A few weeks ago I was chatting with my friend Jayne, when she asked me a question that stopped me dead in my tracks. We were sitting on the beach watching our kids play in the sand, as we recovered from a morning of educational tide pools, lunch-ordering mishaps, spectacular multi-child throw-up and general drama (let’s not forget I have 2 girls – we bring drama wherever we go). Having reached that part of the day where the kids had settled down and we could have somewhat normal, semi-uninterrupted, adult conversation, she threw out this zinger, “What’s the point of Facebook?” This was followed by the reason she doesn‘t have a Facebook account, “I just don’t get it.”
I’m from Generation X. I grew up playing Pac Man, which I sucked at, and typing on an electric typewriter, which I also sucked at, though I was and still am a better typist than Pac Man player. Jayne is also from Generation X, and while I can’t comment on her Pac Man playing or typing skills, I am fairly certain that if I tell her the point of Facebook is to post pictures of your food before you eat it, she will give up on humanity and head for the hills.
Since I like Jayne and did not want her to run away screaming, I instead looked at her dumbly and said “Good question. I dunno.” Clearly this was not an impressive answer, but I was at a loss.
As I lay in bed that night I found myself haunted by her question. Here I had a Facebook account and should have been able to provide a thoughtful, well-rounded answer. Yet, one escaped me. Even worse, an ugly truth lingered in the air. I wondered if Facebook was just a meaningless vortex of dinner selfies, sarcastic cartoons and ads for Walmart which existed for the pure purpose of helping me ignore my parenting responsibilities. After all, why go to the effort of cooking when we could just look at a picture of somebody’s spaghetti alla carbonara, salivate appropriately, and then throw a Lean Cuisine in the microwave?
This was not looking good. I was pretty sure I was turning into a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge and could soon expect a visit from the Ghost of Facebook Past. No wonder I couldn’t sleep. I could hear the chains of Facebook users no longer with us, dragging on the floor.
Curling myself into a ball in my bed, my mind raced to find bonafide reasons for spending time on Facebook and not with my kids. Suddenly, I had one. Birthdays! As I’m past the age of looking forward to getting older, all the birthday wishes from my Facebook friends help me get past the trauma of looking like crap. I racked my brain further. Another good one! Facebook can help you keep track of important events you didn’t even know existed, like National Dog Day. Jayne had both a birthday and a dog, so this could be some valuable insight for her too. I made a mental note to fill her in.
However, if I was going to stave off a visit from the Facebook Ghosts tonight, I needed real, substantive answers. It was time to consult the Oracle of Facebook, my cousin Wayne. Wayne has an exponential number of Facebook friends, and these people are loyal. Several years back he mused about what it would theoretically be like to have a lemur living in his garage. Within hours there were 457 comments pertaining to this theoretical lemur. If that had happened today, the lemur would have its own Twitter account.
It was 11pm when I instant messaged the Oracle for help with my debacle. His response came back a few hours later and was full of the wisdom he is known for. To paraphrase: while social media is great for sharing pictures of your lemur with grandma and reconnecting with people from elementary school you never liked or can’t remember, it’s especially important for networking and promoting your product or business. Suddenly I felt instant relief wash over my body. I was justified in my use of Facebook; after all, I have a blog to promote here. It’s a crappy blog with about 2 followers, but quality was not one of his criteria.
As for Jayne, the Oracle continued, if she doesn’t like lemurs, doesn’t have anything to promote and is content with good old fashioned e-mail and text, then she’s probably not missing much.
I could finally get some sleep. I was safe from the Facebook Ghosts and Jayne was safe from the Facebook Vortex. Neither of us was safe from the sunburns we got, but that’s another story.