My relationship with my brother has gone through many iterations over the years, all of them wonderful and exciting, some of them fun, others of them difficult.
I’ve always been conscious of this fact, but until I switched to the Facebook timeline, I forgot that in 2006, he used to make drunk posts on my wall and once suggested that I “combine my interests and make snuff films with Disney characters.”
No doubt, if I’d taken his advice, I’d probably be a rich and famous movie director instead of a struggling “content strategist,” (apparently that’s the trendy thing to call us these days) but I digress.
However, according to Everyone on the Internet, this post is supposed to make me:
a) Embarrassed. Can you believe that my brother got drunk when he was in college??!!! Who does that???!!! Plus, now everyone is going to know that I want to be the Little Mermaid when I grow up and think it’s true that I like snuff films. (Because clearly “everyone” is eagerly rushing back to 2006 on my timeline to see what my brother had to say.)
b) Sad. Remember the good old days when my brother got drunk in college? Life was so much easier back then, when we were still innocent enough to be silly when intoxicated, when we cherished our love of the Little Mermaid and were blissfully unashamed of our fixation on snuff films. I think I’m going to cry, right here, right now, on my MacBook.
c) Angry. Damn you, Facebook! If it weren’t for you, I’d be able to forget the past and go on believing that I just met my brother for the first time at Thanksgiving, when we had searingly interesting conversations about the family business and politics. If it weren’t for you, Facebook, no one would ever know that I used to be even less mature than I am now. And I wouldn’t have to spend one split second thinking about the past and wondering if I’d be better off as snuff film director.
As a person who has been, let’s just say, in touch with sadness, for much of my life, let me assure you. Facebook is not making you sad. You are making you sad.
For starters, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Life is no picnic. Nor did it used to be a picnic before Mark Zuckerberg hacked the Harvard dorm directory and said means things about people. (Or whatever he did. I trust the movie.)
For example, my great-grandmother was chased out of her childhood home in [Insert-Russian-Sub-Country-Here] by Cossacks and went crazy, possibly becoming schizophrenic.
My grandmother was lucky enough to be born here, but she was beaten by her crazy schizophrenic mother, told that she was more stupid than her brothers just because she was a girl and forced to give up her music career because nice Jewish girls didn’t play piano.
As for my mother, I’d say something disparaging about her life here, but thanks to the Internet, I have absolutely no privacy, she’d find out about, get furious at me, and god knows, I just switched to the Facebook Timeline, so I have enough really serious problems without getting in a fight with my mom, too.
I realize that I am over-simplifying the problem, possibly to my detriment.
But the truth is, blanket statements like “Facebook makes us miserable” or “the Internet will make you sad” are also an oversimplification of the problem, and one that prevents us from recognizing the most important aspect of all of this.
Facebook, and the Internet, are in your control. They are your playground. You can make them look the way you want, you can turn them off. You can delete posts, block friends, customize your newsfeed, etc. The number one thing you can’t do is accomplish anything by whining or pouting.
And you certainly can’t accomplish things by blaming, as Sam Biddle does in Gizmodo:
“Technology has not only made it easier to long for the past, it’s made it tempting—and at times unavoidable—to strangle ourselves with an overload of fake nostalgia.”
Kindly recall that when the Gutenberg first introduced the printing press, people were worried what would happen when the Church no longer controlled content. Think of all the crap that could be published! One luddite even worried that the monks’ souls would be destroyed because they no longer had to labor over the creation of text.
And yes, while the printing press led to scientific, religious and political revolution, it is also led to Danielle Steele novels. Still, you can no more blame Zukerberg for the fact that people post about their lunch on Facebook than you can blame Gutenberg for the fact that Snookie published a memoir. Your Timeline is you.
With or without Facebook, it will be human nature to long for the past and fear the future. As always, our ability to craft our narratives will make or break our experience of the present.
p.s Just for the record, I’ve never even seen a snuff film.