It’s one minute to midnight and we are entering the last day of the year. Forget about Brexit, Trump, and violent men with yellow vests. Forget about the fact that we haven’t had a white Christmas for ages, and that the Japanese are hell-bent in chasing sharks. This time of year is about you and me, sitting in front of our computer monitors, asking that dreaded question that has no answer – “what have I done this last year, and what will I do better, next year?” Although the question forms the basis of what it means for you to be alive, there are two further questions that you must ask. Namely, “can there be life without Facebook?” and, “how much time have you spent on Facebook since this time last year?” If you know the answer to the first question, please send me a link so that I can find out for myself. As for the second, I don’t want to know the answer because it might be embarrassing. You know what I mean – it’s similar to the question, “how much time does the average person spend in the bathroom, per year?” Well, if you know the answer to that, just triple it.
I started with Facebook right after the UK voted to leave the EU. Well, I had to do something, so I started writing blog posts to vent my anger and avoid a full-scale depression. The former has gone away, largely thanks to the acquisition of a French passport. Luckily, I avoided the second, having realized that Brexit is just not worth the trouble of becoming depressed.
And then, I entered Mister Zuckerberg’s wonderful world of virtual reality, so akin to the real world and yet, so remote from it. Yes, I admit it. I use Facebook to distribute my writings, for what they’re worth and, in the thick mist of universal anonymity, I find out that I have more than a hundred followers, and 200 friends. Tell me what to do – call the police for the former, organise a party for the latter?
I’m not the sort of person who posts a picture of himself going to the gym, only to find out, once he’s been, that nobody has liked his post. Rather a waste of a gym session, don’t you think? Nor am I keen to divulge personal information. My news feed gets inundated with family pictures of people I don’t even know, and holiday snaps of places I never knew existed – and that is rather annoying, to say the least. Ah! Gone are the days where you took a snapshot at dinner time, waited a week to have it developed at your local chemist, and another month before you could show it to anybody else. I’ve managed to block most of the personal stuff, as I much prefer receiving links to articles that the sender hasn’t read, and that I won’t click on. I just wonder what the content of the Facebook meme, that is linked to an online article, actually tells you about the person sending it.
But by far the worst part of Facebook, of course, is the comments sections, containing the inner thoughts of other users. I cannot generalise, of course, but on the whole, people have so little to say and what they do say, they cannot spell. I suppose that I’m being a little harsh because the Facebook insults that I get affect me more than they should, being directed at something I have taken time to write. If someone doesn’t agree with me – fine – but why the insults? Another infuriating thing is that for the few conversations that have a semblance of interestingness, the other guy or girl just disappears into the wilderness of cyberspace. I ask myself if they got caught and reprimanded by their boss for time wasting, at work. On the subject of time wasting, how do the people at Facebook waste their time at work? On Twitter or Instagram, I presume.
The ruthlessness of the comments lies in the fact that they are anonymous and digital, even though the sender may be using his/her real name. Behind the safety of their computer monitors, and in the comfort of their own homes – or somebody else’s, depending upon their moral values – they can shoot you from anywhere on the globe, with a few taps on the keyboard. It just underscores the wonders of digital technology, well on its way to replacing paper threats and summons sent by recorded delivery post. But the digital world will never completely replace good old paper, because you may be able to insult someone via Facebook, but you can’t wipe your backside with an iPad.