How to Win Friends and Influence People – on Facebook

I am the king of Facebook friends!  I have a whopping 154! Down from over 250 five years ago! I am THE poster child for Facebook popularity. My general rule of thumb on Facebook is that if we have met and get along, you can join the Bruce Gordon dissatisfaction show. If we have not met, follow me on Twitter. It is a simple rule I follow, and this rule evolved over time as I refined my definition of what is a Facebook friend.  I have contacts on Facebook, btw, that have thousands of friends, and I wonder how many beers have they drunk with one of them over the year.

Truth be told, the title of Dale Carnegie’s book, that I unscrupulously stole, is something that is very difficult to do in our current social media world. In fact, his adage, “If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive”, could apply to Facebook, but I get the feeling, in some cases, that the beehive has not only been kicked over, it has been pummelled, punched, sat on, and lit on fire.  Not much honey to be had.  Pity.

Where moms use to say “if you have nothing nice to say, do not say it”, social media encourages freedom of speech, even if it is not sensitive. It seems that self-control in our social interactions has been replaced with anger talk, or people taking up the flag of certain social and political positions.  There is a sense of entitlement to speak one’s mind. Social media is moving more and more away from a friendship tool and becoming a tool for activism, debate, and hate speech. It is also becoming a news source, which is proving unreliable and biased.

The end result, what social media promised to be a fun way to reconnect with old friends, is now creating deeper divides as we forget more and more how we interact in person with people. Should Facebook be more a reflection of our offline interactions?

And I am the as guilty as anyone in terms of expressing my thoughts too freely.  It starts innocently with posts that solicit a laugh, specifically, the “Too Much Information” posts. Humour around bodily functions, sexual parts or activity, or the noise one makes when they eat a boiled egg, is actually the start down a slippery slope.  Some of us remember that we were instructed never to talk about “sex, religion, and politics” in mixed company. Sometimes we drop those barriers when we are in trusted company. Social Media is always mixed company, unless you invest a lot of time in controlling who sees what.

Ever unfriended someone in real life?  How about on Facebook? How are they different? If you have been unfriended, how does that feel? Facebook unfriending can be surprising, unexpected, and offers no solid reason. In my case, it is easy to understand and guess why.  Here are the top reasons why I lost many Facebook friends:

  1. Natural distance. They were people  I did not know well to begin with, and we did not have any social media interaction.
  2. Leaving a community – where the people do not engage socially with others outside of the context of the community
  3. By association. Divorce couples unfriend common friends. If my spouse or close friend unfriends a mutual friend, then by association  I may get unfriended.
  4. My posts offend someone and they do not want to bother discussing them
  5. Politics.

Politics, lately, has been the main source of division.  There are no longer debates over political ideologies. Rather, they are put-downs of people who have belief in the other side.  Last provincial election, the Liberals should have been voted out of office, there was a lot of corruption (still is). The amount of conservative propaganda that was bombing my timeline was unreal!  I did not mind the propaganda that hilited the Liberal corruptions. What I did mind were the insults hurled not only at the corrupt Liberal party, but also Liberal supporters. “Lib-tard” became a fashionable, and offensive expression.  There are others. I posted my Liberal propaganda, not because I wanted to influence a vote. I was just being obnoxious. Result – lost some conservative friends.

Now comes the Trump world. More than any in recent memory, this past US election has had a spiritual impact sent rippling through society and impacting people’s lives. This simply isn’t like a victory of Republicans over the Democrats, or vice-versa. Let’s be clear again about what happened. The Americans elected as its president a person who aroused evil fears of racial bigotry to gain political power, who blamed and demonized vulnerable immigrants, who displayed the most vulgar behaviors toward women, who expressed wholesale mistrust toward Muslims, who tried to criminalize his opponent, who attacked the functioning of the free press, who dismissed threats to the planet’s sustainability, who promised to wall America off from outsiders, and who pledged to protect the economic security of the nation’s most wealthy, even while shielding his own wealth from public accountability by not disclosing taxes. This, not to mention, suspicions of collusion with Russia.

I am now seeing, in Canada, conservatives posting more hate speech than ever. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind good political satire, especially when warranted. What I despise are people who show little respect for others, even in a heated political forum. Debate your point with respect, not by insulting or promoting fear.  I have not unfriended often, but I have when people posted something that hateful or promote values that may be hateful or hurtful to someone.  Vocal association with Trump risks that.  This is really challenging for people I know who tend to be right-wing. They have no choice as their political values are now tightly linked to a man who is promoting hatred and evil.

If I were a conservative, I would be crying.  I always pitied the US for having such poor choice of candidates for this past election. Since his election, have you noticed that Trump is arousing the emotions negatively of our content EVERY DAY!  That does not unite. That divides. All we see on the news, (and I won’t get into the fake news commentary), is Trump. There is no escape from this person who promotes hatred more than I have ever seen. The only way I escape it is by shutting everything off and reading a good non-political book.

Fake news or real. It does not matter. Damage is being done.

I have no problem accepting people with different political ideologies as me. I actually can learn and grow from differences of opinion and I think that is healthy. I enjoyed the debate between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders on health care in the US. It was clear which side of the fence they stood on, and they presented their case and rebuttals well. It was a reasonably intelligent discussion, from which one can make a choice of ideology. These discussions CAN happen.

I am challenged by this Trump phenomena and dealing with those who ally with Trump ideology.  Trump has not shown any good so far. In fact, he has shown nothing but evil, and I am seeing that type of approach entering Canada, which concerns me.

Can relationships on Facebook even be a possibility with all this activism? I think so if we learn to behave,  but I think culturally we are not going in that direction.  The more we promote evil by associating with Trump openly and the further we are promoting fear and hatred in Facebook commentary, the more we divide ourselves and lose sight of any good.

I believe there is a spiritual need for mankind to connect with one another and build relationships. It is a shame that politics has now created a space of deep rooted anger and hatred, only enhanced from a social media perspective. Walls are being built as people with identical ideologies are coming together, and anything different remains on the outside. There is little choice for some. It may be the only way to keep social media stress free. Sad case. In a world where we are overly scheduled, tools like Facebook sometimes remind us we are not alone.

I am always looking to make real connections with people. I use Facebook as a tool to do that. Facebook helps, but in person connections are more meaningful as memories are built together. Relationships can be fostered on Facebook to encourage the bridge to in person contact. Just got to apply the in person rules we had been given in the pre-facebook world.

The Shadow Knows – Launch of dissatisfiedbruce

Welcome to the inaugural post of my new blog site,  I have been blogging on and off for the past few years, mostly as an exercise to practice my written communication and to offer some “life” reflections. Thanks to all those who have read my posts in the past and encouraged my writing.  I am always flattered when I hear of someone reading a post or two. Hope it is worth your while!

So why am I blogging about dissatisfaction? Seems quite contrary, after all, preaching the positive is all we hear about.

Ever see Facebook posts written in the form of 100 Days of <insert positive sentiment>?   How do you respond to those?  Like them?  I  sometimes question the need to revel in the fact that someone has a gratitude journal entry of their child picking out a pair of clean underwear for the first time.  I guess it may be an important life moment, especially if the kid prefers to go digging in the laundry bin for last week’s pair of Superman briefs. I too would enjoy wearing superhero underwear, and certainly have had my share of these “life moment” posts.

The Shadow knows…

I have been raised on a culture of Monty Python and Mad magazine.  My favorite Mad cartoonist, Sergio Aragones, had a segment called “The Shadow Knows“, part of the magazine’s “Light makes Right” department.  The humour is simple, and fits in a single frame. There is a scene of something of a typical daily interaction, but the Shadows depict what the players in the scene are truly thinking. There are many examples found on the web, like a solid collection on Pintrest.  The Shadow Knows’ reflects the time and the humour of the 70s, and seeing them now made me realize how we have become much more sensitive to certain topics. That said, I believe the concept is inherent to most humans, and I am certainly guilty of that. I try to do what is right, but sometimes my desire is to do something completely different.

I wonder sometimes, what does the Shadow know when he sees a Facebook post about one’s grateful reflection about how a colour of a flower brightened a whole day? Would the Shadow actually be dealing with a basement that is flooding with water, with kids that are sick, and a husband (or wife) that has decided to run off with the plumber?

I am wired in reality. I can take Facebook posts at face value, but sometimes I wonder if there is something lurking beneath the warm fuzzy sentiments I see. My personality, for example, would not focus on the flower. I would see what the Shadow sees, and focus on the plumber draining my bank account (while, hopefully, draining my basement). Note, I will never run off with anyone who will model their hairy butt crack in low hanging jeans.

What is more satisfying and interesting?
Looking at a colourful flower, or a plumber?

Often, when I read gratitude posts that should only be metaphors, I wonder what is the true motivation. The metaphor means something to someone, but I just don’t get it. I would love to hear the “why”  the metaphor was posted and “how” it applies to the person posting it. In short, I appreciate the story behind the message, something which gets missed in this 140 character messaged world.  The absence of the story sometimes makes the sentiment a bit vapid, and without substance to me. Whether intentional or not, it can come out as insincere. Was the flower truly the inspiration of the day? Was there more going on that meets the eye? Inquiring minds want to know!

Imagine the following scenario.

My car breaks down and I lost a day of work. Definitely not a good thing and my day is ruined, and, perhaps, laced with stress. I post on Facebook “Day 1 of 100 days of loving life. My life is now fulfilled because I had an orgasmic-tasting meal at McDonald’s (personally, I would find McDonald’s more diarrhetic, but that’s just me) .

Why ignore what really happened? For me, the story is not complete. It would be more interesting if McD’s  is the only choice of restaurant I had, I was hungry while waiting on a mechanic, and I am  a vegetarian (not true, but adding for illustrative purposes). Sad story. Not fun to go through, and if I was a vegan, would struggle with wanting to eat their fries as it is deep fried with their chicken? What if I tried a Big Mac for the first time in 30 years?  The meal would not be the best, but the their is more interest and some funny ironies.  Remember, I would be waiting on the estimates from the mechanic, which will jack up the price of that McNugget-less lunch to that of a beluga caviar! The Facebook post only shared a small, and slightly untrue, part of the picture. The Shadow knows all, and it is more fun!

Never satisfied by truth…

I do like to hear other people’s stories, and really appreciate it when tools like Facebook are being used in this capacity, as opposed to being an auto-meme generator (and re-generating times 100).  In fact, my timeline has more jokes, memes, shares, and videos than actual events of what is going on in people’s lives. It is an important aspect of Facebook, but not very deep and satisfying. They are the McDonald’s of posts.

Fast food can be quite satisfying.
Until you eat more than two bites. I can attest to this with my annual KFC cravings.

As much as I like to read about the day-to-day stuff, it is sometimes hard and sobering to be reminded of what you don’t have.  Not everyone can go on a family trip to Europe, not everyone has the cash to buy a Mercedes Benz each month like I would buy a bus pass.  That can be a source of dissatisfaction. The whole notion of being able to “keep up with the Jones'” is present, no matter how much I deny it.  I think that is a bi-product of living in a world that defines a normal on what I own, the title of my job, how far I travel, the size of my family, the depth of my swimming pool, the fur lining in my slippers, the price of my breakfast cereal, and how green and evenly trimmed my grass is. The moment I put my satisfaction in materialism, it becomes very easy to become dissatisfied. Reminders of how the material brings (what seems to be) satisfaction to those around me can bring about dissatisfaction. Got to remember to be satisfied with my ripped jeans and socks with holes in them, and my cedar hedge that is growing wildly and taking up three quarters of my yard, not to mention that I have yet to find a gluten-free cereal that resembles the taste of  Lucky Charms.

What is your favorite cereal?
Alpen. Only one that fills me up. Gluten-free nightmare!

I find it even harder to understand how  material “blessings” gets wrapped up under the “God” banner, which sometimes gets proclaimed by certain extreme religious folk. The irony is religion does not normally preach materialism (though I understand some sects do). They will be thankful to God for answering prayers that they got a job with a huge salary increase, wonderful house with swimming pool, and healthy family. They post religious platitudes on social media which are totally meaningless, and frankly, insulting, to people like me who are not engaged in these circles. These platitudes are just blanket faith statements like “Leave your problems at the foot of the cross”. I have no idea what that means, especially without any substantiation like I mentioned above. On an aside,  I have never seen anyone thanking God directly for an amputated limb, loss of job, family getting involved in organized crime, or for making Disco suits fashionable. I get that does not seem right, but you do hear, for example, UFC fighters thanking Jesus for blessing them with the ability to kick the crap out of someone; or wealthy families thankful for their financial income. That too, sounds wrong.

The 100 Days series…

With all these thoughts jumbled in my head, I took on the challenge last year of writing my 100 Days of Dissatisfaction on Facebook. They somewhat expressed my Shadow.  All I did was track a thought in my mind each day that annoyed me.  It could be my reaction to the odd neighbour, or someone who smelled like they slept with their dog.  I found that writing about them was humourous and cathartic. Further, people who knew me got the humour of it.  What amazed me was that I was able to keep this going for 100 days. It was not difficult.  I have supported a football team that has struggled for years. I have never seen my baseball team win a World Series. I am well off, but I can never seem to keep up with the Jones’ (not that I want to). I have seen 5 year olds on youtube play guitar better than me despite my having over 30 years of experience.  I see people smiling doing the mundane, or smile when I know they really want to cut off someone’s head. Not to mention, I can write a book about my perceptions of my OCTranspo (Ottawa bus service) experiences.

What amazes me more is that there are some people who took some of my posts very seriously, and to heart.  I can laugh at my “dissatisfaction”.  I am revealing “my Shadow”, which some may appreciate to be something resembling a truth, and I hope, not too many are offended.

Seeing all this dissatisfaction through a homourous lens actually opened my eyes to the good stuff in life. By making light of the stuff that annoys you, it is easier not to be brought down by them. You learn just laugh it off.

Wifey survived my 100 Days of Dissatisfaction. She would groan in pain each day when she read my Facebook feed. So what did she do?

And now for something completely different…

She registered the domain to help me continue the tradition! That action in itself was one of the ironies that is a foundation to this blog. The Web site is dedicated to her (I am sure, to her chagrin), as she is the person I have spent the last 25 years complaining to about all this stuff. She is the one that puts up with my cynical and cantankerous ways – but most importantly, we have spent most of this time laughing with,  through all the ups and downs of life, and finding irony and sarcasm to cope with the tough stuff.  It is the tradition I hope to continue through the writings in future.

Dissatisfied with marriage?
Not me! I got the best wifey in the world!

I posted the original 100 Days of Dissatisfaction done in 2015 as the official first post of the site.  I am in the process of compiling another one this year.  I am finding that each post could be a story in themselves, which I will share every now and again.

Let me know what disatissfies you (apart from this blog!). It can make for a great entry!