Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Family Torn (by Facebook): part I

The following story represents the discord that Facebook and (a)social media has wrought in the home of the 'typical' family. 

 
A Family Torn


Greg Harper's back was towards Linda, his wife, as he slurped mouthful after mouthful of cold cereal.  Linda immediately noticed that Greg did not say the morning blessing with her before devouring his corn puffs.  He was clearly upset.

"Well, spit it out," she said, noticing his head immediately move up from his spoon.  "I don't mean that literally.  What's the matter with you today?"
"Nothing," he huffed.  There was obviously something wrong.
"I can tell when something is the matter," Linda said, giving him the eye.
"Well, it's just Tiffany," he said.  "She's constantly on that Facebook."
"I see.  Well, you should not let something so silly ruin your day."
"I don't like it.  She has not been keeping up with the chores we assigned her, and whenever she is away from her room she's always typing on that phone of hers."
"You did buy her that phone," Linda said.
"I wanted to get her a simple phone, for emergencies, but she wanted a touch screen phone with internet.  And you said that was the kind of phone everyone has now."
"Yeah, well she likes it.  I don't see the problem with it."
"I don't think that site is healthy.  Have you seen it?"
"Facebook?" Linda said, sitting down and pouring herself what was left of the cereal.  She reached for the milk as her husband nodded.  "Yeah, I have an account on there, actually.  I use it to keep in touch with my mother and sister, I thought I told you."
"No, I never knew you were on that site.  I see the boys down at work use it, and they try to get me to join, but I say no sir, I'm not going to get myself mixed up with that site."
"Well, that's your choice, but some of us actually do enjoy our time on Facebook.  It's a harmless website.  It's not like she's a into goth culture or those scantly clad suicide girls.  I mean, honestly Greg, what's so bad about it?"
"It seems a huge waste of time.  It gets in the way of actually living.  I can't explain exactly why I feel that way, but it bothers me."
"Well, that's just too bad.  More people are on that site every day.  In fact, I heard on the news Mark Zuckerburg, the guy who started it is one of the richest men in the world now."
"I don't need to be reminded that Mark Suckerturd has money."
"Watch your mouth, Greg.  There's no reason to start name calling," Linda said crossly. 
"Well, I am getting sick of seeing Facebook and that IPO on the news all the time.  It's bad enough my 401k had invested some in it.  Some of the boys actually put money on that site, as if it was going to be worth something."
"Well, it is bound to go up.  Most stocks fluctuate.  Anyway, I have to go to work.  And please, don't get yourself worked up about this.  I know how you are when you go on one of your crusades."

***

LATER THAT NIGHT

Linda and Greg are sitting on the sofa, facing the television, watching a film that they rented from one of those rent-by-mail movie sites that have flushed out the brick and mortar stores where a person could at one time go browse for a movie and pick something up as a family.  In fact, this was Greg's last 'crusade', but he eventually gave in to not worrying about it, and now he rarely brings it up.

"Good movie, huh?", Greg said, as he moved towards the DVD player, removing the disk.
"Yeah, I have always liked Anne Hathaway," Linda answered.
"What about you, Tiff, did you enjoy it?"
"Huh?" Tiff said, looking up.  Tiffany was about fifteen at this point in time.  She had red hair and freckles and was thin, somewhat lanky.  Her pale fingers were long and bony, as she used them to quickly navigate her phone.  "Oh, I didn't really pay much attention."
"Are you on that Facebook site again?"
"Yeah, why?" She said, not looking up.
"I just thought we could have a nice family movie, you know, like we do every Thursday."
"It was nice," Tiffany said, still looking down at the phone.
"I agree," Linda said, giving Greg a certain look which said 'enough'.
"Well, I say next time we rent a movie we should put the phone away."
"Dad, I'm not eight anymore.  I have friends and I like to talk to them."
"During the movie?" Greg said in a shocked tone.
"Yes, dad."
"But you talk to them at school.  Not during a family event."
"It's just a movie," Tiffany said.
"Greg, enough,"  Linda added
"No, it's not just a movie, it's time with family.  It's something special that we have been doing for a long time now.  I just don't understand why you are on that site all the time."
"Well, maybe you should get one dad, so you do understand it.  I don't know why you bought me this phone if you don't want me to use it."
"I bought it in case of an emergency.  And I am thinking about taking it away."
"Greg!  You are not taking her phone.  She's done nothing wrong.  Now this is enough.  She doesn't have to watch every movie we get in the mail," Linda said.
"She helped choose which one to have sent!  And she has not been paying attention to any of them since she got that phone!"
"It's her choice," Linda said. 
"I don't think I want to do movie night anymore anyway.  I don't really see the point in it.  I see the movies I like with my friends anyway."
"What, you can't be serious!  No, wait, you just want to sit up in your room and use that Facebook all night instead of do anything with this family."
"Greg!  That's her choice.  Leave her alone!"
"I can't believe you are siding with her.  That site is causing some serious problems in this house and I won't have it!"
"Dad, please, if it bothers you that much..." Tiffany said, almost beginning to cry.
"Tiffany, don't worry about your father, he is just going into one of his tantrums again.  If you want to use Facebook or your phone to be social, that is your choice."
"I have had enough of this!" Greg said, standing up and walking out of the room.  "Curse Facebook!  Curse Suckerturd!"
Linda sat there, rolling her eyes as Tiffany began to play with her phone.

THAT SAME NIGHT IN THE MASTER BEDROOM

Linda made her way to the bedroom and began to change into her sleeping clothing.  Greg laid on the bed clad only in his boxer briefs.  His eyes were closed and pointed toward the ceiling.  Linda was quiet as she changed, thinking Greg was asleep.

"I hate that site.  I hate this social computer crap."
"I thought you were asleep.  You know, doctors say this stress is bad for a person. Just the other day Dr. Phil tweeted about it."
"I don't care who tweeted what.  That's another site I can't stand.  What is the point in telling the world something and being limited to a small amount of words.  It's asinine!"
"What matters is that people with stress end up dying a lot sooner than people who are happy."
"I would be happy if you took that phone away from Tiffany and flushed it down the toilet.  If she wants a phone I'll get her a pay as you go phone with a black and green screen and no text capabilities, no internet, and..."
"And what would that solve?"
"We should have never got her a phone with internet!  I told you that was a horrid idea!"
"And I'm still not convinced Greg.  I think it's wonderful that Tiffany gets so much joy out of it.  Why don't you like your daughter being happy?"
"She's not going to be happy with it forever.  I see the boys at work..."
"I don't want to hear about the boys at work again.  They have foul mouths and nasty ideals."
"You don't get the point, Linda.  The point is people get addicted to that site and feel the need to share every little thing.  Have you even looked at Tiffany's Facebook?"
"Yes, we're friends on there.  She is very creative, and she even posts pictures of the food I cook for dinner.  And it lets me see wherever she goes."
"You're friends with her on that site?  You are just enabling her to be on there!"
"Yes, I am friends with my daughter.  I can see you are starting to try to push her away, and it's starting to bother me.  She's going to be sixteen in a few months and then eighteen only two years later.  I don't want her to leave this family and not talk to us like I did with mine when I turned eighteen."
"It doesn't matter, as long as you are on Facebook and her friend, she'll always stick around," Greg said, clearly angry.
"Greg, I want this to stop.  I really don't want you to even start up on this again.  I mean it.  I am getting worried about all this."
"Fine," Greg said, turning away from Linda as she laid next to him in the bed.
"You know, Dr. Phil said it's not good to go to sleep angry."

THE NEXT DAY

Linda walked into the kitchen, where Greg was eating a bowl of rice cereal.  It was piping hot from the microwave.  He did not greet Linda and had a look of exhaustion on his face.  Next to him was the newspaper with a story on the Facebook IPO.  Black ink was on his hand and a black marker was next to him on the table.  The story was covered in black ink. 

"Seriously Greg?" Linda said, looking down at the paper.
He did not answer, but continued to eat.  She grabbed the paper and folded it, setting it on the counter behind him. 
"I wasn't done reading that," Greg snapped.
"You know, you can't ignore that Facebook is everywhere.  You act like it's something alive, something evil.  You act like it has horns or is a beast.  It's just a website.  There's nothing wrong with it."
"I don't care to talk about it with you.  You have obviously been sucked in by it."
"You might want to talk to someone about it then.  It's starting to really interfere with this family.  I almost think you need counseling, and that's saying a lot coming from me.  I mean, usually you are not this bad with things you dislike."
"You know Linda, I think I'm going to just eat on the way to work," Greg said, taking his bowl and dumping the remainder of the cereal into the trash can.  "One day you all are going to see just how stupid this whole Facebook obsession is.  And I will just say I told you so.  But it will be too late."
Linda rolled her eyes as Greg let the bowl fall into the sink. 
"You are acting like a child," she said, as Greg walked out the door. 
This seriously is not right, Linda thought as Tiffany walked towards the kitchen, eyes glued to the cell phone in her hand.  She bumped into the wall as she moved forward.  "Hi mom.  I poked you on Facebook."

To be continued...

7 comments:

  1. This sounds like the typical evening with my family. Everyone gathered around the television while a program goes and everyone's eye's glued on the cell phone. Or in the car, while driving, everyone else looking at their phones. Or at the store, everyone on their phones. Or at the park, everyone on their phones. Or at the restaurant... or the Christmas get together... I could go on...

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  2. LOL, that comment summed it up nicely.

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  3. I will be so glad when these horrible family separating sites like Facebook and their ilk are gone for good.

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  4. I fear what life would be like if I had a child and the time of when they became a teenager. Not that I am expecting them to be disinterested, withdrawn and horrible, but I would not know how to avoid letting them get involved with online social networking (particularly when they are very young) and without making them become "unsociable".
    I will admit, I am a Facebook user (reluctantly). It took me many years to get on there, but the situation was twofold: a) one of my closest friends, who I have known since school, will be going travelling abroad next year and I know as soon as she steps into Australia, she will want to stay there and never come back. I want to make sure I can keep in touch with her whilst she is away (and possibly gone out of my life forever!); and b) a few months ago my father suffered a cardiac arrest. Whilst he was in hospital, he was looking on Facebook and admirably, only posted about his condition once he was on the mend. He wrote a note to all his friends saying what had happened and that he was on the road to recovery. The amount of lovely responses and well wishes was great and I felt very out of the loop at that point.
    My family and I a extremely close and I have managed to keep in touch with the only friend I wanted to stay in touch with since school, without the aid of Facebook. However, these occurrences made me realise that something like Facebook would be more effective in keeping in touch with a long term friend, who lets face it, won't have a lot of time for lengthy email updates, but rather instant and short updates on what they are up to; as well as celebrating my relationship with my family. The trick I used? Use Facebook through the alias of my cat! My mum was always asking how my cat is, so as a triple whammy, Facebook can provide her with updates on how he is doing. I only have my immediate family and my one close friend as "friends" on my profile. Everything to everyone else is private. I do not feel a sense of a need to go on there and post every detail of my life, what I am doing, exposing myself and my feelings, have arguments, or throw abuse at people. I just want to keep my existing connections thriving.
    Other than that, I am not a huge fan of the site. It is known of the awful situations created by online predators and phonies; has no regard for the protection of others from abuse, racism and support for wrong doers; and has created a society of fakers, wannabes and narcissists. A huge part of me, even though I am disguised by my cat, feels very exposed. I would hate, like this story suggests, to live a life dominated by so called socialising through the web. Real socialising for me, whilst I am by no means the most sociable person in the world, is being in the company of others, talking face to face, building new, or upon existing friendships and being out in the real world.

    I do feel slightly out of place, being a Facebook user, being just another statistic and the fact that I use Facebook, as an extension of communication with my family, when this blog represents the breakdown of the family bond due to Facebook.
    However, I really appreciate this blog, as a whole, because it focuses on Facebook (and the like) representing the downfall of real socialising and how we can view ourselves so negatively because of it. With the internet being such a huge part of life, I believe it is important to keep society aware of what is real socialising, who are real friends and to avoid falling into the trap of creating a fantasy life, or misrepresenting ourselves for the sake of one-upmanship.

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  5. Families and facebook is narcissising the household, trouble ahead me thinks.

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  6. Teenagers would act like this without facebook or socia media sites, they prefer to interact with their peers. The father is the one who seems to have a problem here, either make rules about no phones during family time or get over the fact that the daughter is growing up. It seems that the father should develop better communication skills. If he could formulate a reason why facebook and cell phones make him so upset rather than 'it just bothers me' maybe there would be a real discussion. It's about balance, not calling social media sites evil. If it becomes a family problem, implement some rules, such as no media during these hours. How about come up with compromises over condemnation?

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    1. Teenagers definitely have their attitudes. However, I think that the father in this story has some reason to be concerned. The father will need to confront the child and explain himself better. Telling a child "I don't like something" is not the right way to make change. I am curious to read the sequel to this story.

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