A Modern Wailing Wall

One of my nephews created a closed Facebook group for our large extended family and I joined, despite having had a FB phobia for years, finally opening an account, reluctantly accepting friend requests, never posting, being bullied by people to accept them. Didn't you get my friend request?

I hate all the advertising and find it spooky that the site knows what subjects have flit through my online presence. My artist friends resent that anything they post theoretically belongs to FB. Some people overpost, there is too much silly time wasting stuff otherwise intelligent folks put up to waste time. Occasional gems, of course, but I do a lot of rapid scrolling to avoid doing things I should otherwise be doing. My bad, of course.

Yet, despite all that and talk of FB's imminent demise I have begun to open it more often and occasionally write something. This is primarily because of its social role in our family. One of my nieces posted pretty much her whole journey with breast cancer; there are wedding albums, always new babies from we prolific Burns's, and there are memorials. When it is a deceased relative's birthday, their son, daughter, widow, grandchild puts up a picture of them and reminds them that we are all thinking of them. Notices of recent deaths are responded to with sentiments concerning heaven and how people will be reunited. We all like that idea whether or not we believe that it's true. It is comforting to imagine siblings, husband and wife, child and parent meeting again in the afterlife. At least they won't be alone in some dark place, we think, or may think. Homer, who told of the ghost of Patroclus visiting his mournful companion Achilles in a dream, acknowledged that "something does remain of a man, even in the house of Hades." It feels cruel not to give a thumbs up, a FB like, to these posts because, God, how mean spirited not to. FB has become a wailing wall for the sad and an outlet through which to express condolences, sorrow, loss; to share memories. It is like the guest book at a funeral home.

The thing I don't like about FB  is how easy it makes things. A "like" takes no more than a key tap and counts as recognizing someone's birthday or someone's grief, now matter how well you knew the person being feted or grieved. It's like the "friend" concept. The reason I haven't accepted all my friend requests is because some of the people who wanted to "friend" me are people I have nothing in common with in the actual as opposed to the virtual world.  Genuine friendship is not that easy.  FB was cynical to employ that term in the first place. Friendship takes time and so do the complications of mourning and the development of a vision of afterlife. Have we been fooled into thinking that they don't ? Do speed and ease devalue emotion, making FB a sort of drive thru, the McDonalds for traditional human rituals? Or are the virtual and physical worlds interchangeable, the like's, emoticons, and one-liners being simply the modern equivalent of greeting cards, almost as good as an embrace or a handwritten note or a conversation. My "oh well" side says, FB gestures are better than nothing, and since it has become a part of our lives, an event that's not mentioned on FB seems neglected. Nevertheless I wonder if something that is here and gone so quickly can make a meaningful impact on anything.