Why I Like Facebook

Posted 02/02/2016

I didn’t always. For years, I didn’t quite get what the Facebook fascination was all about. An office mate of mine, early adopter, as they say (or as I used to say, or mostly hear from clients, when employed in the advertising biz before I got bounced out of it four years ago) named Tim was on Facebook a lot. Other raunchier sites, too, but he was careful and conscientious and he is another story.

           I decided to join Facebook (and Twitter and LinkedIn and etc.) when I realized I could send my published ‘East Hampton Star’ column as a link. So I did. And got feedback in a way that I never did before when it was merely a hard copy in the newspaper.

           I started on Facebook in 2009 or so. I now have more than 500 friends, about 490 of them I have no idea who they are. But that’s what puts the un-face in Facebook. They write to me; I write back. I see their kids and their dogs and they see my Thanksgiving turkey and my recent St. Bart’s vacation while the 2016 blizzard blasted the Northeast, and yet, we’ve never laid eyes on each other. Isn’t that the coolest thing? Something new, anyway. New still for me, seven years into it, and I do mean into it. For a variety of reasons.

           I connected more closely with relatives living with their families all over the map. With old girlfriends before I came out. I am definitely more in touch now through Facebook than when all of them were living mere miles away in Brooklyn and on Long Island. One of them, my niece, Sarah, from Arizona, came to town recently and we had a lovely lunch. We had never, ever had lunch before. And she paid!

          I trade theatrical reviews with a guy named Andy that I barely knew when we worked together decades ago at an ad agency. And he even showed up at a book signing of mine! whereas we barely spoke to each other when we worked together in 1994.

           My brother (he’s 75) is on Facebook and, although not often, sends photos of him playing his guitar and singing at assisted living facilities. He would never have told me about this over the phone, nor does he have to. One pic and everyone knows what he is doing, and when he is doing it.

           Often, there are quick GIFs (what does that stand for?) of people having sex. I also get a lot of still pictures of naked guys, often from Arab nations. They live in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, or Iran! This somehow fascinates me, before Facebook quickly deletes these salacious selfies . (I could never, ever send a picture of me topless. Except for maybe one or two taken in 1983.)

           OK. There are those detractors who call Facebook a tool for narcissists. For people constantly looking for attention or approval or affirmation.

           There are those who shrug it off (mostly people over 60, but not me—I’m a hip 67!)

           They reject it as a tool for narcissists, for people seeking approval and…oh, I just said that, didn’t I?

           Well, to them I say you can use Facebook as you wish; you never have to post a single shot of a casserole bubbling on a stove or a silly selfie with your BFF, or the dog or the cat, or the sunset. You can merely be a voyeur. You can scroll upwards to all new posts sent by faux-friends and bypass 99% of it until you come across something that interests you.

           You can sign up and never do a single thing with it. (And plus, it’s free.)

           But I like Facebook. For the ability to show off my writing (to get approval or affirmation and, yes, attention). But what I really like about Facebook is that you can appear, for hundreds, and, for some people, thousands of others, that you are an upbeat, well-traveled, well-fed, happy-go-lucky superstar. You can look like you have the life even when, in my case, anyway, it’s not all St. Bart’s and Per Se (although never been) or London and Paris—I mean, my whole life isn’t all that, these are just the highlights, the Hy-lights, if you will.

           I’m certainly not posting a picture of me at a shrink session. Or taking a dump.

           Recently, on St. Bart’s, during that aforementioned blizzard, I sent all sorts of postings: palm trees and the turquoise Caribbean, and me, tanned, relaxed, looking like a billionaire as the stock market, my retirement account, leads me to believe that I should plan my next vacation at a friend’s house in Asbury Park.

           But, and this is where I kind of don’t like Facebook, two people had the nerve to send “shut up” and “Oh, shut up” after looking at my posts of St. Bart’s and the palm trees, the turquoise, the etc.while that aforementioned blizzard in New York and the Hamptons was on its way.

           Oh, really? “Shut up?” Not even with that accursed and annoying ‘lol’ following?

Those two were instantly unfriended—another reason I like Facebook, you can unfriend in the blink of a button. Maybe those two (and other jealous types) should see a picture and posting of me as I lay on a plastic mattress for two nights in a psych hospital, treated for clinical depression. (No, I’m kidding.) (No, I’m not!)

           You see,  Facebook presents the happy Hy. The clever, cultural, charismatic Hy. And seeing my own posts out there (and all who respond—those who respond enthusiastically, anyway) does make you feel like you are living a privileged, pampered life.

           What’s wrong with that?

           There is a drawback however that I believe Zuckerberg & Co is in the process of correction.

           Say you read a story, from a virtual or an actual friend, that goes like this: my mother just died. It was a gruesome death, cancer, Alzheimer’s, a slew of strokes. Her husband, my Dad, is still in the same nursing home. In a wheelchair. Unable to speak. I visit him. He doesn’t know me.

           Is one supposed to press ‘like’?