Letters of Life

Stepping In Where Angels Fear To Tread

A roundabout at a fair in London, with traditi...

Round and round it goes

After a prolonged enforced absence on the online social network, I ventured back, mainly to send a message to a new friend who lives abroad.

For what was the first time in 40 days, I entered the home page and scrolled down the news feed.

It was like the party I’d dropped out of was still going on, an endless merry-go-round of food shots, thumbnails of friends’ children doing amazing things, obscure news articles negating things you thought you knew were right, cryptic one-liners, friends patting each other on the back, small talk, chit-chat.

Because I had been wandering the real world disproportionately more and gotten used to the quiet, the ignorance of not knowing what my friends ate for breakfast or what their new baby looked like, the innocuously-named news feed suddenly became an avalanche, a noisy room, an overload of chatter-clatter-clutter masking as information.

Or worse, entertainment.

For the past 40 days, it’s been me and my inbox/me and my blog. I’ve listened to the sound of silence, and when my clouded mind started clearing and clarifying its contents, I started to hear fresh new elements, other voices in crystal-clear frequencies. I started writing about my past, people I’d just met, my sojourn in a rustic destination, my overflowing days.

I am suddenly afraid. As I stand at the vestibule of the social network, taking in the march-past of information, content, trivia, see the number of comments and likes piling up like hills of beans, I am scared.

I see the amount of validation people I know give each other, and I wonder, do I want to plunge back in? Do I want to wade into the shallows of mutual “Likes”, go deeper to add clever one-liners to friends’ posts, start clicking on links to see where the currents take me, and post pithy comments or engage in debates over issues like animal mothers and rebuttals to controversial Sunday columnists?

I suddenly feel a chill. It’s a lot like seeing everyone you know walking past you, most of them a merry bunch on their way to a party you don’t know about or at a place you don’t know how to get to. I know all that is not quite true, because the party is actually a free-for-all you can gatecrash, the venue just a bookmark away.

On Facebook, everyone is (mostly) cool, things are goin’ great, and the conversations are easy to jump into.

But do I want to? After so long? The most obvious metaphor is that of a castaway whose boat lands him on the shores of a golden city. He is at once blinded by the gloss of life that greets his eyes now unused to the gleam of positive statements and friendly debate. The sky is a glass bubble that agglomerates different realities into one shiny happy virtual mass reality where the grass is greener (on the other side), and we are all going somewhere wonderful.

I’m going to tread carefully.

How important are online social news feeds to you? Are the feeds a social toolbox to help you connect with people you meet in real life? A good way to connect with friends overseas? A personal record of daily life?


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