Welcome to South African Lockdown Day 49. Today I have some thoughts about Facebook.

Lockdown photo 49: A stained glass butterfly in my kitchen.

I know this is not a cool thing to admit, but checking Facebook is one of the first things I do in the morning. “I have to use Facebook for work,” is an excuse I often use, and it’s true. I post on social media for a living and a large percentage of my blog traffic comes from Facebook.

“I hate Facebook,” I often say, and that’s also not wrong. I hate the level of control this app has over my life and over the whole world. I hate the way Facebook has changed the media landscape and I hate the way Facebook invades our privacy.

But also I depend on Facebook, especially now. Yes, I get my news from other sources and yes, there are other social media platforms I like better. But Facebook is still the quickest, easiest way to take the pulse of the world around me, and during lockdown it’s one of my few consistent connections to the outside world.

Here is one of several great things I saw on Facebook today: My former colleague Leigh Oblinger Hill, who I would never still be connected to if not for Facebook, posted a Daily Mail news clip about her parents, Barb and Mike Oblinger, who dress up in fantastic costumes for Zoom happy hours with their friends. Mike’s Tiger King costume blew my mind — do yourself a favor and watch it.

Facebook also brings out the worst in people though, especially now. Never before have I seen so much moaning, so much bitching, so much petty complaining, so many ridiculous conspiracy theories, so much conflicting “information” on Facebook as I’ve seen in the past three months. It’s enraging and exhausting to read but I need to wade through the drivel to get to the good stuff.

Yes, I could stop using the app except for work. Yes, I could unfollow/unfriend people who annoy me. But much of the drivel comes from friends — people who also post great stuff on Facebook but have temporarily lost their minds. (I also fall into this category myself.)

This morning I started to fantacize about how great it would be if Facebook had a setting that would allow me to designate words I don’t want to see on my timeline. Any post containing the designated words would automatically be filtered out, and I could add or change words at any time.

Here are the words/phrases I would currently choose, many of which are specific to South Africa’s specific lockdown quirks:

  1. Essential (Never thought I could hate such an innocuous word.)
  2. End the lockdown
  3. Cyril
  4. President
  5. Fake news
  6. Bill Gates
  7. Privilege
  8. Flu
  9. “6:00 to 9:00 a.m.”
  10. Hotspot
  11. Rules
  12. Data
  13. Love in the time of corona (barf)
  14. Draconian
  15. Undemocratic
  16. Unfair
  17. Level 4
  18. Petition
  19. Permit
  20. Crop bottoms (Okay that one is funny but I’ve read it way too many times in the past 24 hours.)
  21. New normal (Actually this is the worst one of all and I forgot it! Thanks to reader Linda for the reminder.)

I’m not saying I don’t want to read any of these words ever again — just not on Facebook right now.

Note “Donald Trump” is not on the list because who am I kidding? I’ll never be able to stop ranting about that guy.

What would your words be?

Two more irrelevant observations:

1) Today I got out of bed at 9:40 a.m., wore pyjamas until 12:30 p.m., changed into exercise clothes to do a half-assed workout, took a bath at 3:00 p.m., then realized it was too late to bother with real clothes so put my pyjamas back on.

2) The photo at the top of this post shows one of three lovely stained glass butterflies on the window above my sink. I think my landlady Carol put them there, and I can’t believe I’ve never photographed them before as they’re so pretty. The butterfly reminded me of this excellent podcast I listened to yesterday about the migration of monarch butterflies.

Today’s Worthy Cause

Speaking of which, there are so many great journalistic podcasts out there doing groundbreaking work during the pandemic. Most podcasts are free to listen to, and many of them are struggling financially right now due to lost advertising revenue.

If you’re listening to any journalistic podcasts, please consider supporting them. One of my favorites right now is In the Dark by American Public Media. In the Dark‘s current reporting on the effects of the pandemic in America’s Mississippi Delta region is fantastic.

Tomorrow is Day 50 of the South African lockdown. After that I’m going to take a two-day break over the weekend to do a bit of a reset. See you tomorrow!

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