falling faintly and faintly falling

It’s snowing.

These days, with the warming of North Carolina and the rest of the globe, we don’t see snow very often.

So tonight, when the rain changed over, Facebook statuses began to buzz with sightings of snow.

My friend Robert Jones says it’s snowing as he drives down West Bank Street.

Cindi Graham responds, reporting that Statesville Boulevard is covered in white.

I notice that a couple of hours earlier, the Salisbury Post asks Facebookers if they’ve seen any snow.

Yes, they had. Everywhere. On Fulton Street. In China Grove. In Rockwell, Granite Quarry, and Spencer.

Snow was general all over Rowan County.

All this is just to say that I love snow, and I love to be reminded of the one of the most famous and most beautiful passages in all of literature, the last paragraph of James Joyce’s “The Dead.”

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, on the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

Why we like Facebook so much

facebook logo

Facebook is phenomenally popular for many reasons.

But I think the voting system — specifically the “like” button — is key.  It makes the site inherently positive.  That’s the core principle at work.

On Facebook, it’s easy to like things.  It requires a simple click.

There’s no elegant way to dislike something.

People try.  There are groups that petition the company to add a dislike button.

There are scams — virus installers that offer to add a dislike button.

Frequently, people post negative material and receive sympathetic comments.  After all, it’s a place for friends.  But negative thoughts are not the standard fare.  They don’t get a lot of traction on Facebook.

A friend of mine once posted that his truck caught fire, and another friend clicked that he “liked” it.  That struck me as pretty funny (knowing both guys).  So I liked it too.

But it wasn’t very nice.  Certainly not positive.

The normal activity is to share what’s good about life.  Certainly the act of sharing what’s good entices people to seek more experiences of the good.

My theory is that this increases real life appreciation of what feels good, which, in turn, actually makes people feel better.

It’s different from YouTube or Amazon‘s rating system, which invites people to evaluate and rank material.  On Facebook, it’s all good.

The evening news programs are sponsored by drug companies, many of them advertising antidepressants.  These companies also advertise with Google.  I’ve never seen antidepressants advertised on Facebook.

Facebook is an ingenious company and well-made site.  Some say it is trying to take over the internet, or even be the internet.  I say the the heart of the matter is the ubiquitous “like” button, the ease of clicking it, the support it offers, and the constant mindset it creates, inviting people to share what can only be liked (or ignored).  It is this that makes Facebook more than social networking.  It’s an interactive engine for positive thinking about our lives.

In a vast internet sea of free thought and information that runs the gamut from hilarious to horrible, Facebook simply encourages people to think, be, and do positive.

And people like that.

New Facebook? Old Facebook?

Lately, I’ve been busy. Haven’t had a lot of time for Facebook.

However, when I do check in, on occasion, I see this a lot:

“If you don’t like the new FB, here is how you can change it back to the old. Look to the left menu and click…… on MORE. Then drag STATUS UPDATES to the top. After dragging to top, click on it. That becomes your default and it is like before!”

There’s also a group with over a million users, on Facebook of course, that’s protesting the change.

I admit, I can’t see a lot of difference between any of the options, although I know there are significant differences — were I to pay attention to the details. I just like to see what folks are saying.  I want to see “what’s new,” and all the various options seem to offer that.

I tried changing back to the “old Facebook”, and here’s something I noticed:

Quoting myself, here: “If you change back to the old Facebook and quit the browser or close the window, then you’ll have the new Facebook again when you return.”

In fact, there is no old or new Facebook. There are just a few more options within the interface. Apparently, Facebook prefers that we use it that way. For now.

Presumably, the new options make it better. The revenue comes from advertising. When more people spend more time using Facebook, the better for Facebook. They probably appreciate the feedback, but it’s doubtful they want to make the service worse. I know geniuses make mistakes too, but I sort of trust that any change they make will be for the better.

Why do I trust this…uh, giant social network creation?

Well, they started from nothing and now have over 200 million users — so they probably have some really good minds doing a lot of thinking about this.

Generally, I don’t trust big things like Bank of America and AT&T — the giants that are constantly reaching their big greedy hands into my tiny little pockets. But when it comes to Google and Facebook — the free services that are pretty darn nifty, I sort of trust them. They can do anything they want. We’re not under contract. We don’t have to use them. So they spend a lot of their time trying to make these services better, so we continue to use them, and use them even more.

But think about it. New Facebook? Old Facebook?

I remember a sermon once in which Rabbi Gerber said that the only thing in life that’s certain is change.

Like life itself, “New” is the essence of Facebook. The whole service is based on WHAT’S NEW? New, newer, newest! New 24/7.

Like Google, Facebook has even changed the way we behave.  And the way we think.  It’s hard to say exactly how because it’s too new.

And, like Google, Facebook will always will be very, very new, until…something comes along and replaces it. Something more new.

Virtual birthdays are the way to go

Thanks to Facebook — this was certainly the most festive birthday I’ve ever had.

Last year, on my birthday, I had a Facebook account — but only one friend. I didn’t know how to use it and didn’t understand what it was. Then Sarah, my daughter, said to me in January: “How do you not know how to use Facebook?” So I started using it.

In realty, it was a rather quiet day. Alicia and Emma (wife and daughter) and I went to lunch and they sang me happy birthday.

Alicia then gave me some presents: a gray t-shirt, a pair of athletic shorts, and a new yoga mat. This is because I told her I’ve set a goal for the next year of my life. This year, I’d like to get younger. I aged way too much last year — so I want to undo some of the damage by returning, once again, to my daily yoga habit.

Then I did some work.

Sarah, who lives in Alaska, called me in the afternoon. That was nice.  Except her dog is sick.  That’s not so nice.

We’re going to visit Aaron, our son, in Asheville, tomorrow. I guess that’s why he didn’t call.

In the evening, Alicia acquired a Little Caesar’s hot-n-ready pizza and brought it to Mom’s house. She also had a cake and a lot of candles. There were four of us there.

Then, I had a couple of beers with Robert Jones and Cindy Graham. That’s a pretty nice birthday — but not a huge celebration.

However, because of Facebook friends and connections, it seemed like a really big party.  All day, I enjoyed a stream of kind posts on my wall, wishing me happy birthday.

Appropriate for me, really. I’ve always spent an unhealthy amount of time online.  Cyberspace is as real for me as anywhere.

Thanks so much for all the kind words. It was the best birthday I can remember.