How to be good (on Facebook)

It’s difficult to be good in real life. Things are frequently so complex and fraught. To an extent, it’s probably much easier to be good on Facebook. But how? These are some ideas I have.

  1. Sharing is not Caring

I’ve spent a lot of time observing Barney (the dinosaur) for obvious reasons. Why, for example, do small kids love him so much? I think it comes down to shape, those big maternal hips. Or perhaps it’s the catchy slogans dropping from those grinning purple chops like, ‘Big or little, you are all wonderful just the way you are’. Maybe. But that doesn’t mean one wants to views one’s wonderfulness from last night’s drunken dinner party through the harsh glare of the computer screen the next morning.

Rule one: never post and tag a friend in a picture where he / she looks shocking but you look great.  If you must post that pic, crop and cut.

(Somebody I know once posted a picture of somebody else tagged as me. This other person, this non-Lisa Lazarus, was dressed up as a clown with a big plastic red nose. It stayed online for years.)

  1. What Goes Around Comes Around

In the broader sense, I actually don’t believe this at all. Life doesn’t hand back what you

Saint Catherine of Alexandria___Source2

Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Caravaggio.  I think she’d post some interesting stuff on FB (after she’d finished her spinning), but she’d be hard to please and you wouldn’t get a lot of likes from her.

give out. Life is arbitrary, frequently cruel and relentless. But when it comes to Facebook, you can level the playing field.

You know the person? The one who is loath to like anyone else’s stuff, but keeps collecting the ‘easy likes’?  Play fair. Give what you get, or at least in some kind of reasonable ratio.

  1. Reheated Leftovers

Supposedly there’s no such thing as bad pizza or sex. Yet most people have encountered both, sometimes even together.  Don’t serve reheated leftovers on FB.

So it goes down like this: something terrible has happened in the world and everyone starts posting exactly the same pieces from the same sources. I know, it’s tempting. You’re so horrified etc. that you can’t stop yourself – but it’s tedious. Post new stuff.

  1. Sharing is not Caring (yes, again)

I’ve done this. In fact, I did this just last week.

You know how FB shares a memory from a few years back and compulsively, you share it? (It’s often of your kids, because, you know, they look so cute two years younger.) Even though shared memoirs are the cornerstones of most relationships, somehow FB doesn’t quite work this way. It’s the fresh, sensational stuff that captures our attention.

The fun thing about not sharing an old memory is the profuse apology you receive from Facebook (after you’ve rejected the memory). It’s like they’ve just made you witness your old boyfriend right before he told you he’s actually been cheating on you all year, but he’s very sorry, and, really, maybe you would consider an open relationship.

  1. Telling On

It’s a major strategy at age three, four, even five, but it’s one of the harsh truths of growing up: you realise the teacher, most of the time, just makes things worse.

‘Telling on’, however, is very popular on Facebook, especially during a fight: rounding up your posse to go after a common enemy. Childish.  Fight your own fights. Or call up your posse in private.

Those are my rules for good behaviour. What are yours?




Six Dangerous Things

One of the best things about Tony Soprano was that you knew he was psychopathic, but you liked him anyway. Each time, you thought he’d behave better; naturally, he never did. He was consistently disappointing you, but he remained addictive. It makes me think of Facebook.

Having witnessed mob mentality on FB recently, I was struck by the following: grem

  1. There are a hang of a lot of moderate people who hold themselves back in these debates. This skews the results. People believe they have more support and / or criticism than they really have because most people just don’t want to get involved. They stand back. In some ways it resembles the famous bystander effect in psychology.
  2. I think that people tend to be less aggressive to each other face-to-face, because body language (a raised eyebrow, a slight smile) both diffuses tension and moderates what you say next in social situations, at least some of the time. In other words, it’s better to go and have a drink with people who have different views to your own than engage with them on social media.
  3. Social media makes itself feel like the whole world when actually you have just self-selected into that little piece of the world. Often an echo chamber is created, where you think certain people have a lot more power / support than they really have. They are merely surrounded by people who repeat their sentiments. If you follow different people, you create a different world. (Parts of this last thought come from my friend Ryan.) *

Seeing as though I’m discussing dangerous things, like Facebook mobs, I thought I would also try to bring the topic closer to home by thinking of dangerous things I’ve done.  (Because it’s my blog, I don’t need to worry about logical transitions).

I’ve put them in ascending order of danger:

  1. I’ve smoked a giant joint in Dahab with somebody who had supposedly descended from Egyptian aristocracy. He rolled the joint from newspaper. It gave me a terrible headache.
  2. I’ve engaged in a sexual activity under Rondebosch bridge in the middle of the night. (Not recently.)
  3. I’ve swum in a hotel swimming pool in Malaysia during a lightning storm. It was exhilarating.
  4. I’ve got engaged after seeing someone in person for five days. (We did write letters before that.)
  5. I’ve had two children. I know it doesn’t seem that having children is dangerous, but the genetic lottery means it’s entirely unpredictable. The child is not, as one would think, an equal blend of the parents. Some tartar rapist ancestor genes (always been my mother’s theory about how I got my red hair from my Russian ancestors) or a genius musical gene can get mixed into the DNA milkshake. Anything can happen.

* For further social media theories, check out the famous Lazarus Lemon Meringue Pie vs Oral Sex Facebook ‘easy like’ principle .