Sunday, September 23, 2012

To turn Facebook stock around...

I log onto Facebook once or twice a day. That’s a conscious choice requiring a ridiculous amount of discipline on my part. Facebook, for some reason, is addictive enough that when I sit down at my computer or open my laptop, my first instinct is to go to that familiar login page. I suspect I’m not alone in this, judging by the quantity of Facebook posts out there. Voyeurism is probably the primary motivation for the success, a way to lurk in the shadows and spy on people you’re almost connected to with no danger of getting caught. It doesn’t appear to matter to our dark psyches that our nefarious “spying” accesses only the information people choose to share. I mean, it isn’t like we’re getting a glimpse into the skeletons in anyone’s closet. (Though in all fairness, many people appear to delight in sharing things with the world that I wouldn’t talk to my psychiatrist about.)

There are a few things that Facebook needs to add. The “Like” button is great, but what do I do when someone posts something tragic? “My mother died.” “Eighty-three massacred in Syria.” “My tests came back positive.” (Which is negative, in spite of how great it sounds.) “Mr. Snuggles died.” I want to show my support, but you can’t “Like” something like that. (You shouldn’t, anyway, in spite of the fact that people still do.) You’re forced to ignore the call for help, or leave a comment. But how many times does a post need “That’s terrible, I’m so sorry for you” under it? You try to come up with some unique variant of support that doesn’t completely match something already there. “Keep your chin up, buddy.” Or “Man, that blows, Mr. Snuggles was an awesome iguana.” You have to watch you don’t cross from “somber sympathy” to “smart ass fakery.” Telling someone “It can’t rain every day” comes off as smug, plus it quotes the movie “Crow” (with Brandon Lee, great flic, really, check it out if you haven’t seen it). Not good. (For the record, “Not good” also qualifies as “smart ass fakery.”)

Keep “Like” if you want to, but maybe add “Sympathize” or “Testify!” or even a little “sad face” emoticon. Just so we can digitally pat our fellow sufferers on the back without the awkward need to verbalize our sympathy (ask anyone who’s ever visited a palliative care ward just how hard it is to do time and time again).

The second change is more far-reaching but also far more critical. Using state-of-the-art image recognition software and keyword search engines, Facebook needs to automatically take every single post relating to cute kittens, lovable puppies, and adorable animals and throw them onto a special page. Let’s call this new domain “Petbook” and there, and ONLY there, will you be able to peruse at leisure the myriad pet-related posts. Once Petbook is up and running, we’ll all be saved from involuntarily seeing yet ANOTHER kitten batting at toilet paper, or a bushel of fuzzy puppies over the caption “Joy” (“Personal Hell” would be more accurate). I’m sure Petbook will have plenty of viewers, but I won’t be one of them. One picture of a pug cocking its head quizzically looks much the same as the rest of them, after all, and how many pics of kittens do we really need? If we’re ever lonely for the visual of a pink-nosed furball, Google has this handy thing called “Image search” and I GUARANTEE you’ll find kittens there if you bother to look.

Besides, there’s only ever been one image and video as far as kitten pics are concerned. The rest are all just wanna-be’s and sad copies. I speak, of course, of the The Laughing Cat:

Best video ever. Maybe I should post it on Facebook.


  1. Can the gruesome posts about animal cruelty go on the Petbook page too? I hate having to scroll through pictures of starved pitbulls and tortured zoo animals to get to my friend's gossip. Not to mention the fact that my kids don't need to see that if they are peeking over my shoulder as well.

    I do love that "Hide" button. Sometimes I can't find it fast enough.

  2. I agree. Facebook needs to add another option besides "like".