Rigorous as these past couple of weeks have been, what with starting rehearsals for a new show, instrument lessons and getting back on the dance bike, it was quite possibly a rare display of impeccable timing on my part which prompted me to take a hiatus from Facebook two weeks ago on Thursday. I've been quiet on Twitter, too, although that was more from a lack of time in the first place.
As it was, things on my particular News Feed were getting a little fraught. I have noticed more than once that when we are faced with disaster or tragedy, quite often the very best of people shines through in the heat of the moment (Except for those who slow down to get a good look at accidents. You people are THE WORST). The recent (extreme and unusual) floods have turned the local community into a swarm of Blanche Dubois-es. Helpless, lost, and miserable, relying On the Kindness of Strangers to ensure that they, at the very least in some cases, can sleep under a roof at night.
In the same way that truth of heart and strength of compassion flourishes during such times, that little blue button with it's innocuous-looking 'f' peering up at you from your iPhone presents you with the opportunity to say "What's on your mind?"
Putting that inviting little phrase into the Status box was the Worst. Idea. Ever.
Aside from the scaremongering that comes with any potentially perilous situation, what with facts being misunderstood then misquoted then misquoted again then put as someone's status, we had those who, if we are being brutally honest, felt they hadn't quite gotten enough of the action. Some of those very lucky folk in the area who did not have water lapping at their door or creeping up on them via the overflowing toilet ("That's where it gets you! Sandbags are no good when it comes up through the loo!" - My Dad) were feeling Left Out. A Thing is happening! It is not happening to me! I must fix this!
It's one of the many facets of human weakness. We want to be included. It's in our nature, and responsible for many a mountain that started life as a molehill. The thing is with Facebook, it's a very passive-aggressive way of causing a fuss. No one has a good old-fashioned argument any more. I scream, you scream, we say what we feel, we remind ourselves we're basically flawed creatures incapable of being perfect at all times, we make up and eat ice cream. Facebook provides a forum on which to say, frankly and tactlessly, things we would never in a million years dream of saying to someone's face.
[Note: I have been one of the worst Facebook offenders. I know my stuff, y'all.]
I had people who I knew to be very lovely suddenly complaining that people would "Shut up about these floods, already!!!!1!!" followed by a long list of comments from those who had lost their homes and were certainly not going to shut up about it.
And, my favourite, the knights in shining armour - the ones who we would LOVE to admire for their community spirit and large hearts, their unbound generosity and all-round good-guy-ness. We'd love to say "You're great! You inspire me! I'm gonna go help too!" But we find it difficult to love them for their deed when you discover a self-made Facebook shrine to their day of good deeds which takes you three hours to scroll through, complete with comments including "The Army are useless! The police are idiots! Look at all the things I gave away! LOOK AT THEM! Aren't I fantastic? Look, I've even included tinned kidney beans because I'm just That good. SHAME ON YOU ALL FOR NOT GIVING AWAY YOUR FOOD TOO. Here, have several selfies of me pulling distressed faces at the water."
The best and most effective acts of kindness, having been lucky enough to have received many myself, are spontaneous, quiet, and sincere. And do not require publicising.
Facebook is important to me because it allows me to keep up to date with dear friends who are not close by, in some cases not even in the same country. It's great for finding people you used to know, keeping track of loved ones when things get busy, and sharing information without having to ring round everyone. But that's it. That's all it's meant to be. It isn't a lifestyle. People spend every waking moment refreshing their newsfeed. I'll be back on Facebook on Thursday, most likely with a link to this nonsense, and then I'll most likely forget about it again, because I have realised that I am no less without it - I certainly am not missing out on any excitement, I'm following the news with more clarity and when people want to talk to me, they have to call and have a proper conversation.
Let's not only be able to say what's on our minds when Facebook asks us too. It's a lot harder to connect with someone face-to-face, but the results are infinitely more satisfying.