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Finding the Face in Facebook

Scroll up. Scroll down. Refresh. Reread your 67 newest posts about how your cat just ate twenty-seven (and a half) pebbles from his cup of Friskie’s unidentifiable salmon flavored-mush he eats every night, how you recently decided to count the number of dots on your ceiling instead of beginning your homework, and how you just realized your chap stick tastes like the cherry flavored popsicle you bought, and then dropped, at the state fair when you were four. Stare at your 10,256 newest instagrams of the cheese pizza you ate for dinner last night. Throw a party over the little red “1” that just appeared in the top left corner of your Facebook page. Refresh. Stare at the same screen. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

* * *

Stop. Take one second. Take one breath. Delete your Facebook app. Slowly, relax your thumbs from their death grip and lower your smart phone to the ground. Press the “x” next to Facebook on your laptop. Close the screen. Don’t panic. Just breathe.

* * *

If your Facebook page is still closed by the time you finish reading this sentence, congratulations! Let’s place a medal around your neck because you’ve survived without Refreshing your home page for a time longer than the time achieved by the average avid Facebook fan. And how do you feel? Let me guess: stressed, lost, worried, excluded, uninformed, left-out, removed, anxious, wondering what’s happened, wondering what you’ve missed, dreaming of those little red squares, and all too excited to press Refresh, see the exact same Facebook screen re-appear, and proceed to spend another eight hours re-reading what you just read. There’s nothing wrong with those feelings. They’re completely normal.

What would your day be if the second you opened your eyes the first thing you saw wasn’t the random (yet oh so carefully planned out) thoughts of your 768 “friends?” You’d be forced to start your day without knowing what flavor dental floss Amy chose to use on her pet parrot that morning. Without your beloved Facebook app, you’d pace aimlessly while waiting three whole minutes for the next bus. If your eyes weren’t loyally glued to the 3.5-inch screen in your hand, could you survive the inevitable game of uncomfortable eye tag you’d play with the creepily smiling middle-aged passenger to your left? What if Facebook shut down during your Intro to Government class? You’d have nothing to do while devotedly counting down all fifty minutes of the expensive education you’re paying for. Could you survive those fifty minutes your professor wastes talking to himself at the front of your class about the boring details of unimportant events like healthcare reform, the Presidential Election, debates about gun control, and immigration policy? And what if, god forbid, you couldn’t intently study Facebook while mindlessly completing your homework?

It’s almost impossible to imagine how ignorant you would become. Calm down. Don’t try to conceptualize this life. You’ll never have to. Facebook is always faithfully just a click away. Go ahead, press Refresh before you read on.

Believe it or not, Facebook is more of a worthwhile time investment than pampering your pet toad for his upcoming beauty pageant. While Facebook was created with the insignificant intention of enabling people to connect with others around the world, its evolution has taken it on a much more engaging and collaborative path. In seconds, Facebook places you in a virtual world of valid complaints about post-it notes, broken soda machines, celebrity break-ups, awkward moments at the water fountain, the number of chocolate chips in the cookie you just stepped on, the difficult task of eating a pickle (on a stick), Prom music, the selection of nail polish colors (for hamsters), the troubles of twirling spaghetti, and the delight found in coloring outside the lines of alien princess coloring books. Facebook allows you to share your life by bragging and lamenting about anything and everything. To all 768 of your friends! It is now a place for thoughtful and truly meaningful birthday, anniversary, and holiday wishes. Trust me, each friend truly cares about your day-to-day thoughts and activities and appreciates your heart-felt wishes just as you truly care about and appreciate theirs.

Don’t all your worries and troubles seemingly melt away the second the little red box with the number 1 indicates one of your 768 “friends” liked your grievous update? The Like button comes equip with it’s own blue thumbs up image, the perfect alternative to actually (verbally) speaking with another human being—avoiding the dreaded moment the person you’re talking with accidently spits on your face, and you, hoping not to embarrass them, chose not to wipe the spit off while the moist sprinkle sinks in. Why risk the refreshing slobber when it’s so much easier to confess your troubles to the infamous rectangle atop your screen to all 768 of your friends who (from a safe distance) understand your problems and deeply care about comforting you. Can’t you tell? Seven of them already liked your update. Why waste your precious time engaging in a deep discussion when it’s so much easier to click that like button? We’re all so busy we’re lucky we can find time to stare at the same Facebook homepage for those short 16 hours. Better update your friends about your most recent hardship at Target when you had a mental breakdown over which brand of tissues to buy. Quick! Check that little red box for any new likes.

Postcards, phone calls, hand-written letters, and traveling to visit a friend. What do they all have in common? They’re all so buried in the past you’ll probably read about them in the next chapter of your history book. Thankfully Facebook developed into more than just an initial connection. It is now the sole way of keeping in touch with others. It is how and why you are able to build the strong, beautiful relationships you have. It is Facebook, above all other means of communication, that acts as the glue stick you bought when you were seven. Just like the white and orange Elmer’s glue stick that’s almost eligible for Senior Citizen discounts, Facebook actively keeps you stuck to the people you care about most.

Where would you be without Facebook? Who would you be if you spent those 16 hours every day doing something other than reading and rereading the most important information in your life? Take a guess. Post it. If you’re lucky, you just might see a little red box appear. If you’re truly lucky though, that little red box might be your own. In the end, the question you have to ask yourself is, “Would I like my answer?”

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I challenge you to scroll down to the beginning of your life on Facebook. As you flash back through the memories you shared with your 768 friends scoot your chair a foot back from your desk and mentally remove yourself far enough from your daily actions to objectively evaluate your profile and yourself. Notice how you answered the ever-present question. “What’s on your mind?” Count the times you complained about how the lines on your wide ruled paper were too narrow for your new sparkly purple gel pen. Note how many thousands of pictures you posted of your most recent high score on your favorite video game. Check how many of your friends liked those updates. Discern how many updates you liked. How many years of time did all of those actions accumulate to? Half your life?

What if you had spent those years of time kindling relationships, learning about life outside your 768 friends’ daily actions, and informing those 768 friends and more about what you’ve learned, what you’re doing, and how they can help? What if you used Facebook to simply initiate the connections and then used personal methods and loving effort to maintain and nourish those relationships? What if in those 16 hours of rereading your Facebook home page, you read a news article or a book instead? What if you went on a walk with a friend or picked up the phone and called your grandparents? What if at the end of the day you answered the question, “What’s on your mind?” by inspiring all 768 of your friends to do the same with the hope that those 768 friends would follow your lead and inspire each of their 768 friends to observe their Facebook habits, make a change, Refresh their life, and spread the inspiration? We can only hope the pattern would repeat. Repeat. Repeat.



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