« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Tammy Swift, Published January 25 2014

Swift: What would Facebook tell an outsider about our culture?

I was zooming through my Facebook news feed one day, reading the latest Jezebel story about how Lena Dunham was Photoshopped to look like Christian Bale on the cover of “American Biker” magazine.

And it struck me how weird Facebook has become since I first joined it in 2008. It’s a crazy stew of family photos, memes, YouTube videos, political rants, religious sayings, chain letters, blogs and status updates. Then I wondered: What would it tell a complete outsider about our culture? Let’s say a Martian gleaned everything he could about the U.S. by simply reading Facebook. What would he conclude?

So I did the logical thing. I stopped playing “Candy Crush Saga” long enough to crowdsource that very question to my Facebook friends. It produced a wonderful thread of opinions. In fact, it was so entertaining/educational/depressing that I had to share some of the responses here.

What a Martian would learn from reading Facebook:

• That most Americans spend their work days typing “ADORBS!” beneath photos of cute bunnies wearing top hats.

• That the Grand Ruler of the Facebook Universe is George Takei, who is married to the First Lady of The Facebook Universe, Jennifer Lawrence.

• That all food should be photographed before it is consumed, especially if it is: a.) obnoxiously healthy, b.) obnoxiously fattening, or c.) is being consumed at a delightful sidewalk café in Paris.

• That all exercise should be reported, preferably in an off-handed, faux-modest way: “Feeling blessed I was able to run 4 miles again, especially after only finishing fifth in last month’s half-marathon!”

• That we are obsessed with children, dogs, sports, bacon, “Downton Abbey,” coffee, wine, Obamacare, chocolate and “Breaking Bad.” (Not necessarily in that order.)

• That our favorite word is “amazing.”

• That we are very excited about a lot of things, especially use of exclamation points!!!!!

• That a lot of us care about social justice, and many of us really did want to leave the Earth in a better place than they found it.

• That the human race is plagued by two great nemeses: the Bi-Polar Vortex and Justin Bieber.

• That humans prefer to photograph themselves standing beneath the flattering light of the bathroom while pursing lips and holding camera high so as to eliminate any weird neck/chin stuff. If this isn’t possible, they may resort to capturing a mysterious and slightly sensual close-up of just one eye.

• That many people don’t sleep well, which is why they’re posting status updates at 3 a.m.

• That many of us are in need of instant validation (LIKE this, please!).

• That a disturbing number of people take photos while they are driving.

• That many women are addicted to a strange drug known as Pinterest.

• That some massive nationwide game of sport called “The Superbowl” was nearly devastated by a shortage of a petroleum-based product named Velveeta.

• That we like inspirational memes but don’t necessarily live by them.

• That we all love people “to the moon and back,” and sometimes tell someone sitting right next to us on Facebook rather than whispering it in their ear.

• That there is a super-hero named Pink, who can actually fly.

• That we worship cats, but – as one Facebook friend says – “in our defense, cats keep finding new breakthroughs in adorableness technology.”

• That “we spend hours trying to show people how unique, cool and funny we are by doing and saying nothing original,” says another FB friend. “We post inspirational quotes that someone else said, like and share new movies and music we didn’t create, upload pictures of fancy food we didn’t make, and share funny jokes we didn’t come up with.” Then he added: “PPS: I’m guilty of all of the above.”

In short, I suppose Marvin Martian would deduce that we are a highly social lot. We like to make each other laugh. We sometimes act like we are more clever, well-read or happy than we actually are.

We are tired but still get up every morning and go to work. We like to encourage each other. We possess a surprising amount of empathy. We are proud of our homes and families. We like to feel connected to others, even if the ongoing demands of life sometimes makes face-to-face connection difficult.

In short, we are human.

Now hang on a moment.

I gotta show you this photo of a teacup pig riding a vacuum cleaner …

Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at tswiftsletten@gmail.com