Internet, Facebook and Reality
When it comes to Internet and Facebook, I think that apart from security and criminal issues, the benefits of those technologies far outweigh the drawback generally associated with using them. On YouTube, I discovered plenty of singers, musicians, comedians and writers that I would have never known otherwise. I found songs from singers that I knew that I had never heard before. I also learned a lot about history and geography. Just last night, my wife and I were watching a movie that was taking place in a small African country that I knew nothing about. It took me only a few taps on my iPad to get some basic information about the geography and history of that country. Facebook allows me to get in touch with some of my friends and relatives, or at least to know what’s going on in their lives. Even if it’s only with three or four people, this blog gives me the opportunity to share my thoughts, feeling and opinions in a nice and colourful environment.
Again, if we put aside all the scammers, pedophiles and hatemongers that thrive online, the critics that we most often hear about Internet and Facebook is that the information that we find on the Net is not always reliable and that the relationship that we have with our Facebook friends is not genuine. As far as the validity of the information found online, it’s true that we have to be careful. As for the not so genuine friends that we may have on Facebook, we all know that even if they are called friends, a lot of them are not really friends but people that we are connected with through real friends. Nevertheless, I find it interesting to see what they share on their home page.
This being said, what I want to do in this article is to show how Internet and Facebook can sometimes have a negative impact on one’s perception of reality.
When Bill Maher, the famous American and very witty comedian, political analyst and show host, was asked why, in his view, Donald Trump was able to take over the Republican Party, he answered that, according to him, the followers of Trump are able to live in some kind of parallel online reality where the only information they get is the one that supports their beliefs. If you believe that the universe is 6,000 years old or that the climate change is a hoax, you will find everything online to support and reinforce your views without being exposed to anything else. It is the same with religious fanatics or aggressive and non-compromising atheists, hard-core communists or neoliberal advocates. There is so much information on the Web that if you pick carefully what you choose to watch and read, you’ll never be confronted with anything that could challenge or question your opinions and beliefs.
What about Facebook? How can it distort your perception of reality? Let’s say you are sitting alone in your living room, like me now, looking at some of your Facebook friends who have over 500 friends and even more. You see pictures of those friends flying over the Grand Canyon, eating lobster on the beach, always surrounded by people who hug them, laugh with them and party with them. You may think that your life is pretty boring compared with theirs. I’ve talked with some of those friends. They told me that for them too life was not always a party. They told me that their friends were not always there when they needed them, and that they, too, felt lonely sometimes.
Feeling lonely once in a while is not a bad thing. We can change the way we look at it and decide that we are alone instead of lonely, and take advantage of that time to pray (if we are believers) or meditate in order to make sense of all we hear and see online and everywhere else. I'll conclude this article with a quotation from Thich Nhat Hanh: "To meditate means to go home yourself. Then you can take care of things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of things that happen around you."