Facebook and My Parents’ Legacy

On a bench in the park, there was this couple sitting together. They were not talking, nor touching, nor kissing, nor any kind of act that normally shows love is in the air. Instead, their eyes were glued to each one’s own phone. And they are not alone. There is a huge community of couples out there, setting up a date just to check Facebook side by side. Well, basically in dates we share daily life stories, which turn out so irrelevant now for Romeo and Juliet already update each other’s statuses every single hour. So what should we do on dates these days? OK, you have your phone and I have my phone; there’s a whole world of entertainment in there already, so let’s hold my hand as a proof that we’re an item, and silently (but still amusingly) finish this date with our best sidekicks – the smartphones. Can we really blame the couple? Probably not. They are just gone with the flow – the sickening craving for more cyber attention in our digital age.

I don’t want to be fake, so I will set the record straight: I think I’m a social network attention whore, too. Now that you’re reading this post, your view will be recorded on my WordPress daily stats, and that helps me digest my lunch a little better; then I would just post a photo of that lunch on my facebook, and believe me, I would not keep myself from wondering “Anyone liked it? Anyone commented on it?” It’s just purely a human nature kind of reaction. I’m not ashamed of it, yet I feel so weak and silly acting that way. But again, I would prefer to blame Mark for this obsession. Better still I’m not even the worst kind of an addict. I have unfollowed a bunch of friends because I don’t want to know every little detail of their life, on an hourly basis.

Facebook, as well as other social networks, has tremendously shifted our way of communicating. It also is the root of a whole new set of social protocols, aka “The new polite” in this decade. It just first struck me how much we have differed from previous generations when I was binge watching Mad Men. The AMC hit show depicts everything that defines the lifestyle of 1960s ladies and gentlemen: wine was their daily Redbull, suit and tie was their casual outfit, shaking hands and meeting up and a whole lot of other etiquettes were their way of playing the game.  We still do that today (thank God!); but online it’s a new story. The millenniums have their own definition of being civil, professional and polite BEHIND the laptop screen:

Rule #1: Always be the last to like (or Don’t let me be the last to comment)

When the discussion has come to a point that you have no other thing to say, or simply just don’t know how to response to the last comment from your friend, please have the common courtesy to like their comment, no matter what. When someone is engaged in a discussion, they automatically long for some reply or reaction from others. We like the comment; we don’t just leave it to dead silence.

Rule #2: Seen seems to be the hardest word

Someone’s sent you a Facebook message and you’re not ready to reply? DON’T OPEN. Once you open, you have to reply; or else, they would find the message marked “seen”, and probably would be heart-broken thinking you don’t want to talk to them anymore. Worse off, they would end up drowning their sorrow in more facebooking. Us millenniums are so fragile (we all know that!), and seen is such a hard pill to swallow. Right? Right?

Rule #3: One doesn’t simply advertise on friends’ walls

The doorbell rings while your family is having dinner. You open it. There, standing on the doorstep, is a total stranger. He or she gives you a bunch of leaflets and a little package, then with a perfect commercial grin tells you “Just try it!”. Then he just leaves; and you’re annoyed for being interrupted during dinner for nothing more than a low-end and cheap marketing tactic.

This situation has transferred pretty completely to its cyber version: advertisement tagging random victims, or facebook apps that allow narrow-minded shop owners to post on a vast number of timelines. They want to be known; I don’t think they know they are going to be hated. I hate this stupid random tagging or any kind of advertisement being posted onto my timeline. We don’t draw or write on others’ walls; we get caught doing that. And obviously someone will forever be blocked, too.

Those are three aside many other rules, including No swear words, No food photo after 10p.m at night for the sake of your friends’ eye stomach (many people are violating this rule!), etc. Just follow these and you’ll be awarded The most polite netizen, for sure. But the point of me writing this post isn’t that non-existent award. I just can’t stop thinking about that couple in the park and keep asking myself “Why don’t they just DO something?”. I always believe that someone we care about is definitely worth switching off the phone. Technology brings people closer, but when we are truly this close, it seems to just drive us further.  My friend has explained to me that time changes the way we love. Well, I don’t think sex has changed (it’s pretty hard to be more creative than Kamasutra though!), so why would love change? Has love changed, or we’re too lazy to love with all we have, instead with a single smartphone?

The other day my dad handed me a notebook, and a pile of notes and letters. The notebook was a gift my dad gave mom when they were dating, then she used it to record her thoughts about life, love, and about my dad. Then there are notes they wrote to each other when they came to each other’s home but missed, and letters they exchanged when my mom was studying in Russia. I’ve got to admit, it’s quite hard to look at your parents’ eyes without embarrassment after reading these passionate words (awkward, awkward everywhere!), but it’s totally worth it. Things like this could melt the Titanic iceberg heart:

Darling! I’m out and will be home at 8 p.m. If you come, wait for me. Lock the door and read books will you? Kiss you.
Is it true that we have to endure hardship and loss to find happiness? If it’s true, I’m willing to.

Dad declared when he gave me this “I now hand to you the proof of our love, so that whenever mom denies you can easily knock down her arguments!”. That’s the proof of their love. It’s something. Those little notes my dad saved each and every day, as he believed that love was something he would want to treasure and remember for the rest of life. How can we do that now? Can we save all the messages and emails? Even if we can, it’s never the same as a note with that person’s handwriting. Can we just record their voice whenever they call us? Can we just save every facebook comment, every like, every little chit-chat. Probably not. After all, there could be a whole world of entertainment in  our smartphone, but the world where we are in love is out here. A real person. A real voice. A real kiss. A real touch. A real hug. Everything is real.

So call me old-fashioned, but I believe it’s not lame to write hand letters or small notes now and then, both for the one we’re dating or for friends. It still feels different. So.Much.Different.

Da Ly


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