Swept Away by Information

Google Plus joined the information overload by announcing that members’ profiles would be mixed into the search engine’s results. Facebook is going public, which means making a profit by selling more information about you.

prayers tucked into the Western Wall of Jerusalem. Pre-Facebook days.

All that digging doesn’t bother me anymore. What does bother me is the amount of information people willingly, happily, and expectantly post on Facebook and Twitter, including:

1.  The posts from a woman with kidney stones on her way to the emergency room. Updates every five minutes. If I were on my way to the emergency room, you couldn’t force me to post on Facebook, much less update my pain. (No, she wasn’t a family member; this was a public stream.)

2. The posts–photos and descriptions–of a woman delivering a baby. Not an emergency, but a home birth. ‘Nuff said.

3. People on the public stream who describe their gastrointestinal illnesses, in piteous detail. Ew.

Cloistered Carmelite nuns at constant prayer--there are nuns praying day and night.

3. People announcing the illnesses of relatives, friends, or neighbors and asking for prayers.

4. People announcing their own diagnosis, often with medical test results, and asking for prayers.

There have been evenings I’ve been reluctant to go to Facebook or Twitter because it’s starting to look like a giant hospital ward, each gut-wrenching display of naked sorrow open to the world. All needing prayers, comfort, sympathy. I wish I had more to give, but by the end of the day, I’m often tapped out of empathy.

I’m a life and creativity coach, and often spend much of my day in the company of people and their troubles. When I arrive at Facebook, my empathy is circling the drain. I want the “Norm!” of Cheers, and get Robert Oppenheimer’s  Death, Destroyer of Worlds speech instead.

Yes, I understand that Facebook is there for people to be themselves, and

Buddhist nuns using prayer wheels to send more prayers into the universe.

I’m hoping that includes me. I agree with the essayist Sloane Crosley who says, “The entire world has become this Dickensian series in which you are not visited by three ghosts but by eight million ghosts. . . . I see things about people that I don’t necessarily want to see.”

Health insurance companies no longer need to snoop through doctors’ files; they can just run a swab around Facebook for freely-confessed indulgence, illness, pre-existing conditions and reasons to drop you. Maybe they are way ahead of this thought already.

If it’s difficult to untangle yourself from electronic friends, it’s also difficult to stop translating electronic emotions into your heart and soul. I need a way to detach myself from the misery that pours out of my screen every night and sloshes into my journal and dreams. Worst of all is that all of these sad stories seem real enough to be from people I know instead of just “like.”

I hope people find comfort when they post their miseries for everyone to stumble across on the update feed. I also hope they won’t miss my comment  (I simply can’t “like” a post on impacted wisdom tooth removal) as I close out Facebook and go slink down the hall.

–Quinn McDonald has added all of Facebook (except the people who ask her to feed their cows on Farmville) to her nightly prayers.