So this is something that’s been percolating in my brain for a week. Ginia Bellafante is a columnist for the Metro Section of the New York Times, and I find her to be usually thought-provoking. She has a strong bias against Mayor Bill de Blasio (it’s a very strong bias that comes through in everything she writes about NYC), but generally she’s fair, informative, and a talented writer.
But she wrote something in last Sunday’s paper that really bothered me, and that I disagreed with strongly.
It’s about Facebook, and not anything about the recent controversy involving data theft, and political hacking and news-feed manipulation, that led Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress last week.
No, Bellafante’s column point was this: Facebook brings people down, or makes them green with envy, or fills them with depressing news about people. Here’s one passage from the column:
But apart from envy, Facebook, in my experience, primarily energizes profound feelings of dread, perhaps especially for those in middle age, because it serves to remind us over and over how many ways life can go horribly and dramatically wrong. Just this week, someone I do not know posted that she had just lost her best friend. I continued reading to discover that her friend, who lived in Grosse Pointe, Mich., was killed in a car accident in Colorado along with her husband and two children. The accident appeared to involve black ice (the terrifying subject the writer John Seabrook had recently published an article about in The New Yorker).
She goes on to talk about research studies that show Facebook makes us envious of our friends, and that it’s a net negative for our lives, brings us down, etc.
I could not disagree more. Of course there are negative updates from people on Facebook; this colleague had cancer surgery, that one just broke up with her boyfriend, this one got laid off from work.
But in my experience, there is so, so much more good. I log on and am often deluged with happy news: An engagement, or a job promotion, or someone sharing something hysterically funny.
Facebook updates from friends more often than not uplift me; it gives me a smile to see someone’s 3-year-old going trick-or-treating for the first time; it makes me feel good to see people I know and love having good things happen to them. (My favorite Facebook thing these days is my awesome friend Diana’s weekly post on Friday morning, simply asking her friends “What made you happy this week?” I don’t know 95 percent of the respondents, but I still get a small joy out of their joys.)
Maybe Ginia Bellefante and her friends are just Debbie Downers, I don’t know. But the idea that Facebook just makes us envious and sad about our mortality? Absolutely not. I probably spend a little too much time on the site, and I know it’s far from perfect.
But every day, there’s something uplifting from one of my friends or colleagues that gives me a smile. And there’s real value in that, always.
**Next up today, just a small piece of beauty to get you smiling on a Monday. From Dustin Dilworth of D3 Imagery, a beautiful time-lapse video of Tahquamenon Falls, Mich., a place I’ve never been but now surely somewhere I want to go.
Nature, man. It’s wild.
**And finally today, I’ve yet to weigh on the NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs, and there’s just been so much surprising and great stuff going on that I’ve got to get at least some of it out of my brain and into yours.
Let’s start with the hockey, because of course that’s where my passion lies.
— The Washington Capitals, man oh man, I thought it was rough being a New York Jets fan. But the Caps just destroy their fans every year. They lose the first two at home, then come back and win two at Columbus (hey John Tortorella, glad to see you’ve mellowed. Not.) and then grab an overtime victory in Game 5. Now they’re a win away from playing the Pittsburgh Penguins, who will, as they always do, beat the Caps and make their fans wonder why they even bothered.
Ah, to be a Caps fan.
— Can Toront0 and Boston play in the Stanley Cup playoffs every year, please? That series has been phenomenally entertaining to watch. I hope the Leafs win tonight and it goes 7. Because I always root for Game 7’s.
— A Twitter feed I enjoy tabulates the number of days it’s been since the Philadelphia Flyers last won the Stanley Cup. Sunday’s total: 15,670 days. As a Rangers fan that makes me happy.
— We are one round away from my dream Western Conference final: Nashville vs. Las Vegas. What a phenomenal series that would be, of course, on the ice, but the idea of those two cities playing hockey for a spot in the Cup Finals, where guys like Rocket Richard and Ken Dryden and Bobby Orr played fills me with glee. Nashville has become an amazing hockey town (they call it “Smashville”) and Vegas has totally embraced its new Golden Knights franchise, but still, it’s hilarious to think of Nashville vs. Las Vegas in hockey, right? Can we get Garth Brooks and Wayne Newton to drop the puck for Game 1?
— On to the NBA, where I have no idea what’s going to happen. LeBron James is carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers, and even though he’s the greatest player of all time, his team might still lose in the first round. Even after gutting out a Game 4 win Sunday night, Cleveland is just tied 2-2 with the Pacers. Man this Cavaliers team is underachieving, or maybe just not that great.
If James gets THIS team to the Finals? Would be his greatest feat yet.
— Toronto is supposed to be the best team in the East and they’re tied 2-2 with the Wizards. Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony (three superstars) and is down 2-1 to Utah. New Orleans, who no one expected to win against Portland, just swept the Blazers in four straight. The Houston Rockets, who were the best team in the West all year, are struggling too.
Tell me again why people bet on sports?