Vail Daily column: I ‘like’ my Facebook team
The advent of Facebook meant that despite siblings scattered across six states and one in another country, my family could vicariously experience a nephew’s fifth-grade graduation, a niece’s soccer championship and a sister’s 41st wedding anniversary. We became a virtually close family.
Unfortunately, Facebook did not confine itself to wholesome exchanges of positive familial information. No, we cannot have nice things because someone, somewhere, is thinking of how to make a buck off of them, or a billion bucks. What was once a vehicle for sharing important events and special moments has now morphed into an advertising fast lane, a corner preacher, a Zen master and a yard sale. Just as direct mail marketing corrupted snail mail and spam and phishing wormed their way into email, now the Facebook feed has promotional posts and ads based on creepy metadata algorithms. Visit homedepot.com and the next thing you know ads for commodes will compete on your Facebook wall with videos of dogs swimming with dolphins and kittens, well, just being kittens. Do not mention Marfa, Texas, to anyone, anywhere or tripadvisor.com will begin peppering you with destination updates.
Thus far scams involving Nigerian barristers have not found their way onto my Facebook wall, but it has been sullied by plenty of other debris. To be fair, Facebook was not marred by unbridled capitalism. Facebook’s transformation came at the hands of its users.
Politics and religion used to be the two subjects off limits in polite society. However, they are the primary subjects of posts by my Christian conservative family and friends, who comprise a large and vociferous bloc. The religious posts are fairly benign, but the political posts tend to be incendiary. These bombs range from calls for President Obama’s impeachment to “I miss W, share if you do, too.” Sprinkled in between are dire warnings relative to the Second Amendment.
My right-wing family members might be surprised to know their missives appear adjacent to those from my other Facebook friends including proselytizing vegans, livid Palestinian sympathizers, concerned animal rights activists and mellow Buddhists. While I enjoy the posts of the latter two, they consume an embarrassing amount of my time.
Facebook used to be the sanitized, noncontroversial version of life. Lately it has begun to reflect the crazy that is my family and the rest of the world. I have older relatives who write in all caps and quote the Bible, exclusively. Is it the end of days? Uncle Jack thinks so. My sister-in-law’s reminders that Jesus Christ is my personal savior show no sign of abating, as if the message did not take the first 63 times. I dutifully “like” all of them lest she recruit her congregation to pray for my wayward soul.
I have one Facebook friend who treats Facebook as a never-ending garage sale complete with pictures of used athletic shoes, paperback books and DVDs of long-canceled television shows. I was annoyed until I discovered the family is moving and downsizing for financial reasons. Then I felt like a jerk.
There is the niece who posts her locations throughout the day, everyday. “Picking up Carly from pre-K; coffee with MIL at SBUX; cute egg cups at TJ Maxx.” No one cares. No one.
Recently a friend posted a terse message; “Taking a break from Facebook for a while.” I assumed this meant he would be temporarily absent, but no, he is completely gone. His account was deleted, as if he never even existed. I do not have his physical address. I have no way of contacting him. I am feeling like one of the Leftovers.
Rather awkwardly, I remain “friends” with my nephew’s ex-wife. I watch her blossoming relationship with some new guy, not nearly as handsome as my nephew. I do not “like” any of her posts of their recent trip to New Orleans — my passive-aggressive attempt at disapproval. Facebook, once the better version of my life, is now the weirder version of my life. I have “friends” I have never met in person. I have “friends” that are ex-boyfriends from relationships that ended badly, probably my fault. Now I gush over their father-daughter library visits and family vacations. What can I do? They “friended” me. I am now sharing my life’s moments with people I have not seen in decades. But I like it. It represents a tether, even if it is a fiber-optic tether connecting me to other people. My team. All that is required for membership on this team is for our paths to have crossed. I am on their team, too. I will “like” their recipes, vacation photos and adorable animal videos. I will ignore their partisan jibes along with the Marfa travel updates. I will share what I care about, they will share what they care about and just like in real life, sometimes we will agree and sometimes we won’t, but we will remain friends.
Claire Noble is the author of “State-Sponsored Sex and Other Tales of International Misadventure.” She can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on twitter @thehkhousewife.