Sunday, October 30, 2011


My sporadic blogging is annoying. Yes, even to me it's annoying. I often have ideas rattling around inside my head (see, when I shake it you can hear them rolling around like marbles!), but never seem to commit to them. 

But this idea is compelling me. You see, I must write about Facebook again. 

I know. I hear your groans and I feel your pain. But bear with me. 

I've written previously about my departure from Facebook. And about coming back. Yes, I know, I'm obsessed. But this phenomenon of social media has long both intrigued me and worried me.

I remember years ago when Facebook was still "new" (Abby was a baby), a friend of mine told me that she had posted pictures of my child (and other friends' kids as well) on Facebook. I was livid. I tore her up one side and down another and made her swear she would never, ever do such a thing again. I swore I would never join such an insidious website, as I saw very clearly the apparent dangers without every truly understanding what either Facebook, nor the dangers, actually were. 

Eventually, after being bombarded with invitation after invitation, curiosity got the better of me and I joined. And I was hooked. 

My own feelings of malaise and mistrust was replaced by, "Wow, look at how cool this is!" I posted photos of my kids. I updated my status umpteen million times a day. I watered my imaginary garden and served meals at my virtual restaurant. 

But then, one day, I had to turn it off. But by then, it had become so deeply ingrained in our culture and our daily lives that leaving suddenly left a void that was not easily filled. But I also felt a sense of freedom that I never realized I lacked. 

However, in the end, I relented to the incessant pressure and rejoined. I missed finding out the nitty-gritty details of the lives of my sister-in-laws. I wanted to enter contests that you must have a Facebook account to be enterable. I needed to know when playgroup as cancelled. We have lived an uneasy coexistence for several months again. 

But then two things happened. 

Firstly, I realized that the majority of my status updates came not from friends and family, but from businesses. Products, newsletters, media outlets, etc. The information I was consuming was not about the personal details, but about mass consumption. That bothered me, because the whole point of me rejoining Facebook was to have personal connections that were getting hard to maintain any other way. I was obviously deluding myself. 

The second one, however, I must credit Dan Meisner, the CBC Radio tech columnist. His idea was not new, and it was something I think I had intuitively concluded on my own, but he expressed it very succinctly in an interview. 

We are users of Facebook as much as we're the product that Facebook sells to it's advertisers. 

I'll say it again. We are the commodity that Facebook sells. 

That idea startled me. I know we often trade data in exchange for benefits. Things like Airmiles, PC Points, Aeroplan, all use your data to develop marketing strategies. In exchange, you get free stuff. I admit, I love PC Points. I get free chequing and have cashed in literally hundreds upon hundreds of dollars of free groceries. 

If I was truly concerned about my privacy, I wouldn't participate in those types of merchant-reward programs. I would pay everything is cash instead of using credit or debit. But I don't. I accept the trade. 

But somehow Facebook is different. 

Facebook is slick. You like a page? Click on the "like" button. It follows you around as you browse and live your online life, even if you're signed out. I have seen examples of this, and it disturbed me. 

Yes, I like it!
Unlike something like, say, Airmiles, where you have to actively submit your information by handing over your Airmiles card, Facebook collects data on you without you even knowing. And I know they're not the only game in town that does it, but they are very, very good at it. 

Everyone is so excited about Social Media and how powerful it is. It helped power the Arab Spring, and is a driving force behind the Occupy movement. But at the end of the day, it's just something else to be consumed, and to consume us. 

I don't really know how to finish this post. I feel like I have this valuable insight, but not sure how to use it. I find myself on Facebook less and less since coming to these realizations, but can't seem to sever myself completely. It has me thinking, however, about my privacy and my consumption habits, and wondering whether or not I will be consumed. 

I am reminded of the story of Lot, when he is fleeing from Sodom and Gomorrah. The angels tell him: "Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city." (Gen 19:15) Perhaps there is a lesson there. He did flee with this family, and avoided being consumed in the punishment, but his story did not end happily. His wife, disobeying the angel's command, turns to salt. His daughters conceive children fathered by Lot, who went on to found new nations who were the enemies of Israel, and the enemies of God who were ultimately destroyed.


I shudder at what the implications of our consumption may be. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I recently rejoined Facebook. 

Why? At the time, it seemed like a good idea. I've discovered, however, that it's easily as annoying as reality TV. I guess it sort of is reality TV. People put their lives out on display via status updates and photo albums for the world to see.   

One thing I've noticed is many people with their Facebook persona have "the pose" for their avatar. I'm sure you've seen which one I'm referring to.  It's the one obviously taken at arm's length, at about forehead height, pointing downwards. It makes their forehead look really big, and their cheeks and chins impossibly skinny.

What's up with that?  

I mean, not everyone has that picture as their profile pic. Lots of people use pictures of their kids. Some use very nice pictures of themselves. Others, like me, tend to use photos of random objects (that reminds me, time to update my photo...). 

The picture, however, is a reflection of who we portray ourselves to be to the outside world. It's like Facebook is this huge social experiment where we are trying on different identities with our friends and associates.  

I wonder what identity is shown in "the pose"? Who are they, or rather, who are they trying to be? I know the "me" on Facebook is only a small part of who I am, a pithy and cleverly-edited version of myself. ::smiles:: The "random objects" of my avatar are actually elements of my life that are precious to me: the statue from our trip to Regina; a flower from our first camping trip as a family; the stick garden Rachael and I planted as the long winter slowly melted into spring. 

In our larger life, who are trying to be? I wonder if who I portray myself as to others is in fact who I am. Sometimes I wonder if that person is simply who I would rather be.  

So back to "the pose". Who are they trying to be? Should I be concerned that probably 50% of my "friends" on Facebook are all trying to be the same person? I worry about the judgments I make about my friends and family by their profile pictures and their status updates.  What does it say about us a society where we all take pictures of ourselves that make us look slightly like space aliens with sunken cheeks and pointy chins? 

Do we even know for ourselves? 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

He Will Henceforth Be Known As "Baby Go"

We have a son! 

Not that this is new news, he is 2.5 months old already, but I just haven't seem to have to time to complete a post (although I've started several).

Anyway, we have a gorgeous son we named Joseph. Rachael calls him Baby Go, or sometimes Baby Goo. Abby just calls him "Baby". 

Tis all for now! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Unending Penance

Today is Holy Thursday

This day, the first day of the Triduum, is the most powerful day of the liturgical year for me. There is something very powerful about watching the ritual washing of the feet, and the smell of the incense. The loving and reverent way the Eucharist is wrapped in the cope and then proceeds to the altar of repose. The way Mass abruptly ends without dismissal, and the way the tabernacle is left open, showing physical evidence of Christ's departure from us. 

It was a Holy Thursday eight years ago I knew my place was in the Catholic Church, and I never regretted my return. 

In the quiet moments of adoration this evening, I was reminded of my unending penance. Years ago, during Reconcilation (Confession), my penance was simple: I was do thank God every day for something. The confessor placed no limits on how many times I needed to do this. All these years later, I continue to do my penance every day, and will probably continue to do it until the day I draw my last breath. 

My unending penance. I don't even recall what specifically my sins were that I confessed that day, only that it was the first confession I had made in nearly 20 years. And how much that penance has changed my life. 

I contemplated, looking around at the interior of the sanctuary, how connected we are, as Catholics, to the past. The continuity is startling to me at times. I am reminded by something said by the then-Monseigneur Fulton Sheen in a video of the Tridentine Mass: nothing in the Church is thrown away. Everything is build upon, preserved. 

It struck me very much during the singing of the Pange Lingua during the procession: here we are, centuries upon centuries later, singing the same words, the same tune, that our Catholic forbearers sang (it was penned by St. Thomas Aquinas from the 13th century). Many of the words we speak (the Kyrie, for example) date from the day of the early Church. Even our creed in some form or another dates from at least the 4th century. Gazing around the church, you can see the symbols and the elements that have remained with us for 2000 years... Even with the advent of Vatican II during the 1960's, the Catholicity of the Church is still very much intact. 

We are taught that the Church is eternal and unending, at least until the return of Christ. There is a continuity with who we are and where we came from that I find is often lacking in our modern society. 

What does this have to do with my unending penance? Nothing, I suppose, on a very practical level.  It's the just the idea, I suppose, of that eternalness that they both have. Both the continuity of the Church and my unending penance brings me much peace and reminds me of Christ's own faithfulness to us. 

PANGE lingua gloriosi
Corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
quem in mundi pretium
fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit Gentium.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Nearly 12 years ago to the day, I suddenly lost my grandfather, Prosper. Today, his sister Lucy has joined him in Heaven. 

Most of you have never met my Aunty Lucy. Most of you haven't even heard of my Aunty Lucy. But when I was a kid, I figured everyone needed (and had!) an Aunty Lucy. 

I always remember her living in an apartment down the street from my grandparents. I loved visiting her: she exuded a sort of vibrance that was appealing to me. Her closeness and affection for her brother was evident to me even at a young age, and it was one of the most ready examples of sibling relationships that I had growing up. 

She was someone who made me laugh and smile. Although I haven't seen much of her in recent years, I will miss that vibrancy that she brought to our lives and to our family. I will always hold the memories I have of her close to my heart. 

Say hi to Grandpa for me...