No News Is Good News

goodnews

I’ve always read the news. I want to be informed. I believe it’s important to know what goes on in the world.

When I was a little boy, my mother always had the car radio tuned to the local news station. KWY. News Radio. 1060. Those of you from Philly are probably hearing the jingle in your heads right now. Sorry about that!

But lately, the news is hard to read. Horrible things happening all over in the world. Lies. The current race for President makes reading the news almost unbearable. I hate the way the candidates and their followers are viciously attacking each other. When some dirt comes up about something someone has done twenty-five years ago that might ruin this person’s life, a news reporter somewhere is pumping his fist and saying “Yes!”

I decided that reading the news was too depressing, so I decided to make a change. One of my news sources has a page called “Good News” that filters the news and only shows what they consider to be good. I was glad to find this. I needed something to cheer me up from all the other headlines and stories. So, I clicked on the “Good News” link. By the way, by “click” I mean I touched the screen on my iPhone with my finger. Clicking on a link is now like rolling down a window. Or dialing a phone number. Or not touching that dial on the TV. But that’s another blog post!

Excited to see what good news story I would find, I was very disappointed to see that the top story was about a teen who died from cancer, with a big photo of the boy. It was the top good news story because his school honored him. Just below that was a photo of wreckage from the floods in Louisiana. It was on the good news page because apparently one of the flood victims won the lottery. So, one person won the lottery, and thousands or perhaps millions of people lost their homes or lives. This is the good news page. Sorry, but this didn’t cheer me up.

I thought I’d give them one more chance, so I moved on to the next article on the Good News page. It had a photo of a cat, which looked promising. The article was about a local news organization in Portland, Maine, that was having a local debate-watching party. In the room, they had nine therapy kittens. The kittens were there for people watching the debate who wanted to take a break from the ugliness and chill out. What a good idea! My faith in humankind is restored. I can always count on kitties to put a smile on my face!

kitty

The Lure of Facebook

Facebook has become a daily part of my life. When I wake up in the morning and grab my phone, not a minute of the new day goes by before I’m checking what’s new with my Facebook friends. This goes on throughout the day. And when I retire at night, Facebook is again there with me.

I don’t even want to think about how much time I spend with Facebook each day, and how much time I’ve spent with it over my life. I checked my email history and found that I first signed up with Facebook in 2007. June 19, 2007 to be exact. 9:44 AM. A Tuesday. Yes, I’m well into my tenth year! And if you signed up, as I did, back in those early days, you know what it means to be poked.

I asked myself what it is about Facebook that so powerfully draws me in. I think one of the top reasons is FOMO. If I don’t spend significant time today reading Facebook, how will I know what all my friends are up to today? What’s the latest meme that everyone is talking about? What’s the latest quiz, and why am the only one who hasn’t taken it yet? All my friends are scoring 95% or higher on knowledge of ‘70s music. What’s my score? I have to know! And I have to post it, because my friends are waiting to see it. What’s the latest political discussion? Which of my friends are arguing with each other, sometimes on my timeline? I have to read every message on every discussion thread to find out.

The “nametests” app is popular right now. It’s a sort of test, but you don’t have to answer any questions. You just give it permission to see ALL YOUR STUFF, so it can give you the answer to burning questions such as “What food am I?” and “What song am I?” Yikes! Just as I was researching this post, I looked at the nametets app and couldn’t resist. Now I know what cartoon character I am. Superman. Yipeee. This…has…to…stop.

The irony here is that because of FOMO, I’m really missing out on things that I would most certainly enjoy more. The stack of books that are half-read. My queue of movies on Netflix (which is always at the maximum of 500). Phone calls with my family across the miles. Getting together in person with friends. Real hobbies! Exercise. Almost anything else!

I decided a few days ago that I would cut down drastically on my Facebook time. I don’t want to stop completely, because I do think there is a lot of value in it. But, I’d like it to be something I do once in a while, when the mood strikes me. And I’d like to get some of that time back!

So, I instinctively picked up my phone with the intention of posting this new pact I’ve made with myself on my timeline. Wait a minute. Maybe not such a good idea. I’ll explain later.

A few months ago my friend Paula and I came up with the idea of Facebook Free Friday (FFF). Very simple. No Facebooking on Fridays. And let’s see what better use we can make with the time. It was successful while it lasted. We both actually did things that we previously “didn’t have the time to do”. It went on for a few weeks, but eventually met its end. Maybe Friday was not a good day for FFF. Have to see what people post. Have to use Facebook to plan for the weekend. Maybe Wednesday would be a better day, but FFW goes doesn’t have the ring to it that FFF has. And it would be fewer points as a Scattergories answer.

This time, I decided I would cut down every day, not just Friday. The key is not to let it control me. I would look at Facebook only when I wanted to, and only for a few minutes.

Back to picking up my phone to announce my pact on my timeline. I decided against it. This would be a step that is part of my distancing myself from Facebook. (Though I suppose I will let WordPress post a link to this post on my timeline.)

The next time I picked up my phone was to open the Maps app, to get directions to a party I was going to last night. And when I picked up the phone, I saw this.

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And I had a eureka moment! The badge! There are three Facebook notifications that I haven’t looked at yet! Have to look at them. What am I missing? I realized that it will be very hard to avoid the temptation of Facebook when I see that big red “3” staring at me. In an hour, it will probably be a “5”. Tomorrow, it will be a “10”, or worse!

The red number on the badge was pulling me in. I felt like Michael Corleone in The Godfather 3. Remember his famous line? “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

Why does the badge appear? It appears when there are notifications. Why are there notifications? Mostly, they are from people commenting on or liking things that I post. Or people commenting on other people’s posts that I liked or commented on. And there was still a stream of notifications coming in from my latest activities over the past few days.

There are two ways to kill the notifications and badges. (1) Turn off notifications. Facebook allows you to do this. (2) Stop posting.

Well, (1) is not an option!!! If people reply to something I wrote, I have to see it! So, the only option is (2). If I want to kill the Facebook monster, I can’t feed it. Just one post or comment or like starts the vicious cycle all over again.

But what kind of member of the Facebook community would I be if I were silent? I wouldn’t be fulfilling my social responsibility. And this brings me to what is probably the second most important reason I use Facebook. To like people’s posts. I know people get pleasure out of seeing other people like their posts. It’s like getting candy. Or heroin. What kind of friend would I be if I withhold my likes from their posts?

Even as I write this post, I am seeing notifications pop up on my computer screen. One just popped up now.

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I’m also realizing that I can’t give up Facebook for good, because I need to use it to look at my group calendars for events.

I’ll conclude with something I saw on TV last week. Michelle Obama was the guest on Stephen Colbert’s show. She was talking about her visit to the Queen and that she was asked to order what she wanted to eat from a menu. And she ordered French fries, which she said were some of the best French fries she’s ever had. And she “came out” with the fact that she’s a French fry lover. And the White House also serves delicious French fries, which she enjoys. Yes, this is the same Michelle Obama who is one of the top promoters of nutrition. She eats a healthy diet for the most part, but she also occasionally indulges in delicious French fries.

The point is, everything in moderation. That applies to French fries as well as Facebook. And ice cream. And chocolate. Well, maybe not chocolate. There is never a reason to go a day without chocolate.