Four Things You Should Know About Facebook and the World

I have lost track of how many years I have been using Facebook.  However, I have not lost track of all the times that people say to me “I never use Facebook (FB) because it is etc., etc.”  They then proceed to give me a litany of reasons why they: 1. Have never used Facebook or 2. Why they think Facebook is useless.  I have found the following four beliefs to predominate among the reasons why Facebook has been deemed as either useless or even dangerous.

  1. Facebook is a waste of time. It has too much stupid stuff and trivia.

I would be richer than Mark Zuckerberg if I had a dollar for every time I have heard “What do I care about what people had for breakfast today.”  Great, you don’t want to know where I went, what I did, who I saw and what I eat?  Use your little finger to scroll down or push delete or go to another site.  I have lots of friends who do care and who want to know what I am doing.  I have had many comments on my FB site such as “It was so much fun to follow you on your trip.”  “I love your postings.”  “Thanks for sharing.”

If you think my postings are trivial, meaningless, inane, or asinine, great.  I respect your opinion.  So “Defriend” me.  Go elsewhere for your trivia.  Find your daily dose of bullshit someplace else.  But don’t criticize something you have never tried or condemn others because you find their lives not worth knowing about.

  1. Facebook can’t be trusted. They will sell valuable information about me.

Facebook is a business first and foremost.  How do you think Zuckerberg got so rich?  FB is full of advertising and advertisers want to know everything about you, so they can sell you stuff you don’t think you really need.  They will convince you that you really need it.  This has been going on since Moses convinced Pharaoh to let his people go.

Do I trust FB not to sell my innermost secrets?  Do I trust Zuckerberg not to share information about me with advertisers, political marketers, vendors, pollsters and other information seekers?  No more than I would trust hanging from the Empire State Building with my wife’s sewing thread.  You must either be deaf, dumb or blind if you think you can trust anyone selling you something or giving you something for free not to have some hidden catch or some gimmick to get more money from you.  Did you ever notice that FB is free or has that escaped your attention?  What is free?  Do you really believe it is free?

As far as information privacy goes, observe the following that I tell all my students and you will probably not have much to worry about.  It goes like this: “If you want to protect your privacy, then do not text, tweet, photo, Instagram, email, voicemail or say anything in public that you would not put up on a billboard in downtown New York.”  Period.  That is the only way that you will protect your privacy today and I doubt even this admonition is full proof.

  1. Facebook is full of lies and “false” facts.

So, you want to make decisions based on evidence, data and facts?  Facebook is no doubt full of bullshit, opinions, innuendo, conspiracies, lies and unsubstantiated claims beyond counting.  The lies on FB are more numerous than the stars in the sky or the molecules in the universe.  However, I will tell you a secret. There is no evidence, data or facts that are 100 percent true.  Everything we know about the world is only based on theories buttressed by repetition or replication.  The more our predictions happen, they more confident we are they are accurate.  However, science in like the weather.  You don’t count on the weather forecaster being 100 percent accurate unless you are a fool.

Throughout history, we have seen theories and facts overthrown by newer theories, newer facts and newer evidence that help better match reality with theory.  The world was once flat, then it was round, now it is more elliptical.  Our knowledge of everything keeps evolving and changing.  Some people see it as a search for the TRUTH.  However, the TRUTH does not exist or if it does, it is only like the wind.  It will blow one way today and another way tomorrow.  Facts, data and evidence have a probability of being accurate.  They will never be 100 percent true.  My father used to say, “believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.”  I have found this to be moderately good advice.  It works very well on FB and on the Internet in general.

  1. Facebook should be a social media and not political.

“John, you are too political.”  “I don’t want to hear your rants and raves.”  “Why can’t you keep your politics out of your Facebook site.”  “Facebook is for family and friends and should not be political.”

The splash page on my FB site now shows a picture of Elie Wiesel and a quote by him that reads “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”  He also said, “We must take sides.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”  Before this, my splash page had a picture of Martin Luther King and a quote by him that read, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

I believe that living in a society and hence to be social means to be political.  If you live in a society, politics is the coin of the realm that defines the rules and procedures that govern the interactions between human beings.  No one can be apolitical in a society.  To believe so is to lie to yourself.  I put my politics out there.  I don’t care if you like them or if you don’t.  I want others to know that there is someone in the universe who probably feels like they do.

Before Trump was elected, I put up a Hillary sign in my front yard.  My neighbor who was also a Hillary supporter came over to warn me.  She said “John, I would not put that sign up in this town if I were you.  It could be dangerous.”  I decided to talk this over with my wife Karen.  I did not feel that I had the right to jeopardize her safety as well mine.  She said that she supported keeping the sign up.  My decision was sealed by her willingness to risk whatever might happen by putting a sign up in a mostly pro-Trump rural town in Arizona.  A week or so later, one of my good friends who lived nearby saw my sign.  She asked me to if I could get her one.  I did get her a sign and I think we might have had the only two Hillary signs up in our town.

I use FB as a means to share with others who in these rather trying times might have fears of speaking out or who might feel that they are alone.  I want my friends to know that I am political and that I share with some of them the same beliefs, values and ideas that they have.  I firmly believe that we cannot change our present problems or deal with issues by silence.  However, if you don’t like my politics or ideas then you can do as so many others have and simply defriend me.  Frankly, they say we are defined by the company we keep.  I would rather keep company with those who share similar convictions about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Time for Questions:

Do you use Facebook?  Why or why not

Life is just beginning.

“You should protest about the views of people you disagree with over major moral issues, and argue them down, but you should not try to silence them, however repugnant you find them. That is the bitter pill free speech requires us to swallow.” — Julian Baggini

 

 

 

Friends and Friendship: Part 1.

It is easy to measure friendship today.  Simply count the number of “friends” you have on Facebook and subtract the number of people who “defriended” you.  Multiply this number by the number of followers you have and divide by the number of people you are following.  This number or index will accurately tell you the number of friends you have in the whole wide world.  If you are not good with math and numbers, then simply call up each of your “friends” and see who will lend you a hundred dollars.  Another quick and easy solution to see how many friends you have is to count the number of your “friends” who bring you some chicken soup when you are home in bed with the flu.    

The subject of friendship has been written about since writing first began.  An advantage of friendship and perhaps one of its most enduring qualities is that you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your mother, father, aunts, uncles or other relatives.   While “blood” may be thicker than water, actual counts show as many dysfunctional families as dysfunctional friendships. (An observation extrapolated from my 67 years of experience as a relative and friend.)  Another advantage of friendship is that people seem to have more concern about being a good friend than they do about being a good relative.  To test this latter point, I went to Amazon.com and typed in “friendship.”  I found 57,722 books on the subject.  Next I typed in “relatives.”  I found only 20, 930.  Since this experiment did not seem very definitive I also tried the following.  I went to Google and typed in: “How to be a better friend?”   I found 1,470,000 hits on this subject.  Then I went back and typed in “How to be a better relative?”  I used the quotes to frame both question.  I found NO hits.  Not a one. NADA.  ZERO.  Go ahead and try it yourself.  Type in: “How to be a better relative?”   Here is what you will get:

   No results found for “How to be a better relative?”.

https://www.google.com/#q=%E2%80%9CHow+to+be+a+better+relative%3F%E2%80%9D

So there you have the second major or perhaps third major advantage of friendship.  Namely that people care about being a good friend but no one cares about being a good “relative.”  You are just supposed to love your relatives and that’s it.  End of subject.  “I love you brother.”  “I love you sister.”  “I love you Dad.”  “I love you Mom” are words taken for granted.  Your friends might regularly invite you over for meals and never say “I love you.”  However, your relatives may never invite you over for a meal, but they will not hesitate to say: “I love you.”  I guess love should be the subject of another blog, since the love of relatives seems to be something that needs better defining.  However, to return to the subject of friendship, let’s look at Aristotle’s three types of friends.  I will refer you to Amazon for more works on friendship.  Anyone reading all 57,722 books will receive a certificate as a bona fide “Friendship Expert.”  Simply mail me the ISBN number of all the books you have read or rip off the back cover and send them to me.  I will mail your certificate ASAP. 

Aristotle identified three types of friends.  I would like to compare Aristotle’s ideas on friendship to my ideas on friendship.  I wrote on the subject about thirty-five years ago and it was my first piece of paid writing.  It appeared in a Men’s Journal somewhere on the West Coast.  I regret I cashed the check as it would have been a nice souvenir and it was only for twenty dollars.  However, I was in graduate school at the time and twenty dollars seemed like a lot of money back then.  The title of my article was called:  “Male Friendship and the Three Types of Intimacy”.   I will return to my theories later, however let’s start with Aristotle since I give him a head start on the subject and much greater profundity.

Aristotle’s ideas on friendship were part of his larger work The Nicomachean Ethics.  Aristotle divided friendships into three types based on the motive for forming them.  These three types were:  Friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure and friendships of the good.   

“Friendships of utility” describe encounters with others that are very commercial or practical.  There is no love or intimacy exchanged in such relationships and they are simply based on a quid pro quo type of arrangement.  For some, these types of friends would better be called acquaintances but I think acquaintances lack the level of commitment that is sometimes necessary in “friendships of utility.”  Many of the people we work with, have business transactions with or even network with on LinkedIn would fit into this category.  Such relationships are not very intimate but they can engender a certain depth of emotional attachment. 

Aristotle’s “friendships of pleasure” include those individuals who we enjoy being around or spending time with.  These are people we like because they are fun to be with or they make us feel good or they bring some level of excitement to our lives.  Many of these types of friendships involve some type of shared activity.  You might be on the same bowling team, church council, or simply hang around in a bar or coffee shop together.  The intimacy involved in this type of friendship is deeper than in “friendships of utility” but it is often is limited to the activity that is being jointly pursued.  Once the activity ends, often the friends go separate ways.  Such friendships may end unless there is some other reason to create a bond or another reason to interact together.  

Aristotle’s third and deepest friendship is the “friendship of the good.”  Such a friendship is based on the enjoyment of the other person for some “good” or character trait that the person exhibits and which you find compelling or attractive. You like the person not for what they can do for you but because of who they are.  According to Aristotle these are the enduring type of friendships since they are not based on utility or shared activities but on a mutual liking or affection between the friends.  As long as the character traits enjoyed by each friend do not change, the friendship will continue. 

While I find Aristotle’s three types of friendship interesting, I do not think they go far enough or deep enough to define friendship.  I think he comes closest to my idea of friendship with his “friendship of the good” but even that does not go far enough.  The major fault I have with Aristotle is that he misses what I think is the key ingredient of friendship, namely intimacy.  A friendship must involve intimacy or it is not a friendship.  Intimacy is the key ingredient for all “true friendships.”

Intimacy:

1. the state of being intimate.

2. a close, familiar, and affectionate personal relationship.

3. a close association with or deep understanding of a place, subject, etc.

4. an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity or affection: the intimacy of using first names.

5. a sexual liberty.

6. privacy, esp. as suitable to the telling of a secret: in the intimacy of his studio.

I believe there are three types of intimacy upon which a friendship can be founded.  I do not include sexual intimacy here since for the most part, I am describing “non-sexual” relationships.  Relationships between lovers usually involve sexual intimacy but they do not have to include much if any of the three types of intimacy that I think are a key to a good friendship. It would be a better relationship if they did.  You will note though that it is frequently hard for ex-lovers to remain friends because once the sex part ends there is often little of the intimacy necessary for true friendship. 

I have labeled the three types of intimacy as: 

  • Face to face
  • Side to side
  • Back to back

Face to face intimacy is more emotional and affective and generally involves two people sharing feelings, problems, emotions, and issues that they would not discuss with anyone else.  Women are typically considered to be very good a face to face intimacy.  You can find women sitting together over coffee discussing any number of emotional issues.  Dealing with personal subjects with another party is central to face to face intimacy.  No gender has a monopoly on this type of intimacy but in the past, men were brought up to avoid dealing with emotions making such intimacy very difficult.

Side to side intimacy is doing and conative.  It is active and involves sharing some physical activity with the other party.  This could be working together, playing sports together, helping each other with some tasks or chores or simply taking a walk together.  This is an area where men in the past found much of their intimacy with other men.   Sports and other side to side activities were more condoned for men than sitting exchanging emotions together.  Time has changed and women are now as active in many sports as are men and we increasingly see men spending time with other men talking and sharing feelings.

Back to back intimacy involves a willingness to share risk or face a threat for the other person.  Soldiers develop strong friendships because of their need to rely on each other.  Police also develop strong friendships with their partners because of the element of shared risk and the strong need to rely on each other during emergencies and threats.  Any individuals that help each other during emergencies or dangerous situations can experience the type of intimacy that I call back to back intimacy.  (Just as an aside, I used this phrase before the term “I got your back” became popular but the current phrase  does express the essence of this type of intimacy.) 

A friendship may involve one, two or all three of these types of intimacy.  They are not all required for a good friendship.  A friendship based on only one of these types of intimacy can be very strong and profound.  However, all things being equal, a friendship based on two or three of the types of intimacy will be stronger than one based on a single type.  The caveat here is that when the intimacy no longer exists, there is a good chance that the friendship will fade away or become only a source of memories. 

In my blog next week, I would like to address some ideas for developing, maintaining and even enhancing our friendships.  I speak from having some experience at developing friendships but also at losing many good friends over the years.  Friendship much like love, romance, marriage or any other type of strong bonded relationship must be worked at.  A failure to commit to working on a relationship is the death knell for that relationship.  Bonds are only as strong as the glue that cements them together. When the glue loses its adhesion, the bond falls apart. The glue for friendships is intimacy.  Lose the intimacy and you lose the friendship.

Time for Questions:  

Do you have many good friends?  What do you do to maintain your friendships?  Have you ever lost a good friend?  Why?  What do you think you need to do more of to have stronger friendships?  Which type of intimacy are most of your friendships based on?  Do you have friends that fall into Aristotle’s three types?  Which ones?  How much work do you put into your friendships?  Do you put enough? 

Life is just beginning.

 

 

 

Jesus Starts a Facebook Page

Hi, I need to apologize.  I should be doing Gandhi’s third Social Sin but I got sidetracked by two recent news reports which have taken me down a different path for this blog.  I decided to do this blog on the subject of Jesus and Facebook.  I wonder what Jesus would do with Facebook if he were alive today?  I want to speculate a bit on what the current emphasis on social media would or could possibly do to enhance Jesus’s message and mission.  I will return to Gandhi next week. 

A few years ago, I remember seeing a science fiction movie wherein the value of a person in the future was directly related to how popular they were.  I cannot remember the name of the movie, so if you are familiar with it, I would appreciate your sending me a comment or email. I vaguely remember it being a Stallone movie but the only sci-fi movies I remember him in were Demolition Man and Judge Dredd and I do not think that either of these were the right movies.   In this future time, each citizen was given some sort of a number or code that showed how popular they were. The more popular they were the more successful and wealthy they were. Your value as a human being rested in your popularity regardless of how you may have achieved this popularity.  I have thought about this issue many times since then.  What once seemed like science-fiction now seems like daily reality.

Today we actually do value the worth of a person or their endeavors by how popular they are. Their popularity rating is based on a variety of measures.  How many followers do they have on Facebook?  How many hits do they get on their Blog?  How many calls do they get to be on game shows or other Hollywood Media?  How many books have they sold?  How many downloads did they get?  How many people did they kill?  Popularity sells newspapers, movie rights, stories, advertisements and TV space.  We have an entire set of people who are called celebrities who owe their lifestyles to some bizarre excuse for fame that the public has latched on.  Donald Trump, Lady Gaga, Psi, Kate Middleton, and dozens others routinely grace our newsstands and command maximum space in the media.  Wikipedia defines celebrity as:

A celebrity is a person who has a prominent profile and commands some degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media. The term is often synonymous with wealth (commonly denoted as a person with fame and fortune), implied with great popular appeal, prominence in a particular field, and is easily recognized by the general public.

Celebrities are the superstars of today’s world. Celebrities ban together at parties, galas, shindigs and anywhere the rich, successful or famous go to hang out. I noticed that during President Obama’s most recent White House Correspondents Dinner on April 27th that the audience was filled with not only news reporters but many of the rich and famous referred to as Hollywood’s A-List.  This A-List also included many of the politicians in this country since they were well represented at this dinner. It did not matter whether or not they supported Obama.  Right Wing, Left Wing, Conservative, Republican, Democrat, Liberal were all conspicuous at this dinner.  One can see Conan O’Brien, at the podium sharing some jokes at Bill O’Reilly’s expense on some of the videos posted on You-Tube.  For one brief night, Obama and O’Reilly had more in common than any of the common people (Are we B or C list?) on the face of the earth.  Regardless if the event is a Superbowl, Wimbledon Championship. PGA Major Event, or a funeral of some important dignitary, the “Celebrities” will all be invited.  Popularity is the coin of the realm today and the holy graile that we all seek. Today, it is more important to be famous and well known that it is to be kind, decent or good at least if you want to be a celebrity.

I noticed a Facebook posting on my web site from George Takei (AKA Sulu) of Star Trek fame.  He is now being hailed as a social media expert since his Facebook site has over four million followers and is one of the most popular sites on the Internet.  I had to admit to some curiosity so I went to check out his site to see what is behind his popularity. It seems his new found recognition is now translating into a renewed interest in his career and endeavors.  I will say that I was a big Star Trek fan and read most if not all of the bios of the lead actors from the series. I even went to the very first Star Trek convention in New York City.  I declined an invitation though to attend the second one.  I can only take nostalgia so far. I was most struck by the reported animosity between Takei and Captain Kirk.  It seems they did not get along too well off set although several other characters also found Shatner overbearing and egotistical. But then this seems to go with stardom.  Takei stuck to his guns though and was well liked by all members of the cast. 

Looking at Takei’s website, I was struck by the randomness of his site. Humor, short human interest stories, lots of pictures alluding to Star Trek and many liberal causes which Takei supports. I found it a fun and interesting site, but still left amazed that 4,000,000 people a week go to this site. To give you some perspective, when I started my www.timeparables.blogspot.com website it took me almost three years to go from 50 hits per month to nearly 3000 hits per month.  I confess, I routinely scrutinized the figures and sometimes felt obsessed with my “numbers.”  I did not want to fall into the trap of equating the value of what I had to say with the numbers of people who hit my site, but I found it hard not to feel bad on those days when I would publish what I thought was a very thought provoking blog and hardly anyone would logon.  Many times I felt disillusioned at the interest in my writings and was on the verge of stopping. Almost every time I got to this point, I would receive a comment or email indicating how much my blog meant to someone and how it had really made a difference in their life. I determined to keep writing as long as I had even one reader out there. I did not and still do not want to measure my value by my popularity but it’s not an easy task. 

One day a good friend of mine and I were in a coffee shop in Stillwater, Minnesota. We had both set down with our coffees and suddenly a man about our age appeared at the counter.  I could not help but think I knew him but I could not place where I knew him from.  I decided to go up to ask him.  I inquired whether we had met in the motorcycle club I belonged to and he said “No.”  I started to return to my seat but out of curiosity I persisted.  I said “Dam, you look very familiar, have we met someplace before?”  He again replied “No.”  I tried again.  “Are you in the movies or papers?”  “Yes”, he replied.  May I ask your name?  He answered “Sam Shepard.”   Suddenly, I was rather embarrassed and tongue tied. I admired many of his movies, writings and plays but did not know what to say.  I did not want him to think I was a celebrity seeker or one of the people who hound celebrities just to get their autograph or a piece of them.  I quickly ended the one-sided conversation with “Well, I like your movies, have a great day.”  That was the end of it. No further reply and Sam just walked off.

I realize there are many celebrity hunters out there. In fact, what would a celebrity be without a celebrity hunter? I also realize that many people who have achieved fame and recognition would rather not be celebrities. I suspect Sam was one of them.  An extremely accomplished actor, playwright and film director, he could stand on his own without “fame” or fortune.  However, fortune and fame does follow people who are very successful.  This is one of the payments for being able to do things that other people envy, admire or want to associate with.  Probably that is part of the reason we associate celebrity status with something desirable.  To become a celebrity means to become rich, famous and liked by millions.  We average people seldom see the downsides of celebrity status.  Thus, I am left to reflect on the curious juxtaposition of Jesus and Facebook.

If we can fast forward to Jesus of Nazareth to the 21st Century and imagine him having a Facebook site, how many followers would Jesus have today?  Let us assume for the sake of this hypothesis that Jesus was just starting out his ministry and was relatively unknown except for 12 rather flighty and fickle followers (AKA Disciples).  So Jesus puts up his Facebook site and starts posting parables and stories.  One story Jesus tells is as follows:  Matthew 18:23-34 — Unmerciful Servant

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me, he begged, and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.”

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.  His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.  Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” 

What is the moral of this story?  There are many that could be derived from this parable.  Love others as you are loved?  Do unto others as you would have done unto you?  What goes around comes around?  Share kindness not unkindness.  Jesus taught with the use of such parables and today he is the most famous person in history with more followers than even Donald Trump.  However, if Jesus were alive today would he get hits on his website by posting such parables?  Or would Jesus have to “get” with the times and become more contemporary?   Would he get himself executed again by the civil authorities for preaching discontent and unrest?  Would Jesus be a Republican or a Democrat?  Would he be a Liberal or a Conservative?  My mind reels with all the questions that this fantasy of a 21st Century Jesus holds for me.

I suppose I am losing you at this point.  My good friend Carrie Classon keeps her postings to 600 words and I am almost at 2000.  I am not sure I have made my point yet.  The moral I have been trying to explore here is “When does celebrity become hollow and mindless?”  There is fame that comes from accomplishing something of worth and value to the human race. There is also fame that comes from trivial meaningless endeavors or worse destroying lives and ideas that hold value for others.  One type of fame should be admired but the other type should be denigrated. Unfortunately, it looks like the media and too many people today do not distinguish between the two types of fame.  I see many news pundits who make their living preaching hate and intolerance and not love and kindness.  I see talk shows, radio and TV with mindless sycophants talking much but saying little.  I see a vast wasteland of entertainment with putdowns and innuendos making fun of other people.  I see millions of watchers who feel they must live their lives vicariously through others because they don’t have the ability or opportunity to do otherwise. Is this the value of Fame?

I conclude with a poem by Emily Dickenson: 

Fame is a Fickle Food

Fame is a fickle food

Upon a shifting plate

Whose table once a

Guest but not

The second time is set.

Whose crumbs the crows inspect

And with ironic caw

Flap past it to the Farmer’s Corn –

Men eat of it and die.

Ok, time for questions:

Are we too concerned with being popular?  Do you think more people should look inward or worry more about what others think?  Do you worry too much about what others think?  What if you cared less?  What would your life be like?  Can someone be too popular?  Should popularity be a goal for anyone?  Why or Why not?

 Life is just beginning.

 

 

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