Auntie Mae’s Various Ramblings on Life in a Small Town

Ida Mae Nowes 

Nubbins Special Correspondent 

IF you are like me, you have a “To Do” list three miles long, but it’s not getting any shorter. Why? Because I’m willing to bet that 95 percent of the people reading this column spend at least part of their day messing around in that goulash of photos, videos, quotes, status updates, and other mostly useless information commonly referred to as Facebook. 

I have written before about the love-hate relationship we have with Facebook, but I’ve been especially guilty of falling into its clutches lately. The combination of me being laid up with a broken ankle and the heat index outside reaching into the triple digits means I am much less mobile than usual. And, therefore, I’m more easily seduced into that world of cute animal videos, political cartoons, sappy inspirational quotes, and magical landscapes that don’t actually exist in nature – only in Photoshop. 

It usually goes something like this:I have a deadline coming up for turning in my wildflower column to the Nubbins Gazette, so I sit down at the computer to get started. I enjoy writing my column, but let’s face it – it’s work. It takes energy. So, I say to myself, “Before I start writing, I’ll just see if I have any ‘notifications’ on Facebook. It’ll only take a second.”

So, I open up Facebook, and sure enough, I have six notifications. They’re all notices that have no importance to my life – some of them written by people I don’t even know – but of course, I read them all anyway.

For instance, I find out that one of my virtual “friends” has decided to grow her bangs out. Good to know. Another one describes what he had for dessert last night. A third is offering way too much personal information about her latest doctor visit.

Then Facebook tells me that a friend of mine has watched a video of a snake fighting a giant centipede. Okay, I really don’t want to watch a snake fighting a giant centipede, but something about the fact that my friend has watched it, coupled with my current desire to avoid working, makes me unable to stop myself. I watch the video. (It’s very creepy, by the way – oh wait, you know that already since you probably watched it too.)

There are a lot of political rantings and cartoons and videos on Facebook, some of which make me happy and some of which make me mad. I should know better, since I understand that these issues are way too complicated to be summed up in a status update or a three-minute video, but they get me riled up anyway. 

Birthdays are big on Facebook, too. I used to only know the birthdays of my closest friends and relatives. Now with Facebook, I get a notice almost every day that someone is having a birthday. But then I am forced to gauge whether the “friend” having a birthday is one I know well enough to wish a “Happy Birthday” on their page or not. If I don’t write something, will they notice my absence? It’s a dilemma, for sure.

Of course, photo-sharing is where Facebook really shines. It’s wonderful to be able to see what the people we usually only meet once in a blue moon are up to. Or is it? Do I really want to see what my niece was doing at that frat party Friday night? Or that photo of a friend’s cousin getting 25 stitches in his leg in the emergency room? And am I the only one who gets depressed looking at all those perfect photos of vacations that everyone except me is taking to fabulous and exotic places where it never rains?

Before long, I have spent an hour on Facebook and haven’t even started my column. I know, I know, I’m being an old curmudgeon. The truth is that Facebook is interesting and a good way to share news and photos, which is why we get sucked into it, I suppose. There’s nothing wrong with it as long as it doesn’t keep us from having non-virtual relationships with people – you know the kind where you actually are in the presence of a warm body and can look them in the eye and speak to them rather than typing out a conversation?

Actually, Facebook can come in handy for face-to-face conversations, too. If you run into a friend at the grocery store, Facebook can help you avoid the awkward mistake of mentioning a significant other who is now out of the picture. You know this because just the other day you saw the little heart disappear from this friend’s relationship status. Facebook is also good for old fashioned gossip. With Facebook, one can find an unlimited supply of juicy tidbits to share with friends at the beauty parlor or a church picnic. Unfortunately, the person you tell is likely to respond with, “Oh, yeah, I already read that on Facebook.”

One other way Facebook can help with real, person-to-person encounters is when you meet someone new. Once you’ve moved beyond “Where are you from?” and “What’s your favorite color?” Facebook can be a great conversation starter. You might try, “Have you seen that creepy video of the snake fighting a giant centipede?”