All the Facebook tabulation of recent days — whatever it may have meant to Mark Zuckerberg and his brokers — brought to certain others in the great extended American community a certain sense of relief. It is not essential — a matter of destiny — some of us now know, to buy into the whole Facebook thing or for that matter even a sliver of it. We can safely ignore the whole thing. That is what we have learned by reading about Facebook. I have, anyway.
A story over the weekend put the number of “seniors” who use Facebook at no more than a third. I cannot say what the reporter meant by “seniors.” My uninformed guess would be that he meant people who remember the Kennedy assassination. This takes care, I think I can safely say, of the great majority of folk who might expect to communicate with me by means of Zuckerberg’s miracle.
Think of it: I don’t have to check my Facebook page to receive news and “updates” from those likeliest to want to share with me. Not that I ever did check my page back when I think I had one.
A favorite student, from the days I was holding forth as a media expert at a leading Texas university, was kind enough to undertake setting up a page for me. I think she must have done so, woman of spotless integrity that she is. But I couldn’t prove it. I have rudely, I am afraid, neglected to check and see how I appear online. Partly, I imagine, out of terror for not resembling the happy souls said to live on Facebook, bronzed and yucking it up around the swimming pool and who knows what else?
I have nothing against Zuckerberg or for that matter, any other billionaire who takes a good idea and runs with it. Power and fourth homes to all of ’em. At the same time, we “seniors,” with an ever-diminishing amount of time to spend on earth, need no more distractions. To tell the truth, we need fewer. What we need, instead of news of a high school classmate’s vacation, is leisure to spin a 33-1/3 phonograph record: “Toscanini Plays Wagner,” or something of equal merit. The desire to peer deeply and curiously at plastic screens large and small declines sharply, I can tell the younger generation with awful veracity, at the appearance of the first truly white hair.
The fascination of the younger generation with electronic playthings is to be expected. Everything new fascinates for a while — so with Twitter and the Internet and Facebook. The problem is the time these wonderful innovations command. They want you. They want you this instant!
Not all of us wish to be wanted in this abrasive fashion. There’s a lot, one learns eventually, to being left alone rather than buying into what Zuckerberg describes as “a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.”
There is undoubted value in openness and connection — if these commodities are not pushed too far. Pushed too far, they — I had started to say, “irritate.” I think what I actually wanted to say was “bore.” To know everything is to know too much. To know it, after the fashion of Facebook — right now, this second! — is to feel the words forming in the brain and the throat: Who cares?
In life we need to choose carefully the things we care about: spouse, children, church, bridge partners, bowling league, judges and congressmen — the “little platoons” to which we belong, as Edmund Burke so wonderfully put it.
Try caring about everything. It can’t be done. We get “cared out” sooner than we get carried out. Or maybe the latter is in part a consequence of the former.
I leave Facebook to those who care with enormous intensity concerning … whatever. My sole admonition, all I ask in return, is when you do find out, kindly neglect to tell me.
William Murchison, author and commentator, writes from Dallas. To find out more about William Murchison, and to see features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.