The Zen of Facebook

Lately I’ve been hearing from friends that they are done with Facebook.

They’re fed up of looking at pictures of what people they knew 20 years ago are eating for dinner. (And who knew there were so many uses for kale… all equally unphotogenic?)

Tired of looking at someone else’s vacation photos while they toil away at home.

Repulsed by the look-at-what-my-baby/child-did-oh-my-goodness-isn’t-s/he-cute/smart/athletically gifted/talented?

Sickened by sappy salutes to spouses and nostalgic shout-outs to people they don’t know… and would never care to, either.

Pissed off with political posts and views, and especially offended by the realization that someone they used to be friends/lovers/coworkers with is the opposite of anyone they’d ever want to know.

Over. The. Oversharing.

I will admit I have those moments, too. Sometimes I feel like a creepy voyeur when I check my Facebook feed. Other times, I curse the time sucked by feeding my sad addiction.

As a blogger, though, I rationalize that I have to be social and keep myself “out there.” Even if in reality I’m home alone avoiding going out into the real world.

While Twitter can make me feel a little psychotic, like I’m standing in the middle of the room of a giant party talking to myself, Facebook gives me a sense of being in a the midst of a live-action yearbook. Most of what I do there is reminisce (even over events that just took place five minutes earlier), and although I’ll admit it’s normally a mindless distraction, I’m not as annoyed by it as are some of my friends.

On April 15th when the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, I turned not to the TV or the radio, but to my computer.

On days like that, in times like these, when tragedy strikes, the congregants always flock to the Church of Facebook. So while Twitter gave me the news, Facebook gave me what I needed most: connection.

In this case it felt even more crucial than ever before as Boston is my hometown. And my friends from back in the day are as much in midlife crisis as I am, which means there were probably a lot of marathoners in the bunch. Or at least standing on the sidelines, cheering on their midlife partners to victory.

I know right where the explosions happened. I’ve walked Boylston Street a zillion times, sat on the sidelines watching the marathon, thrilled to see the first signs of spring, enjoying a day off from school or work, and just feeling so damn glad to be alive.

My husband and I were married at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel, the same hotel by the finish line where horrified onlookers reported hearing “claps of thunder” that rocked the ground. And shifted our world.

The first thing that went through my head was IS EVERYONE I KNOW ALL RIGHT?

First I found my BBF, owner of Boston-based TotRox (rock ‘n roll kids clothes) and fellow Facebook addict, was fine and although her husband was out of town, he checked in immediately.

Next came the reports from old friends that they too, were all right. Shaken, but fine.

Reporting from the sidelines streamed in, including this firsthand account by my (real and) Facebook friend’s brother, Jon Marcus.

Thoughts and prayers abounded, as did Facebook’s signature psalm: the inspirational quote meme. These were some of my favorites:

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.” ~ John F. Kennedy

“When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ~ Mr. (Fred) Rogers

“This says it all. In the face of such senseless tragedy, we will come together; we will care about one another; we will help one another; we will be stronger.” ~ Davida Sherman Dinerman

Davida is an old camp friend, by the way, and although we haven’t physically seen each other in about 30 years, I took solace in her words and the pic she posted (above) of the day after. Also the fact that she is always someone who makes me smile helped.

And although humor was too soon, I did laugh out loud when a new Facebook friend, comedian Mike Brennan, suggested that the Yankees wear Red Sox hats at their Tuesday game. I commented that would signal the Apocalypse, which would be about the only thing worse than the Boston Marathon Massacre.

Because the thing about social media is this — it’s an escape into a virtual world that is filled with FRIENDS. In regular times, it’s a distraction, a diversion, and a dalliance. In times of trouble, it is a place to find comfort, compassion, and connection.

And don’t take that connecting idea lightly. The only Boston-based friend I have that isn’t on Facebook was impossible to reach all day long. Cell phones were down, and checking email was probably not top of the list. A quick social media check-in is a good way to let the people you love — your friends — know you are okay. (When phone service was restored hours later, I did confirm my BBF and her family were all fine.)

So if you see me liking your roasted kale recipe, sharing your Hawaiian vacation pic of the sun setting over the ocean, commenting how fantastic your cute/smart/athletically gifted/talented child is, posting birthday greetings and anniversary congratulations on your wall, respectfully ignoring your political rants (but not unfriending you, because I like you for other reasons), and sharing the picture of the Yankee’s classy tribute to the Red Sox with both pride and appreciation (and never ONCE calling them the New York Stankees), just know that I’m fully in the moment — and that’s the Zen of Facebook.

Now enjoy the Standell’s classic homage to Boston, “Dirty Water” — and feel free to share it!

boston marathonboston massacreconnectionfacebooksocial media