. One person linked me to another and, a couple of hours later, I was perusing Jonty Rhodes’s Swiss holiday photos.
Facebook is effortless. It is a passive, lazy, faff-free way to know what is going on in other people’s lives. Now I’m asking myself whether I need to know. Maybe relationship depth is better than breadth after all. Facebook is my drug because the novelty has worn off but I can’t quit. I’m addicted.
Facebook and what it shows us about the human psyche would be a great topic for a psychology thesis. For example, I get irritated with the inane trivia people share on their statuses. Then something will happen to me, let’s say I burn dinner. I want to share that. Who gives a toss? What is that urge that makes me think anyone is even vaguely interested in the mundane of my life? Why does it make me feel good to share it?
These are the things about Facebook that are now driving me crazy:
1. Religious statuses
I get annoyed when people woodpecker me with spiritual quotes and verses on my news feed even though I am a Christian.
One of my friends recently posted this quote: ‘You are where God wants to be at this very moment. Every experience is part of His divine plan.’ I flinched and thought, ‘Is that supposed to be uplifting? If that statement is true, God is a sadist.’
I couldn’t stop thinking about the damage those words could do to someone who is suffering through pain beyond their control. I laughed it off because sometimes a cyber-debate is like throwing your shoes in the air to knock clouds out the sky.
But I couldn’t stop stewing over that silly quote. One morning I worked myself into a rage of righteous indignation while breastfeeding Megan in the dark at 3am. I decided I couldn’t let such an irresponsible, misguided, theologically incorrect statement go without (gently) challenging the person who posted it.
Because Facebook pushes information at people through the news feed, you have to be mindful of your audience before you put up a religious quote or opinion. Facebook is not a pulpit (whether you are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever). It is unfair to carpet bomb people with your beliefs, especially if you have an eclectic group of friends. In my experience, the best evangelistic opportunities come from what you do, not what you say.
2. RIP, please pray for and thinking of statuses
These statuses make me want to stand up and scream while I smash metal dustbin lids against the wall.
Often I skim through my news feed and see something like ‘RIP Bob’. These statuses blacken my mood because, even though I have no clue who Bob is, I feel sad he died.
It drives me crazy when people post sombre, cryptic statuses and don’t tell their concerned friends what happened to poor Bob. Why can’t people put in a few details? Anyway, why do they even need to write ‘RIP Bob’? Bob is dead so he can’t appreciate the sentiment. I never read the obituary section of the newspaper (too depressing) and I resent being forced to on Facebook.
Another classic status that I loathe is ‘Please pray for the Jones family’. If I must pray for the Jones family, who I don’t know from a bar of soap, at least tell me who they are and what I must pray about.
I also hate statuses along the lines of ‘Thinking of the Jones family’. People seem compelled to tell their disparate group of Facebook friends when they are ‘thinking of XYZ’ and they never explain why. Sometimes person XYZ is not even one of their Facebook friends. Surely it is more meaningful to send XYZ a text message or a card to say they are on your mind rather than announce it from the rooftops? Those statuses remind me of the Bible verse that says when you give, be secret and don’t do it with fanfare to be honoured by others. I sometimes wonder if thinking about someone should be private too, especially if that person is not known by most of your Facebook friends.
3. Verbal stink bombs and cryptic statuses
It annoys me when people use Facebook to vent and squirt others with poison although I understand that, when in a rage, writing something such as SOME PEOPLE ARE BITCHES on my Facebook status could be temporarily cathartic.
I also hate it when people write cryptic statuses such as ‘Had such a bad day’, ‘I’m broken’, ‘God give me strength in this battle’ or ‘This too shall pass’ without explaining why. If you are going to be that frank and intimate, then go all the way and explain yourself. Share fully or don’t share at all. Sometimes I feel cryptic statuses are just a cry for attention.
4. ‘Liking’ and ‘sharing’ web pages of projects, charities etc
This is a new trend. People are liking and sharing websites that interest them and these then appear on friends’ newsfeeds. In principle, it is a good way to spread the word about meaningful causes.
Some people take it too far. Recently a picture of a decapitated cat greeted me on my news feed because a friend ‘liked’ the cause behind it. A man held the body and another man, standing a few feet away, had the head. The caption said something like, ‘Stop these bastards. Take a stand against cruelty to animals.’
5. Unedited holiday pictures
It drives me nuts when people don’t filter their holiday snaps before posting them on Facebook. I lose interest when I open someone’s album and see there are 1,043 photos. I wish they’d just put up the greatest hits or even just rotate some of the pictures so I don’t have to turn my head sideways to view them.
There are two rules in sailing:
- Make sure the boat is in the water
- Make sure there is no water in the boat
The same applies with social media. It is ok to ‘be in the water’, to be involved in the culture of the day. But it is also important to have healthy boundaries by not allowing the culture of the day to embed itself in you. I think that, given the time I waste trawling Facebook every day, water is in my boat.