Facebook’s cats are the new opium of the people | Kevin McKenna

Cute animals and and even cuter philosophical phrases are designed to keep everyone sleepwalking

In the parallel universe of social media, I’ve discovered that I am a pariah whose society is probably best avoided.

This isn’t a harangue on the need to hold on to our pre-Facebook values in the face of a virtual onslaught that is threatening to detach us from reality. I’m right into the social media. I’m all Twittered up, with a few followers who occasionally say kind things about articles I have written, as well as a number who are wont to stookie me when they feel I’ve got it wrong.

Occasionally, I resort to blocking people; not to protect me, you understand, but to protect them. I know what Instagram is and am on the cusp of availing myself confidently of its services soon. I can work Vines.

Admittedly, it’s taken a while for me to reach a stage where I am comfortable in these surroundings. I resisted the urge to join Twitter for a few years before finally succumbing weeks before the referendum on Scottish independence.

There was so much bite-size mince flying around on pre-referendum Twitter that I began to feel left out. After all, I thought, my mince is as good as anyone else’s.

I even ordered a few online shops from Tesco and now know never to do so while en swalette, as the Russians might say. Waking up to eight bunches of broccoli, six boxes of prunes and enough muesli for an entire yoga class can be a pretty unnerving experience. The previous night’s good intentions are always skewered by the first icy probes of your hangover and you find yourself wondering if Tesco does special deliveries of steak bakes and crispy pancake rolls.

I also struggle with passwords. I thought I’d be a smart-arse and make mine the names of obscure eastern European football teams, along with the year of their founding. For example, I used Liberec1958 until I started getting it mixed up with Teplice1945 and found myself reduced to creating ridiculous portmanteau combinations such as ZenitRostov. During this period, I was in virtual darkness and cut off from all my devices. I even thought of collecting all my passwords in a single app, before realising in a rising panic that I would need to create another password for my password app and that the only obscure league left was the Albanian First Division.

It’s when I dip into Facebook that I begin to wonder if my moral centre has shifted to a cold and barren place. I experience feelings of disorientation in this community and am daily fighting a desire to post-ironic observations or chilly abjurations about things that matter to close friends and family. On my Facebook timeline (if that is the correct argot), it seems that everyone is living in a world approximate to Bambi’s formative years before the wee man’s mother got wasted.

People post pictures of their dinner and other people post supportive and encouraging comments about it, even when it looks like something your dog would body-swerve. And what is it about cats? Everyone seems to own a cat except me. What’s more: the cats are filmed doing things such as cooking, writing political columns for national newspapers and ordering food shopping from Tesco. And there are pictures of babies doing all their first things (usually with cats) and then sleeping, curled up with a cat that is reading them a bedtime story by Enid Blyton.

Then there are the so-called true stories that get posted in a series of meaningful pictures with text running underneath.

Everyone thought that Boaby was a drunken auld jaikie who had pissed his talent up against the wall. Then one night Boaby espied a well-dressed fellow wandering inadvertently into a bad neighbourhood. As two wee shellsuited bams advanced towards the unsuspecting stranger Boaby had a moment of clarity and launched his bottle of El Dorado at the delinquents, along with a string of colourful depredations, impelling them to scarper. The stranger turned to thank his sozzled guardian angel and each man was amazed at what he saw.

For the stranger was none other than José Mourinho and Boaby was the brilliant young Portuguese striker who had gone off the rails after his family was wiped out in a hot-air balloon accident. “You will play for me again, Roberto, and I will make you great,” said José. So remember everyone; that pished auld jaikie who’s threatening to rattle your effin balls might be an Under-20s World Cup winner and have been a former room-mate of Lionel Messi. He may be but one act of kindness away from his destiny.

I mean: does anyone seriously believe stuff like this? And then there are the little Facebook philosophical messages that people share with each other for the purposes of wanting to cheer everyone up.

Never allow anyone to clip the silver wings of your golden dreams.
Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea; drink the wild air.
If God is the DJ; life is the dancefloor; love is the rhythm and you are the music.

I know that these are all well-intentioned sentiments and might even make a soul pause before doing something she might regret. Unfortunately, I feel that this is all a vast conspiracy by the forces of the hard right.

Somewhere in the bowels of the headquarters of our security services, a group of Oxford University electronics graduates is producing all these sunny phrases, containing keywords and hidden algorithms that are psychologically designed to keep everyone sleepwalking.

“Look, bad things happen to everyone – that’s just life – but if you wish for something hard enough all your troubles can be washed away.” If the government prescribed a regular supply of cocaine for every household the effect would be just the same.

So, in a spirit of generosity and kindness to all my friends and relatives, here are some philosophical musings to bring you back to reality.

He who clips the silver wings of your golden dreams is a true friend.
Live in the rain; pish in the sea and drink Buckfast.

And if God is the DJ he is currently going through a death metal phase and playing Formulas Fatal to the Flesh by Morbid Angel.


Kevin McKenna

The GuardianTramp

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