Like all good things however, it can also be our worst enemy - like all human inventions and discoveries.
Even love is a commodity – or whatever love is – which can be abused, badly given or badly perceived.
When I was young my parents, or rather my father, decided that the best school for me was the Lyceum. It was an excellent school academically.
After seven years of little me attending St. Joseph’s Convent, where we were terribly coddled – even if also educated properly – moving to a bigger, more inclusive, more diverse school was a huge shock to my system.
My father was a lovely man. A man of principle. A man who loved beyond compare. But, like social media, love too can be counterproductive.
My father loved without boundaries.
One day, when I had just started life in my new school and was trying hard to integrate, my father paid a visit.
He came to the school, unannounced, somehow found where my class was situated, knocked at the door and there he was being ushered in by the teacher.
My father nodded at me, passed on a brown bag, waved his goodbye to me, smiled at the class, thanked the teacher and walked merrily out of the classroom. I was quite proud of his arrival and how he brought into the room his own smiling vibe.
When my father left the classroom, my new classmates realised what was in the bag. One of them close to me poked his fingers into the mystery bag and said: “It’s his lunch. His daddy came to feed him”.
Our teacher looked on. He was a bit puzzled but didn’t intervene or stop the classful of boys laughing away at me.
My father, in his infinite love and dedication, had noticed I had forgotten my lunch at home and so delivered it to spare me from going without.
All of a sudden, a happy son turned into a morose, annoyed schoolboy.
The teacher at last regained composure and got us – or rather the rest of the class – back to his grip and all the laughter stopped. Actually, the laughter was postponed to later.
When we went out of class, and so were unsupervised, the derision grew. The feeling of helplessness was total. I was bullied and made fun of. I had, by now, turned a dark shade of crimson.
However, I had to act. I proceeded to show how macho I was. So I threw away the brown bag, lunch and all. I did it with all the pomp I could muster. I had to show them I was my own man. I laughed while doing this, while feeling horrid.
I proceeded to buy a couple of greasy pastizzi using my few cents – then actually it was pennies – worth of pocket money.
My father meant well. His love was blind. He did not foresee, or imagine it possible, that his love could be turned into something detestable by a few children sitting next to me. My hardened school mates made sure a good deed, a good person, were seen as being despicable.
But who was really to blame for this loving gesture to look horrible? My father who came, or the people around me who thought it was ridiculous and so poked fun at me?
"Social media is, I feel, quite similar: it is never intrinsically wrong. It’s the people who abuse it and poke us into doing wrong things, or make us feel bad about ourselves, who are wrong".
In time I learnt how to appreciate such a gesture as lunch being provided by a doting parent. I also learnt how to deal with such bullying.
What if I hadn’t? What if I was made a fool of and remained the brunt of jokes? What if I never saw the love of a father as love, but became convinced he was the instrument of my torment?
"That is what social media is. A great fount of knowledge, connecting, friend-making. But in its goodness, it can cause infinite suffering".
If you believe that all that happens on Facebook – and anything in the virtual world – is real, that’s thinking like my father that all good things must be good. However well intentioned social media and its role is, it is what we make of it that counts.
"Nothing is totally good or totally bad. How we react, how we interact, is what makes anything meaningful".
Like everything else in life, we need to know how to gauge what is good for us. When to say no, when to realise that the virtual needs tempering.
We need to know when something we like turns into an obsession. And if we cannot stand the heat, we need to keep away from exposing ourselves too much to the furnace or the bonfire.
Furnaces and bonfires are good when used in their rightful place. Placing a hand in or shoving your hair onto the open fire will only cause harm.
"Learning how to avoid toxic people and situations is an important part of life. Managing to disengage from Facebook and all social media is something which can be salutary".
Or, at least if disengaging completely is not possible, we should all be extra careful how or when we comment. An innocuous comment can attract a whole array of answers that turn vicious, personal and harmful.
"Not taking each and every comment from known and unknown people on social media as gospel truth is important for our own peace of mind".
I’ve learnt how to think of my father and appreciate that far off day when he came and passed on my lunch.
It’s exactly like social media - we should all respect it and know its worth, but we must not be a slave to it or change our inner feelings, just because of outside pressure.