Facebook is good for maintaining contact with friends who live far away. I enjoy their occasional photos and updates about what's happening in their lives, their travels, their children and grandchildren. Most of my local friends are not on Facebook, so we communicate by phone and email and, yes, face-to-face in content-rich environments—picnics, local cafes and cabarets, or in our own homes, where we feel we are part of the stuff of one another's lives, surrounded by the books, the photos, the posters on the walls, the views from windows, the decorations that represent our connections with our families or with places we have visited.
There are people on Facebook whom I've never met, but would like to meet if the occasion ever presented itself. I can almost feel their compassion for the suffering that people are experiencing these days under the crushing weight of this full-blown patriarchal capitalist system, and I sense their deep desire for a just and harmonious world. I only know them from what they reveal of themselves on Facebook, and wonder what it would be like to know them in person, with all their complexities, their moods, the shit they're putting up with, the stuff of their lives.
There are people who are my main source of news from places where anti-government uprisings were widely celebrated on Facebook for a time. Following the crushing of their movements, it seems the "world according to Facebook" has moved on, and they have become just more Facebook friends who are struggling to survive in the cruellest world imaginable. Or maybe I shouldn't say that. Those who have designed this world according to their own imagined "best world," who have the power to legislate and enforce their will on others, have already shown that they are capable of inflicting cruelty on people beyond what most of us could imagine--until it became reality, and then, "the new normal." These psychopaths are addicted to the power they have to shock (and awe) and terrorise us. I have little doubt that that they have more in store for us.
On my Facebook news feed, I scroll down quickly past the cute kittens, the atrocity-du-jour, the selfies, the bogus health advice, the spiritual affirmations, and the organised little pockets of people who gather around a particular post for their cathartic "two minutes' hate" directed against a person, a group, a political party, or a whole country. I look for links to articles and videos that are relevant to my current research interest. I share some of these on my own page. Sometimes I come upon a well-stated opinion founded on a perceptive analysis of a current issue, replete with references to articles from reliable media sources. It gives me something to think about and research further.
I'm glad when I see people presenting lessons from history, or offering critical perspectives on issues; and I'm disappointed when so many commenters join in, outdoing one another with "ain't it awful" statements and regurgitated opinions, or worse, vile attacks on those who disagree with them. Facebook is not a medium for serious discussion about possible ways we could use the knowledge we are sharing to effect systemic, or better yet, organic change in the world. Facebook was never meant to be that kind of medium. Its limitations are built-in.
But it is what it is. Social media play an extraordinarily powerful role in shaping our culture, and they need to be experienced, examined, and critiqued (in that order). For the time being, it's enough reason to keep the pipeline of information, misinformation, disinformation and chatter open, available to me at a mouse click whenever I'm inclined to sift through what sometimes appears to be the debris of modern culture to find something I don't already know; for an opinion that hasn't already been expressed many times, many ways; for evidence that somebody is doing something.