Suzie was sitting on the couch again trying to keep from laughing. She’s not very good at it. She kept forgetting that I was on the other end of the couch trying to do some important, significant, purpose-filled, serious man stuff.
Oh, she stopped chortling, no doubt out of deep respect, but only after about a three snigger delay, or two giggles, or one full throated guffaw.
The guffaw did it.
“What are you laughing at?”
“I’m sorry. It’s just Facebook. One of my friends posts the funniest things. I’ll keep it down.”
“Well, see that you do young lady,” said the crotchety old man who lives in the back of my brain. I hate that guy. At least this time I had the self-control to not say it out loud. She was having too much fun and the truth was I wanted some fun, too. But I got back to work.
A Smirk And A Snort
Three titters, a smirk and a full-out snort later I finally gave up. There was no competing with this.
“Okay, read it to me.”
“Are you sure?” Mischievous eyes sparkled, totally unrepentant in spite of her words. I do love this woman.
A few sentences later I huffed. Then I chuckled. Before long we were laughing and talking about who knows what. That’s when I came to a wistful conclusion.
I Want My Wife’s Friends
Now, I have some really good friends. I do. However, decades in music had left me with a long (looooong) list of self-promoting competitors asking me to like this page or come to that showcase or download their latest creation.
I get it. It’s not personal. It’s business. The music industry, what’s left of it, is crowded with talented, hard-working creatives whose life blood is marketing. An undiscovered genius without a Facebook page remains undiscovered. This I understand.
But worse, far worse, I realized my “friends” had been infiltrated by aliens, a veritable Lord of the Rings cast of goblins, orcs and mountain trolls.
These were not Facebook strangers. I’d met these people. They were nice. They were talented. They were creative. Some beloved by millions. I thought I knew them.
But given a Facebook page they became predators. No longer constrained by face-to-face social conventions, they turned into violent attack dogs shredding civil discussions with images of red hot pokers and imagined lynchings. They declared anyone who disagreed was filled with hatred, had mental disorders or were morally corrupt.
Meanwhile, Suzie smiled
She smiled at her friend’s anniversary announcements and family pictures.
She caught up with old friends and swapped stories about new babies.
Her friends really couldn’t be that great, could they? I had so many more and numbers count, right?
Discouragement With Pictures
Others filled my news feed with horrible photos of abused animals, mutilated people, disease, poverty, crime and war. It was the worldwide worst of mankind with an endless list of things I must do to stop it all or suffer blame.
Depressing tales of spousal abuse, stalking and murder crawled my screen like movie credits. Hopelessness prevailed. Helplessness floundered. Blame was heaped.
Suzie Teared Up
Suzie fought back tears of joy over pictures of her granddaughter.
She made cute involuntary noises over puppy videos.
Her happiness was relentless and it was starting to get under my skin.
I Tried Engagement
I had a hard time believing these “friends” were the same people I knew. I felt the need to say something. Surely a well-reasoned discussion would soften the rhetoric a bit? To quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Apparently, I was wrong. It turns out they didn’t want discussion. They were only looking for a target. Which I became.
For weeks the strife continued both on Facebook and off. I found myself thinking about it instead of working or talking.
Suzie Kept Laughing
Meanwhile, Suzie kept laughing and sharing her stories: while I was trying to watch TV, or in the bed trying to sleep, or brooding over my disturbing Facebook friends.
That’s how she gets to you. She just keeps chipping away.
I Gave Up
I finally had to admit that Suzie had better friends than me. I didn’t understand how this could be. I have some great friends.
Hmm. I do have some great friends.
Why weren’t they showing up? Were they all on vacation? I became suspicious. Were they hiding somewhere?
I checked their individual walls and was surprised.
Reclaiming My Friends
Some wretched Facebook algorithm had hidden their posts behind the self-promoting, self-aggrandizing trolls. I wasn’t seeing them at all.
I began a mission to reclaim my real friends. I started sorting. Who were the people who really made a difference in my life? That was an easy list.
Next I had to take control of my Facebook life.
Goodbye Lord of the Rings
First, I unfriended the ghouls, goblins and trolls. I didn’t hide them. I chopped them. Gone! Bam!
They would have to deal with their misery on their own. If they wanted twisted theological arguments, deviant politics and self-glorification they could do it without me. What was I thinking allowing these people in my life?
I gave myself Permission To Walk Away.
Mute The Chatter
Second, I went through the difficult task of finding where Facebook hid the button to turn off timeline posts:
- Go to the person’s main page.
- Click the down arrow by the little gear icon.
- Click the scary “Report/Block . . .” item.
- Check the Unfollow radio button and Confirm.
- Their posts will no longer show on your timeline but you will remain “friends”.
I turned off the common chatterers, the people who were only hawking their shows, the maimed pet posters, the drunk texters, the disgusting jokesters, etc.
These people were harmless but were cluttering up the joint. They made my Facebook a 24 hour frat party but they were, after all, friends.
Things got quieter.
Be A Better Friend
Third, I decided to be a better friend. I took time to read their posts and learned a lot. Surprise. My friends really were interesting.
I liked. I commented. I cheered them on. Go Friends!
I tried to post things that meant something to me, things I would want to read, happy things, encouraging things.
I looked for others who did the same – and I found them. A lot of them.
I prayed for people having a tough day, without telling anyone.
I began having more fun.
The Encouragement Machine
One day I realized I was showing Suzie comments from my friends instead of envying hers. Good day.
It took a little more sorting but now I can hardly log on without a smile.
There are family members posting pet pics and baby photos. There are old school friends posting scriptures and encouraging quotes. They repost excellent articles. They find the funniest things.
I am educated, amused, chided, entertained and wowed on a daily basis.
There All The Time
My world-changing friends were there all the time, hidden beneath the clutter. Salt of the earth. Light of the world. Friends to the friendless. Rescuers. Heroes. Inspirers.
Just like real life, they were not making a scene, hogging the mic, screaming for attention. They were just quietly making the world a better place.
Thank God I finally found them again.
Thanks friends. Really.