Lucy Crowe's Nest: Facebook Empath

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Facebook Empath

*Artwork by Edward Dyas

“My mother died yesterday,” she writes. “She was eighty-seven years old, and I never told her I loved her. But I did.”

The post rears up from six-hundred twenty others and slaps me full in the face, such a sharp surprise I have to blink back tears. Who wrote this? I don’t know her. Her name is Sadie and she’s from Scotland .
My fingers float over the keys, and finally I type, “She knew it.” I hesitate, and then punch delete.
Facebook is such an odd microorganism of life! I almost feel anger at this woman for hurting me this way, and a large part of me wants to tell her that she should have laid the computer aside, just for a minute or so, long enough to say those three words.

What sort of society bares their souls to total strangers on little-bitty screens all day long every day? Are there studies being done somewhere on the long term effects?  Hang on, I need a cup of coffee while I think about this.
Okay, my Facebook may be unique in that, in addition to actual friends, I have crammed it full with authors, bloggers and firefighters from every corner of the globe. In short, people I don’t know.
Which is to say, they don’t know me either.
“Mmm-mmm, fried chicken and okra tonight. Jimmy should be home by six and this girl just wants to put her arms around him.”  They’re from the south. He drives a truck and she’s got three kids at home, one of whom broke his leg last week.  For a minute I can almost smell supper, hear Bandit scratching at the back door and see the first spring flowers.
“Lil girl didn’t make it but Tierra doing better, and God got his loving arms wrapped around that baby.” Chicago . The daughter lost her preemie, but they’ll be okay because they are so, so religious.
“Lost my freakin gloves in the field fire south of town. FML.” Okay, that was a huge fire, saw that on the news. Gloves should be the least of his worries.
“Day twelve without a cigarette!”      “Christian brought home a science project that is going to cost us forty dollars to build a friggin robot. Hate this school system!”      “Watching Chicago Fire with my hunny.”       “No fat shaming!”      “We’ve been pooping wrong! Asians squat on the toilet with their feet on the seat.”     Aaaaargh! The messages fly off the screen, take on accents and nuances, and, sometimes, lose all meaning. Facebook is no place for empathy or patience. Is it?
“I never told her I loved her.” Ah, Sadie, there you are again. I am so sorry.
Maybe Facebook isn’t so different from anywhere else? Maybe everyone is just clamoring to be heard like bus-trapped kids on a field trip – excited, happy, sick or disconsolate? Hear me! Listen to my story!
“I don’t know you, Sadie,” I type. “But I really hate this for you. I think it will get better in time.”
The knot in my chest loosens just a little. 
And I remember, then, that I’ve got a direct line to the Pope on Twitter. I’ll drop a note to him about Sadie.
Click HERE to follow on Twitter.



  1. This is how I feel. Thank you. Some posts just hit me in the nose and when I'm done stopping the flow of blood, I open my eyes and realise that I replied when I shouldn't have.

    1. Yes, exactly Sakina, lol! I know exactly what you mean. What if real life was like facebook? We'd all just run around saying whatever came to mind - which isn't always pretty, lol!

  2. Great commentary on the exposing nature of Facebook. Funny how many of us can bare our souls to strangers (or an audience), but say nothing to the person most affected.

    Probably why I'm such an anemic poster.

    Nice, thought-provoking piece, Lucy. Well done.

    1. Hi Claire! I go through occasional bursts where I post faithfully, but then life gets busy and pulls me away again - good thing, right, lol? Thanks for stopping by! :)

  3. It is much easier to bare your soul, your mundane life or just everyday living with strangers. They believe you, feel your frustration or joy. They "listen" to what you say. They are invested because they know they can share and be nurtured as well. Not everyone in your realm can give that.

    1. This is so true! I have some really wonderful friends on facebook who I have never met at all. Thanks so much for reading!


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