And then my Brain Got Hijacked by Facebook

It is interesting to live in this day and age. You know, not that long ago, people had to rely on books or the spoken word for their information.

How much information you can get from books is constrained by the time it takes to read, the general narrowness of the subject (focuses on one or two main things), physical access to different types of books, etc.

Relying on the spoken word depends on your access to different types of people and their knowledge, skills and abilities and their ability to communicate that. As well as their viewpoints, their opinions, etc.

Now you got the internet and if I think it, I can find it. Now whether I can absorb it or not is another matter but if I want it, it’s out there.

Not long ago, our connections with people were by being around them. If we weren’t around them, we would either keep in touch by phone, possibly write a letter (though that went out of style some time ago) or we would just lose contact.

While the phone definitely maintained our contacts with people, particularly family and people we were very close to, there is a whole set of people that a decade or two ago (two now I guess) we would have simply lost touch with, we wouldn’t know what they were thinking or feeling. We wouldn’t know how their lives were.

Now we have tools like Facebook. Something that actually really affects all (most) of our lives. Not only can I maintain contact with people who I otherwise would have lost contact with, I can also share ideas, experiences, thoughts, articles and information with almost the click of a button.

It can be a bit overwhelming sometimes.

I have a very, very diverse facebook feed as a result of my experiences. I have around 570 “friends” at the moment and it’s a diverse group. I’d figure sixty or so from a few small towns in the least populated state in the US and generally a politically conservative one, Wyoming.

Probably another eighty men (all male) that served in the 82nd Airborne in the US Army. Their viewpoints range from the highly politically conservative (and vocal about it) to the more politically liberal.

Then there’s another sixty to eighty people from my time at Portland State University in one of the most politically liberal cities in America. A lot of them are veterans, but they’re also just from all over.

Those are just the big swaths of Americans on my FB. Then you have from my time abroad, about 50 South Sudanese, 30 or 40 Jordanians, 50 or so Lebanese and a wide, wide array of other individuals from everywhere from Zimbabwe to Canada, Poland to Kenya, Libya to Bolivia, Syria to Liberia and on and on.

And the majority of all those people are humanitarian workers, and one thing I’ve noticed about humanitarians (which should be evident) (and veterans as well) is that they truly care about the world, hence you get a lot of posts about a lot of different things. And a lot of them are real and quite a few are about problems, suffering and inequality.

It all makes for an interesting read. There’s a lot of divergent opinions (that generally don’t talk to each other, people seek affirmation not confrontation and when they do seek confrontation it’s just to affirm that they were right all along). There’s also this thing that gets me when I read people’s stuff, that thing that says inside of me “How could you possibly think this? I know you, well I thought I did, where did this come from?” Sometimes I read things and I’m like ok, that’s valid but you’re really not looking at the whole picture, but I can’t express to you what the whole picture is in just a few words (maybe I should try to use Twitter J ) so…whatever, why do I even care? And sometimes I think whatever it is I’m thinking it’s more of a reflection on me than it is the person.

So Facebook can overload me on information. And so much of the information and I’m talking about “journalistic” articles that people upload, so much of it is only half true, or part of narrative or an opinion piece masking itself as truth that it becomes difficult to decipher what is what. And sometimes people just post the stuff because it’s an affirmation of what they already want to believe. So it doesn’t lead us to question our beliefs it just leads us to seek materials that affirm them.

And that is certainly not what I want in my on-going quest for “truth” and in a way facebook has been useful to me for that, I have managed to read many different opinions and many different things and that’s been healthy, because it helps me question myself and it helps me look at other people and really wonder what caused them to get where there are now. Where’s it all coming from?

Then there’s the social connection piece of facebook. Which I use it less and less for that these days. I think of it more as a contact list. And when I need to get in contact with someone I can just punch it up, I appreciate that. Of course that’s for the people I want to keep in contact with and want to keep in contact with me, the rest I’m not so sure why I need the facebook J but whatever, it’s fine.

There is that complaint it replaces “real” relationships…maybe, only if you let it I suppose. I think it probably has for me at different times, it gave me the illusion of a connection instead of me going out to find the messy reality of that connection. But I’m pretty much over that phase now.

No, for me FB has hijacked my brain lately through the overload of information and opinions, I need to back off on that and go back to being a bit more targeted and selective in my information searches. It’s amazing how portions of the internet or something like FB can just pull you in and then you wake up and you’re like, did I really want to spend my time here?