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MARTHA SEZ: Facebook is processed junk food for the brain

April 10, 2014
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Facebook is great! I go on Facebook to see photographs of my grandchildren.

Facebook is driving me crazy.

My sister - who is not on Facebook - simply cannot understand my consternation. Why, she wonders, am I filled with bewilderment and dismay every time I see something objectionable on Facebook which I could have anticipated, and avoided?

This is puzzling, even to me.

Along the sides of the screen, advertisements are displayed, in order to entice the unwary away from the messages and photographs posted on Facebook by their Facebook friends. I know it's bet to ignore these would-be seducers, and usually it isn't difficult, but sometimes one will pique my curiosity. A photograph of a bizarre-looking individual will pop up, with the headline "Look at these horrible plastic surgery results of 25 Hollywood Stars!" Or perhaps something more vulgar: "Botched boob jobs of the rich and famous!"

Sensational, in the worst sense of the word. Voyeuristic. Then, when you click on it, you just get an advertisement for an amazing blender or something.

Not that I really wanted to see those pictures anyway.

Other times, out of nowhere, advertisements crop up right on top of the material I'm trying to read. These ads may bounce up and down and flash lights, and loud voices issue forth from my laptop. Often, these voices tell me "No kidding! You're the winner of an amazing prize!" (The word amazing is used constantly in the popular media.) This actually happens. I swear it's not all in my head.

I know there have always been hokey, misleading advertisements. Back in the old days when I used to lie around rotting my brain by reading comic books instead of wasting time on Facebook, there were ads for sea monkeys, and yes, as I recall they were billed as "amazing," as well as "a barrel of fun." Children were gulled into sending off for the sea monkeys, affixing the coins onto an index card with grubby strips of Scotch tape and mailing them to the sea monkey purveyors.

I know people who sent off for sea monkeys and, after waiting for the obligatory four to eight weeks - everything took longer back then - received what they described as brine shrimp. They didn't look like monkeys, and I doubt they were a barrel of fun, but you could just add water and they would come alive. For a while. I learned later that process is called cryptobiosis.

I'm surprised I haven't seen sea monkeys mentioned in those irritating prepackaged sentimental reminiscences that circulate on Facebook.

"Remember the good old days when we sent off for sea monkeys and they turned out to be brine shrimp? And all the adults were always smoking cigarettes and drinking highballs and hitting us with belts! And we turned out just fine!"

I'm also surprised that people my age who remember the sea monkey ruse would continue to fall for such phony stuff.

My daughter tells me that I need a firewall to eliminate pop-up ads. I'm sure she's right.

Even a firewall, however, cannot protect me from the false information circulating around the Internet and shared on Facebook by friends, and friends of friends. It's like processed junk food, and just as ubiquitous.

Recently I read a long treatise, allegedly published by Johns Hopkins University, about cancer. At first it seemed credible enough, but then I started getting the feeling that it wasn't scientific.

"Cancer cells feed on sugar," I read.

"Cancer cells feed on mucus," I read a little further on. Even after I had seen enough to be certain the work was spurious, I couldn't stop. It was driving me crazy.

I went, as I often do, to, for a breath of fresh air. This website is dedicated to exposing urban myths and fraudulent popular "news" circulating on the Internet. Yes, Snopes confirmed, the cancer document is an hoax. I was directed to a point-by-point refutation published by the real Johns Hopkins research university.

People share all kinds of things on Facebook, including political and religious views I don't agree with or like.

My daughter tells me I shouldn't watch scary movies. My sister tells me I shouldn't watch Fox News. They both know that I'm just too sensitive for extreme entertainment.

I'm going to go visit my grandchildren in person and take a mental health break from the Internet for a while. Including Facebook.

Have a good week!



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