Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summer reflection: Facebook and swimming upstream

 I decided to get back into Facebook. I felt a great liberation being out of it for a few months. As I reflected on what that was about, I realized I had developed a disturbing sense that if an alien spaceship landed and our visitors tuned in Facebook on their computers, they would be convinced that all a lot of humans do is drink alcohol, get silly, and show pictures of rumpled bedsheets when they and their boy/ girlfriend act really 'grownup' and go away on trips. Too depressing for me, both as it relates to the culture at large and especially to kids who grew up Catholic. Who know better. But my email tagline says 'Remember, we are in the hope business.' So a bit hypocritical of me to get too judgmental. We all had to grow up, right? And went through some twists and turns along the way. So I am back, but will be more thoughtful about how I approach the whole thing now.

And you know what? It is not all bad news. For example, I read a great article today on Alanis Morissette in the Toronto Star. How wonderful to see a person willing to swim upstream in the cultural river. To no longer accept what the culture tells you have to do in order to be self-fulfilled or whatever. Listen to some of what she had to say:

Well, I think I was sold the same bill of goods that everyone’s sold, which is that fame will afford high self-esteem, great friends, constant bliss — and I quickly found that to be hollow,” she notes, looking happy, fit and svelte, brunette strands of hair framing her long face as she occasionally flashes a beaming smile.

“I grabbed the brass ring and saw that it was disillusioning, to say the least.

“So I think in the late ’90s I saw that fame could support me as a tool to support my agenda, my agenda of uplifting, and comforting, and titillating — just engaging in conversations that I’m so passionate about.......

But my whole activism is around intimacy and commitment and the healing that comes from monogamy and intimacy and long-standing relationships, so the one with my son is exactly that and the one with my husband is exactly that. 

Monogamy, intimacy, and long-standing relationships. Oh my goodness, I hope our alien visitors read that. There is a balance for all that Facebook stuff after all.

More than that, however, is the point I made above. I fear that our young folks are growing up being fed on the Facebook wisdom and believing, trusting, buying into the notion that, well, this is how it is. No it isn't.

Johnny Carson once said "If you buy the premise, you will buy the bit (ie, the joke)." An internet commenter explains: "In comedy, it means that if the audience grins when you're setting up the joke, they'll laugh when it pays off........ The translation is along the lines of "If you agree with or like the setup, you'll go along with with the rest of the proposal." For our contemporary culture, this means that if you like the fun you see in the Facebook pictures, you will easily believe the notion that fun is what we are about. Other values you might have held will easily be set aside.

You don't have to buy the premise, because in this case the joke unfortunately is on you.

Think of Alanis. I believe there are more people swimming upstream or who are willing to swim upstream, than we get to hear about. That's the good news for today.

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