a mild defense of facebook

Facebook, I’m told, isn’t cool anymore. I’m not sure it ever was — but now, at this point in time, I’ve been assured by folks who have a more confident hand at the ‘this is cool’ wheel, Facebook is decidedly not cool.

Cool or not, Facebook is an integral part of my morning routine. Since I haven’t held a straight job since 2000 and since I have little native self-discipline, I rely on routines to make sure I get stuff done. Without routines I’d spend my entire day with a cat on my lap, researching stuff I don’t really need to know (seriously, how does a turtle pull its head into its shell–do the vertebrae collapse somehow, does its neck just curve a lot, what the hell is going on in there?), or entranced by the way the morning sunlight refracts off the sugar crystals on the top of the blueberry muffins, or indulging in the shame of politics (indictments of Jerome Corsi, yes please), or pointlessly unpacking all the elements of the most recent Doctor Who episode (what other sci-fi show would do such an intimate exploration of the Partition of India?).

Initiating my morning routine.

So routines (which are also not cool) are important to me, and Facebook is part of my morning routine, which is as follows:

  1. Check the perimeter (though c’mon, I’m living in an incredibly safe and boring suburb now, and the only thing I’m likely to discover when checking the perimeter is the weather) with the aid of the cat.
  2. Feed the cat her stink food.
  3. Make coffee.
  4. Read the news — general Google news headlines first, dipping into stories that interest me; Washington Post for fundamental news reporting; Daily Kos for the lefty take on events.
  5. Tell myself to read my email, look at my email subject headings, then usually ignore my email (unless it’s clearly hate mail, which I’ll generally read for some reason; today’s hate mail: “Are all you cunts ready for cw2? We are!” Which I probably shouldn’t have read, because now I feel I have to get ready for the Second American Civil War, and who has time for that?).
  6. Scroll through Facebook.

I should note that I don’t do Family Facebook. I keep my personal life separate from my online life, so I don’t ‘friend’ loved ones or family members (and I might as well confess that I’m really not at all interested to hear that somebody’s grandchild scored a goal at a soccer match over the weekend). Instead Facebook for me is about friends and art and politics, which may sound like three separate categories but in reality are generally all smooshed together.

Friends, art, and politics smooshed together through Panel Pulp.

What that means in practical terms is this: Facebook inserts serendipity and random weirdness into my morning. I like that. I like that I’ve become friendly and familiar with folks and I have no recollection at all how I came into contact with them. These are people who’ve come bouncing into my line of sight from some odd social angle and caught my attention in some pleasing or interesting way (and now that I say that, it occurs to me that the process is a lot like seeing the morning sunlight refracting off the sugar crystals on the blueberry muffin). It just happens and I’m lucky enough to notice.

The serendipity and random weirdness isn’t just how I’ve made friends on Facebook, it’s also an intrinsic and essential part of reason I keep this as part of my routine. People post the most unexpected and wonderful stuff on Facebook. I’m not talking about videos of amusing cats or goats playing balloons, though I often enjoy that stuff too. I’m talking about stuff for audiences that I didn’t even know existed. Like Panel Pulp (which is actually a Twitter account, but is often reposted on Facebook).

Another example: international marble racing. If not for my friend Young Jo, I’d have never encountered Jelle’s Marble Runs or seen these exciting qualifying races for the 2018 Sand Marble Race (I prefer the organic nature of sand marble racing over the more sophisticated manufactured marble racing tracks…but that’s just me; also, I’m inclined to be suspicious of Marbly McMarbleface).

Another bit of weird and random I love about Facebook is that I encounter folks who are open and unapologetic about their weirdness. So open, in fact, that they’re not even aware of how weird their weirdness is, and I find that completely endearing. I mean, who creates marble race tracks, records the races, keeps track of the stats of the individual marbles, and narrates the videos? Even weirder is the fact that these videos have an audience. I love that.

The most consistent thing that draws me to Facebook (aside from the politics) is that it exposes me to some really diverse facets of the arts. Bizarre sci-fi art, stark 1950s Japanese noir photography, beautiful original pen and ink art, strange and/or practical yarn art, and lots of personal photography. For example, this morning I saw this photograph by Larry Rose:

Larry Rose — West room corner.

I have no memory of how I became friends with Larry Rose. I know little about him as a person. But I know and enjoy his work. This wonderfully subtle photo kept me from doing the work I was supposed to be doing for maybe ten minutes. At least two different light sources, each operating at a different wavelength, creating strange but predictable shadows and colors. An antenna at an almost perfect 45 degree angle that creates a bit of visual tension against all the other horizontal and vertical lines. And that beautiful Borg Cube of a lampshade that seems to be floating in the corner. Without Facebook, I’d probably never have seen this photo.

Facebook isn’t cool. But there is cool stuff to be found there. There’s a chance I’d have learned about Burning the Clocks without Facebook, but probably not. And right now there’s an excellent chance that you’re wondering if Burning the Clocks is a band, or a movie, or who the hell knows what. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll click on the link and find out.

Is that cool? I kinda think so.

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10 thoughts on “a mild defense of facebook

  1. May I recommend that you develop a whole RSS feed of goodness that could do the same thing? Boing-Boing and suchlike provide a great deal of brain candy and oddness without feeding monstrous engines of privacy and democracy erosion. I kept my FB account because I am a writer and the audience is there and also because I have family who no longer communicates with me unless I email them or call them (neither of which they consider non-emergency means of communication).

    But to me, it seemed worth it to walk away from the greed and corruption involved. And I’m perforce weaning myself off of G+ too, since they are shutting down next year. I still write on Quora (I’m a top writer there 3 years running, and it’s a nice chit on my vitae), and I am on Twitter, who seem to bumble about a bit but mostly be ok on the privacy/democratic values stuff (but how I wish they’d cut Trump’s personal Twitter so he could only tweet from @potus and be supervised at least in theory). I get a lot of variety from my 11 years of well curated twitter feed, which is far more interesting than FB ever was.

    No offense, but I find your excuses kind of like, “I don’t recycle because it means reading a pamphlet and driving to get a bin and maybe spending 20 seconds a day at it. And it probably doesn’t matter anyway.”

    OK, but don’t spread the slack.

    Like

    • Thanks for the suggestion, but I’m content with the way I handle social media. I have a Twitter account, by the way, but I rarely use it, mainly because I find the word limit cumbersome and awkward.

      Like

  2. Hey, Greg. I love you. I’m glad we followed each other from Flickr to Facebook, and, well, fuck, they both begin with my favorite letter!

    I’m moved by both photos—your cat and Larry’s. But Larry’s drew me here. I was sure you’d taken it, and it doesn’t matter that you didn’t. Thanks for sharing it. And for sharing yourself.

    It IS cool. Maybe it’s just too cool for people who aren’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Larry’s photo stopped me dead when I saw it. I’m not at all surprised it had the same effect on you. It’s a weirdly rewarding photo, if that makes sense.

      And yeah, I love you too.

      Like

  3. « Facebook inserts serendipity and random weirdness into my morning. »

    I read *inerts*. I will totally admit a projection of my experience into joy.

    I totally celebrate that I have an awesome, small, list of people on facebook. what has killed me— *goes and check* in that my last post was on 12 June, and it felt like “this is a great last post” (which led into a bizarre Top 10 list posts).

    there is a “but”, right? the tech side of fb kills me, and never thought that it would keep me away. I have tried to work around these tech problems, but they keep changing, and it keeps nullifying my workarounds. so I go and check for messages (it is an otherwise unavailable phonebook to “famous people with busy lives”), and dare to scroll one or two posts before the annoyance sets in.

    but then, you have this blog which is a small compensation. as you mentioned the morning routine, I am working on one to get my photo posting/essay back on track. right now, when (rarely) at home, I am up to routine of coffee + a few sides of vinyl playing, before coming to the computer: there is no perimeter to check, nor pet to attend. at such time, I hope to be more engaging here.

    until then: dang, I exist!

    [ ps ] yes, Instagram is the sole lifeline I have to the online world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Instagram is such a great place to experiment. And to play. There are those short periods of ‘down time’ when I’m between doing stuff, and I’ve started looking at the IG ‘Search’ function. Instead of actually searching for something, I’ve been looking at whatever images IG provides…which I assume is somehow based on an algorithm grounded in whatever my IG contacts look at.

      What’s fun is to see how the themes of those images shift. There are, of course, always photos of cats and dogs. but other themes ebb and flow. For a while I saw a lot of images of Vespa motorscooters, then women in wheelchairs, then a flood of photos of Fujifilm cameras and lenses. Lately I’m seeing a lot of Idris Elba photos and very bright graffiti. And, of course, there’s a steady stream of b&w street photography.

      I had a point to make, but I’ve forgotten what it was. Let me just say once again that I miss you on FB. I understand your issues; I think of it as a sort of Cayce Pollard reaction — but I still miss you.

      Like

      • I think I had a point to make, but not sure I was lured into one. the freedom of the “comment section”, no?

        Instagram indeed has become a bit of a dahling. I mean, it is easy to ignore the drama, and easy to do projects of various kinds without the bothers of social network demands.

        I have always been hesitant to initiate adding people on facebook, because jeebus on flowcharts there are so many uses for fb and it feels like I am intruding on people. Instagram? as long as they are not a private account I can add without a worry of social network graces.

        despite my disregard to the lack of good use of A.I., I do managed to go to their Explore. find some things, and shrug at most… but always fruitful in finding someone.

        (while I try to be undetected in my fb visits, I still not help but to reply to some of your posts: even if mainly I am trying to maintain in touch with the musicians. here is hoping they don’t ask for an ID again, though I think that in the Europe they cannot make those demands.)

        [ ps ] social networks happenstance: I follow William Gibson on Twitter.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Big fan of Facebook, with friends, family, acquaintances, and all the silliness involved. The last couple of years it’s the only place I get targeted by redneck conservatives (re: my family) and other redneck conservatives (re: my friends) for my decidedly progressive views. Plus, where else can I homage Stan Lee for an entire week with cover photos and profile pics? Well, I mean, where else where anyone would notice?

    Btw, I recently wrote an entry on routine, my routine, and it even included a perimeter check. ;) Godspeed, Greg!

    https://www.tombeingtom.com/routine-life/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Routine gets a bad rep…although I have to admit that bad rep is often justified. The thing is, routine often turns into ritual. It becomes a thing that gets repeated just because it’s always been repeated. The purpose of the routine/ritual gets lost.

      The nice thing about FB being part of a routine is that you often encounter stuff that’s surprising…and surprise always destroys routines-turned-ritual. In effect, it’s a routine that disrupts routines.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think that’s the gist of my journey so far, Greg. I get into routines for a reason and when the reason starts to get lost I jump into a completely different routine. Drives the missus crazy. ;)

        Liked by 1 person

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