There are few people more skeptical of technology than I. Despite claims by computer and cellphone manufacturers that we are more “connected” than ever before, I remain suspicious that we can too easily become delusional over the ease of using the polyester substitute for language through text messaging and the quick but impersonal forwarding of gang mail increasingly and insensitively. I am indeed a critic of an electronic civilization that seems to have been designed like a very fast sports car without seatbelts or brakes.
However, perhaps beyond any possible explanation, I have become an advocate of Facebook for the positive effects I have enjoyed there. Though there have been myriad complaints about lack of privacy, as well as about legal issues such as copyrights, I find on Facebook an enormous jigsaw puzzle of human interest, regarding any number of subjects from grandchildren to the best recipes for pumpkin pie. Because we get to choose our “friends,” there is on some level a shared scope of memory and values, even though we can also disagree and debate on any subject we choose mutually.
Sometimes Facebook becomes a large book of condolences over occasional hard times affecting individual members or groups, or tender consolation over the loss of loved ones, and in the honoring of those who have left us. There are photos of friends and relatives, pets, gardens, vacations, and comic situations that remind us that we are all prone to predicaments from time to time, as in having an uncle, who gets drunk at the family Christmas gathering, or having a pot of cooking rice boil over onto the kitchen floor. Those little incidents of daily life begin to form a huge mandala of the human situation in its inspiring, annoying, breathtaking, silly, loving, beautiful panorama of who we are as a species from day to day.
For me Facebook has been a place of happy reunions with many former students from the past forty-five years and a place for reconnections with lost friends and acquaintances with whom I have shared parts of my life but from whom I have been separated by circumstances of geographic relocation or occasionally frantic transformation of situation or revelation. At any rate, Facebook, in some extraordinary, inexplicable way, seems to provide some sort of anchor in our collective journey through the seasons of life, including those signposts about everything from birth to the grave, and if one has chosen well his or her friends, there will be a sympathetic bond that transcends electronics and the otherwise often impersonal or virtual world we have created through technology. That irony can give us hope. JB