… Every word like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness …. Samual Beckett. Beckett could well have been foreseeing Facebook because many would say that this quote describes Facebook to a tee . There are cynics of Facebook, and I am one sometimes, who believe that Facebook is nothing more than inane drivel. Often it is but it is also hellish fun and it has done something that we cant do fully in real life. It has bridged the gap between hearing people and deaf people.
I guess this is truer for those deaf who have a good grasp of the English language and who can use text easily. Nevertheless hearing and deaf, through Facebook, communicate and interact as if their are no communication barriers. There is no broken sign language or exaggerated lip movements. No please repeat that, no pretending you have got the joke and laughing along so as to not look like a miserable bastard .. it’s just people interacting, sharing loving and laughing together at will.
The truth is that Facebook mirrors real life. Those people who say, me included, that Facebook is inane drivel need to look back at their last face to face conversation. They would be hard pressed to remember what it was. Mine was talking about the relative merits of Carlton Cole and Zavron Hines with my son. This is serious stuff. One is a six foot three centre forward with pace and strength to burn, the other is a short zippy right half with an eye for goal. They balance the team wonderfully. Important stuff this!!!
Meanwhile on Facebook my wife has announced she has hurt her finger at netball. This is, of course, something we all really needed to know. We just could not survive not knowing. Somehow the announcement has sent people off on tangents. Brendan has started talking Arabic, my wife has replied in French, Colleen has shared that she didn’t like her French teacher while I have responded to Brendan that he is trying to get Colleen in the sack. Inane drivel, funny drivel .. pointless .. but no more pointless than my discussion with my son on the relative merits of two West Ham players.
On Facebook I can meet virtually anyone who has a good grasp of English and start communicating with them at will. I can do this through the chat feature or I can play on the status updates. I can share wit and wisdom at will. Hearing friends who know how will sometimes caption the videos they put up so that I miss out on nothing. It’s almost a perfect virtual world. Almost because I can not share in the audio and the music but no matter, I can interact fluently anytime.
I can’t do this in my real world. I can’t walk into a pub and start a conversation with someone at the bar. Well I can, but chances are it will be stilted. Chances are that the conversation will stop and start. If I meet someone I would hope to hell that there wasn’t anyone with them so that I could just focus on that one person instead of trying to follow a conversation with multiple participants.
We deafies from hearing families all dread the family reunions. Where everyone is laughing and joking and we have to hope that someone will cue us into the joke. Where auntie Martha with her moustache that makes her impossible to lipread insists on being the only person that will talk to you. We indulge the family, do our bit and go home. Usually exhausted at the trials of trying to be part of the group.
But on Facebook I meet people and have virtual dinner parties. We link up on Yahoo messenger and all chat and joke at will. No one is left out. We post pictures of our food. Share videos and photos. We have little asides with individual members of the group . We share, laugh and sometimes cry. It takes us away from the constant struggle to be included and lets us experience something that is often not possible in the real world. All praise Facebook – for all its faults it means that for the deaf the virtual is often better than the real reality!!