People ask me: Are you on Facebook? with a furtive look, as if inquiring whether I surf the 'net for porn. What do you make of it, they ask? They don't get it, they say, quizzically. They are suspicious of it, paranoid. Like it's going to suck their blood. Steal their souls. At the very least, expose them to the scrutiny of anonymous others from all quarters of the online universe. And lead to their eventual undoing.
Exposure is what Facebook is all about, I say. To complain about it is like going to a cocktail party and getting upset when people talk to you. If you want to keep things secret, stick to a diary. Privacy is overrated, IMHO.
Facebook is a place to reveal yourself to the World Wide Web, or whatever subset of it connects to you. It is your avatar, your persona writ large on the news feeds of those to whom you are connected, a daily record of your continued existence on this planet, for better or worse. A way to enlighten, annoy, inform and amuse. It is your bully pulpit, a raised platform in the public square of the virtual world, complete with podium and megaphone. Support gay marriage? Put it on Facebook. Hate right-wingers? Put it on Facebook. Like communism? Put it on Facebook. Want to kill somebody? Put it on Facebook. Sharing is caring.
For me, Facebook is a digital canvass. A vast area of cyberspace to scrawl upon. An infinite sketch pad extending far out into the ether... a place to play around, endlessly, in any way that suits me. (I owe a debt of gratitude to my cousin David, who first invited me to join Facebook. Thanks, Dave!)
Here's what I do on Facebook: Issue angry diatribes on any personal or political issue that sticks in my craw. Announce my fondness for punk rock. Denounce Republicans. Share the wisdom of the Dalai Lama. Tell people that my mom is turning 91. Post cool rock and roll videos. Put up weird pics of anything and everything that strikes my fancy. Tell people know I think they're fat and should lose weight, even though they hate me for it. Offer acerbic comments on the banal postings of the flotsam and jetsam of others' ordinary lives. I vent, I bleed, I emote, I scream.
Bbbbbuuttt... I couldn't do that, you say, as the thought of unbridled self-revelation seeps into your insular consciousness. Paranoia runs deep, into your soul it will creep.
Fair enough. There is potential blow-back to unfettered self-expression. Any time you allow the breadth and depth of you to impact others, there's gonna be consequences. Hell to pay. You to pay. People will send you emails warning you not to gore their ox, malign their pet rabbit, disparage their (idiotic) faith, deprecate their (absurd) way of life. And there's always the risk of the ultimate humiliation - the defriending. Sometimes with an explanation, sometimes without.
Get used to it, 'cause it's gonna happen. When you take a trip on the digital superhighway, you're bound to hit a few super-potholes. Defriending is one of them. You'll survive and live to defriend a few people yourself, believe me. It's a badge of honor, as far as I am concerned. You don't like the things I say - my reactions and detractions - defriend me. I got better things to do than play nicey-nice with your delicate sensibilities.
To be sure, the first time is a shock. The first time, I was given the courtesy of an explanation. She was pissed off, she said. My sarcastic comments had offended her conservative southern sensibilities. Her Baptist religious leanings. Thus I was severed from the succor of her online friendship. The second time it happened without warning. I said something wrong, I don't know what, and my news feed was suddenly absent the endless banter I had become accustomed to. I was now persona non grata to this former Facebook friend. By the fourth or fifth time, I could care less.
I know: what an irresponsible ass. What a jerk. You want the Internet to be a civil place, you say. It can be, certainly. Just defriend me and you'll be have your pristine online universe of politeness and deference. Your world of pleasantries and baby pictures, your realm of picnic photos and benign quotations from overly-romantic poets who spout nonsense about flowers and love. Leave me out of the picture and it's all yours. Include me and you get hard-core punk rock and acerbic political commentary. I'll tell you you're fat and should join Jenny Craig. Your finger will constantly hover over the defriending button.
So, I dare you. Double-dare you. Friend me on Facebook (trocco) and see if you can take it. If you can man up, or woman up, enough to invite someone to join your news feed who doesn't play fair. Who doesn't care if you like him or not. Who shares his honest thoughts and feelings. Can you handle it? See you in cyberspace.