Has Facebook morphed into something new?
Has the evolution of those boring slide shows that grandparents used to relish turned into something more -- more human, perhaps?
Katherine Rosman, an editor of "Sunday Styles" at The New York Times, laments in a worthy article in an aptly named column -- "Water Cooler" -- that the place where she posted pictures of her kids has turned dark as news and commentary and passionate opinions have begun to crowd out the funny quizzes.
Rosman quotes a writer from Salon.com, whose observations will resonate with all, I imagine: "What was once a pleasant jaunt through Facebook is now enough to leave anyone feeling completely bipolar. The only way I know how to respond is: Enough. Or, as Arabs and Israelis would say: Khalas!"
Interesting that the writer chooses a Middle Eastern metaphor, as I suspect that the current war in Gaza is a prime driver of the disconnect -- and clearly Katherine Rosman uses more examples of that conflict than, say, postings on too much violent sex in Game of Thrones.
No wonder, when Facebook reports that 24 million people had over 100 million interactions related to Hamas and Israel -- a number I can attest to, as I could swear most of them occurred on my own timeline, and few were of my making.
Interesting that the number pales next to World Cup figures from earlier in the summer -- when 350 million people generated 3 billion actions -- those being posts, comments and likes. Yet I suspect that the mostly benign nature of sports postings (with the exception of rabid fans and vicious rivals) makes us smile and not cringe or hide our eyes.
Truth is, I half jokingly suggested a social media ceasefire or truce a couple of weeks ago and it seems that maybe I was onto something.
But maybe not, because in deeper reflection this is what Facebook should be: much as we are, a multidimensional, complex, varied and non-predictable source of who we are and what we are really thinking. And if you don't like what I say or share, ignore it or kick me out of your circle.
Frankly, I have cut loose from a number of people I don't even recollect having as friends because I was offended by their postings or comments and no, I did not bother to comment back or even let them know. I just hit the button and felt better.
But I have valued reading thoughts that I might not have seen and appreciated the sharing of ideas or articles that I was better for reading -- and I continue to ignore the cats and stupid postings, as is my right.
Bottom line: If Facebook is only that "slide show," then I am ready to bet it fades into boring oblivion. However, if we can make it a source of social good and world change, then it will flourish and serve a useful purpose.
The need for news and information has driven the development and evolution of every medium in history -- from roads to trains to air travel; from cave paintings to parchment to booms to Kindle; from stage to radio to TV to the Web and beyond; entertainment followed and business was born...
As a channel, Facebook is an amalgam -- let's not force its dumbing down. Listen:
"Can we go back to using Facebook for what it was originally for -- looking up exes to see how fat they got?" - Bill Maher
So it seems the choice is ours. Meanwhile, I will finish posting this and follow up with a picture of me and my grandchildren at the beach -- and not feel bipolar at all, just human.
What do you think?