Sometimes Facebook is Like a Party: Too Loud, Too Big, Too Bright, Too Close

Immense egos and their retinues

(07, April is the birthday of the Internet. On this day in 1969, a Defense Department agency sent out a Request for Comments to scientists -RFCs as they are known-asking for ideas and methods that would eventually lead to the Internet.)

Where it comes to Facebook, I’m an onion. Day by day a posting, a recognition, an introspection peels me away. I find autistic traits in myself, and so autism no longer seems so exotic to me. I find, for instance, that Facebook represents for me a sensory overload in the same way parties do, conferences, coffee hours.

My filters break down. I can’t process the intake. I thought the sheer tonnage of trivia, inanity and frivolity would wear me down, the way talk shows do. I thought one more baby picture, one more look-at-me picture would strangle me in my own acid. I thought all those kiddie pictures would, in view of what I know to be pervasive child abuse, incite the cynic in me. But instead I began to look forward to the beautiful faces, the innocent babies, and even the vintage cars. I thought the OMGs and LOLs would license my ayatollah face, as my wife calls it. But instead I began to consider the poetics. I began to scan the dialogue for meter and stress. I thought it would all bring back my conviction that I could never write dialogue, but instead it has accelerated my growing belief that I “do” dialogue well.

I like seeing the watery Arabic script appearing on my Facebook pages even when I can’t understand a word of it and fear it may be saying something I’d rather not help promulgate. I love seeing French, and I’ve begun studying it again, although I’m convinced I’ll never speak it. It seems magical to me that so many wonderful book covers appear, and reviews, and notices of readings, and faces to which I’m drawn, and likes and dislikes that amuse and enlighten me.

I fathom the power of this medium. Governments quake, and they should; they have a lot to quake about. Ideologies quake; they have even more to quake about.

So why the stress?

I simply can’t handle all these glimpses of the sensibilities, aspirations, needs and even fears of so many others. At first I thought Facebook had flung open a window on my inherent selfishness, but then I realized that the circumstances of childhood conspired to shape a creature who could not process very much at a time, a creature who viewed gatherings as hostile and fraught with danger.

That is, of course, the fate of the victim of various kinds of human predation. It’s the fate of many of our heroic soldiers. It used to be called shell shock. Now we call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and almost daily we recognize something new about it, something about its breadth, perils and prevalence.

The autistic child, the rape victim, the victim of other kinds of abuses, verbal and physical, often can’t handle the ordinary impingements of life-a friendly pat, a social hubbub, celebration, social event, wedding, funeral, someone coming up from behind, so much and so commonplace, so necessary, by the way, to our success in society.

I used to punish myself a great deal about these shortcomings, as I saw them. It’s not about you, I would tell myself, it’s about the deceased, the honored, the host. But over what has now become a fairly long life I’ve come to see that I’m dealing with handicaps incurred by conditions I couldn’t control. If a young man loses a leg in an accident he’s probably not going to play professional baseball.

But it took me a very long time to see it that way. Never could I have imagined that putting up a Facebook page as part of my campaign to promote what I have published and publish what I haven’t published would lay these handicaps out for me in a row, like a keyboard. Ah, that letter A takes a lot of pounding, but I have to be very careful about that tetchy 9 key. I can’t in my triumphalism, having finished a poem (ha, that’s a fatuous claim), hit that 9 key too hard.

And there are keys within myself I can’t hit too hard, not in triumph or despair. And for some reason, a reason I haven’t stumbled upon as I had hoped to do here, Facebook confronts me with all my psychic infirmities, with behaviors I can’t understand, with eventualities I fear, with circles I can’t enter and in which I would panic if I could.

Facebook has kicked up my panic attacks at 3:20 a.m. No, not 3 and not 3:30: 3.20, the dread moment. Facebook is not to blame, of course not. Just as a face that reminds me of someone who molested me in boarding school is not to blame. It’s not the face I’m confronting, it’s my impediment, my handicap, damage suffered long ago, irreparable, disconsolate.

For these reasons it is not hard for me to understand that Facebook can ignite revolutions, topple greedy bastards and smiling murderers. And it is for these reasons I fear that while we are enjoying the digital age so much there are those who are conspiring in Washington to limit our access to it in various ways that enrich the obscenely rich and impose all manner of commercial censorships in the same way that the mainstream media are so obviously censored by the commercial interests to which they are fatally beholden.

Can we think for a moment as rational beings, which of course we are only intermittently, that our corporate oligarchs and their political hatchet men fail to see that they share the same vulnerability to our opinions as the toppled leaders of Egypt and Tunisia? Facebook, then, is not only my guidebook to all the insecurities that ail me, all my deficiencies in dealing with a society that overloads me unaccountably and often; Facebook is also a cause for contemplations of the fate of culture at the hands of immense egos and their retinues.

Let me tell you why I entertain these fears. Google the web using the search term, dangers to the Internet, and Google in its exponential wisdom corrects your search term to dangers of the Internet and leads you to the many ways the Internet can harm society. I think this should worry us. An inquirer wants to know how governments and plutocrats might co-opt the Internet-and Google wants to give him reasons for worrying about the Internet. Yes, Google, which has grown fabulously wealthy and powerful because of the Internet, and only because of it. As I suggested, I have some paranoid tendencies, but I leave to you as to whether this is worrisome. Was my inquiry as dangerous as Google’s response?

Del’s book, Far From Algiers:

New review of Far from Algiers:

Artists Hill, Literal Latte’s fiction first prize:

His blog:

His mother’s art:

His aunt’s art: