The Block Island Times

I Facebook; therefore I am

By J. V. Houlihan, Jr. | Jul 11, 2012

What started out as a way for some Ivy League students to share information with each other is now available for the rest of the tribe to do the same.  Facebook can be a great way to connect with people and share pictures and other tidbits of information.  It is a digital environment where people can think out loud and be themselves, while noodling around and checking on how their friends are doing.  I wonder what philosopher Rene’ Descartes would make of Facebook.  He was the Frenchman who made it all sound so simple by coining the phrase, “Je pense, donc je suis.” “I think, therefore I am.”  This very bright guy’s quote, always made perfect sense to me.  Connecting the verbs to think and to be, translates in my book, to being entertained, informed and  inundated.  Pretty heady stuff huh! 

Like life, Facebook can reveal things to you that you don’t see coming―little surprises.  One of my Facebook friends-Ed Vallee (mentioned in my last post) recently posted a video of musician Tom Petty’s cover of George Harrison’s classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  Being a mediocre guitar hacker on a good day I was intrigued, so I hit the play button.  What I saw and heard was not only a great cover of the song, but also a precise, forthright and outstanding guitar solo by the musician Prince.  This little surprise made my day, and I didn’t even need to leave the house!  Now where can you find that kind of entertainment! 

Just before writing this article, a former student who is now a journalist in Narragansett, posted something about a certain species of Galapagos tortoise, which may not be extinct.  Again, where else can a guy get that kind of information!  I read some great facts about Yankee Whalers using these very low key and apparently dull-witted mammals as a food source while hunting whales in the Pacific.  The word around the scientific campfire was that this particular tortoise was thought to have become extinct 150 years ago.  Someone posted a comment “Boooooriiiinng!!!” below the article.  The author of the post replied, “Try telling that to the tortoise!”  And so it goes Facebookers, great music videos and Galapagos tortoises by simply just scrolling down Facebook lane.  (Regarding the tortoise, I always wondered what Darwin thought they were thinking, as they were quietly being, and staring/thinking out at the vastness of the blue Pacific.)  I guess this will remain one of life’s little mysteries, or perhaps a Zen thing.

 In our digitalized world one can be inundated with information; a Pu Pu Platter of minutiae, extraneous, useless factoids, and downright nonsense can be part of any given day.  We need to hone our filters to see the forest from the trees.  Alvin Toffler, in his book “Future Shock” coined the term “information overload,” which means what it says.  In today’s parlance we call it “TMI” or “too much information.”  Another term I’m hearing these days is “fragging.”  I’m sure we have all experienced this while surfing the net or Facebooking; hopping like little bunnies and sprinting like gazelles from one topic to another, thereby fragmenting our psyches.  I get tired just thinking about “fragging,” moreover, it has a very negative connotation.  (Just the thought of this term drives me to go and pick up the new Jack London biography that I’m currently reading, so I can focus.) 

Finally, Descartes pretty much said it all with his simple quote.  I am sure he would enjoy the vastness of the “Information Age,” but would be capable of filtering much of the irrelevant stuff.  Rene’ Descartes was a brilliant Mathematician, and a traveler who liked to meet people of all levels of society.  So the question is, would Descartes be open to the idea of Facebook―think about it, I am!




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