I don’t suppose it’s news to anyone currently residing on Earth that there are people, hordes of the loony little buggers, who spend hours every week on Facebook. Some spend that much time on the site virtually every day, though, to be fair, part of this time is probably related, in some imaginary way, to work. But inhabiting this very same planet are people who say they don’t have time to read, that they’re just too darned busy. And I don’t doubt that this is true. Life often gets in the way of the things we want to do, the things that sustain us. What I find discouraging is that these two groups have some members in common, which doesn’t even seem legal.
So for those of us (in this case, unlike my grade school sports teams, “us” includes me) who piddle our days away on Facebook when we could and probably should be reading (or writing or talking or living), I have created the following handy-dandy snide-by-snide comparison:
Facebook is full of fiction, fabrication, and exaggeration masquerading as little truths. In a good novel, fiction and fabrication reflect larger truths.
Facebook makes the world smaller. Novels stretch the borders.
On Facebook, recycled trivia proudly poses as news and ideas. In a novel, ideas modestly adorn themselves in the multifarious costumes of fiction.
The people on Facebook are real (most of them, anyway), but you can’t touch them. The people in novels are not real, but they can touch you.
On Facebook, people you don’t really know pretend to be your friends by revealing what it serves them to reveal. In a novel, people who don’t really exist draw you into their worlds by revealing their most private thoughts, feelings, desires, and fears.
Facebook is an environment so inorganic and impersonal, so controlled and devoid of emotional risk that no strain of intimacy could possibly survive. In a novel, dry ink on lifeless paper breathes honest emotion and plants the seeds of thought, prerequisites for any intimate connection.
Facebook repays your investment of time and effort with feelings of disappointment and guilt. A good novel repays your investment of time and effort with fulfillment and insight, or, if it has a particularly evocative sex scene, feelings of disappointment and guilt.
OK, but at least it’s fulfilling disappointment and guilt.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to Facebook.
It’s for work!