Monday, October 14, 2013

seasons on facebook

when i started "facebooking" 6 years ago in Spring, i didn't know what to expect from this new form of social media. it was during the Spring of 2007 that i started blogging too (blogging became a verb but facebooking is underlined in red!!), but i had a clearer idea of what i want and expect from my blog than what i want and expect from my facebook account. at the beginning it was an enjoyable new experience for me, it reminded me of the German language course i took out of curiosity. German sounds like English but it's not English so why not take a beginners course and get to know this language better... why not start a facebook account and get to know this site/fashion better...

over the years i could notice a change of seasons on facebook. these seasons didn't necessarily follow a repetitive pattern, but they were clear and interesting enough for me to observe and check how much i'm effected by this change, and since fb is dependent on real people behind these millions of accounts it is to a certain extent under their control (in addition to the hard work of developers who focus on improving and changing the site). i kept asking myself: am i a follower or a pioneer in terms of new trends that appear on fb? does the general mood of friends on my list affect mine? do i get carried away or am i always the master behind what i do with/on my account?

at the beginning i've noticed that the majority of users (or at least those i knew in real life) were in their twenties, late teens, and early thirties, then other age groups joined, younger people who added fake birth years and older people whose children encouraged them to create fb accounts, we shouldn't ignore cautious or curious parents who were indirectly forced to join so that they can either relate to their children or check on them, so numbers of users grew as fast as light-speed.

i can only speak about my own account which currently has around 600 friends (or followers) and that's where i got my observations from. it's worth mentioning that for me the rule is to only add people whom i know in real life (an exception can be a dear friend of a friend, or a close relative of a friend, and they are only a handful). i tried a couple of games at the beginning then i discovered that it was such a waste of time (and eye site for somebody like me) so i quit. soon, fb for me meant "communication" mainly with people i don't see in real life (and that included absolutely everybody during our first year of marriage when i moved to a country where i know practically no body). i would use photos and words, that was it. which in itself is quite wide since it includes adding albums, commenting on friends' photos, writing status updates, replying to comments, and of course sending inbox messages which can be quicker and easier than "traditional" e-mails. 

recently, i've started to seriously think about how facebook has its own seasons and how they change, this change is caused by fb people and also affects these very same fb people (i mean users, but the word people sounds more human to my ear). fb's GOLDEN AGE was over soon enough and this introduction phase lead to the first season change. what i've noticed was that people started to get bored, they started to add less and less albums, write fewer comments and change their statuses less often. this season of STAGNATION would sure witness a revival every once in a while when somebody got married, or had a new baby or graduated or went through a similar life-changing experience thus wanted to share the happy news through words or/and pictures. 

i would hear people, in real life, talk about how boring fb has become and that they no longer open it. some of them used to say that and i would discover that they're following every single activity i do on my account so i started calling them "facebook spies" they claim that they almost never open their fb account, which wasn't true, they used to say that only to go with the flow and to sound "cool" enough, since cool is now re-defined by not having time for fb (the exact opposite to the definition that existed only a couple of months earlier). 

the second season change came with what is called the Arab Spring (i'm not using this term because i strongly believe in it, but i understand it as a mark for a new era), when some of my fb friends suddenly turned into political advocates, with strong opinions about what's going on, their timeline (it was called a "wall" back then) was filled with youtube videos, shared statuses from certain pages of people who are "pro" or "anti" certain groups or personnel, the vast majority got involved in discussions and debates about politics and religion, many started to lose a number of people on their friends' lists, and things got out of control on an individual level and a larger scale. the main feature of the season of HOSTILITY was some kind of war, a facebook one, weapons included cursing, negative language, harsh criticism, stereotyping, prejudice, judgement, subjective opinions... etc. in addition to videos of very graphic content but i was able to avoid those, the things i couldn't avoid were photos that kept me dizzy for a while and are now plastered to my memory, posted on the timeline of friends i used to consider as sensitive and considerate who added these photos without a warning, it was like a trap for me...

during this season, those friends who once were "sensitive" or "polite" showed a whole different side of their personality and i was shocked, at other times i was hurt because some verbal aggression targeted me because i identify with certain groups and categories that were insulted... some people thought that by hiding behind a computer screen or a mobile devise they then can say whatever they want in whichever way they see fit. this hostile environment on fb was repulsive, people took their frustration, aggression, and oppression out on each other thinking that what are clearly their childish opinions are instead worth fighting for even if the price meant losing real life friends in the process of defense or attack.

the third season arrived with the fading of revolutions' initial appeal and momentum, because what started as peaceful demonstrations turned into armed conflict, real war in real life lasted for one year after another so many of my friends were pulled down by despair which swallowed them like quick sand. during this season of GLOOMINESS they no longer had the energy to hope for or say anything, neither positive nor negative, and for a while i joined this current, i started to hate fb and the bad effect it had on me, what used to be a haven for me, a place where i can connect with people, now have become a place of torture, ugliness, and so much disconnection. at that time i saw no use even in prayer, so if fb is now a platform to talk about war and only war then it's a bout time i took a break. this break didn't last too long for me because i missed the fb account i once had, that little space through which i could stay in touch with dear ones who are so far away, .

the fourth season was one that only a few people experienced, and i knew i wasn't alone when i started to develop a new kind of fear when this season of PHOBIA began. whenever i saw a photo of a nice looking young man, smiling, i would hold my breath for a split second to check if he's dead and how he was killed... no photo of a happy family where all members were smiling meant that this family is happy any more, who is the missing member? how many were killed? the same was true for photos of little babies, group pictures of university students, and even pets portraits. but the truth was that the majority of these photos were really happy ones, yet my mind could no longer relax and detect happiness. when things were really bad, like a suicide bombing, an explosion, or chemical weapon attack, i would go through lists of names to check if there's somebody i know who was killed or injured in that tragedy, lists grew longer and sadder and by time i developed a mental illusion when i would recognize a name only to find out a minute later that i actually do not know that person. is there such a thing as "reversed wishful thinking"? when you're too scared to discover something so your mind decides to lie to you because the agony of that hated reality is less painful than the fear and anticipation of it so you hear a voice in your head saying: "here it is, stop worrying, start the grief process" and we all know that the first stage of grief is denial. but that "reality" was never real in the first place.

so in the Fall of 2013 i've noticed that many people are trying to lead a normal fb life/account once again, but some seasons leave their marks on us when we survives them, i strongly believe that things will ever be the same on fb, yet we try to adapt, do some fb seasonal cleanup, get rid of what's now considered as trash and keep the good stuff, try to maintain a positive attitude and watch out for bad language, try to be kind and nice to other people and be a spreader of good stuff through each of our fb accounts.
still it seems to me that there's a number of people who intentionally or unintentionally decided to extend the season of HOSTILITY, to dwell in it and turn it into a lifestyle, a "facebookstyle", that's why this saying keeps coming to mind: "tell me who your friends are and i will tell you who you are" but i re-phrased it in a Rihamic twist that applies to facebook now "tell me what you share and say on your facebook account and i will tell you who you are"...

photo cutline: putting this picture together took almost as long as writing this blog post itself, but i'm pretty proud of the result

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