No Facebook for me
February 12, 2011
I don’t have a Facebook page. I have an anonymous blog. I have a personal Web site for my artistic portfolio. But I don’t poke, write on Walls or “friend” people online. And I get a lot of flack for this choice.
“I wish you had Facebook so we could share photos of our children with each other,” one remote friend tells me. “I don’t want to write everything on my Facebook Wall and then have to repeat it to you in person,” says another. “I can’t believe you don’t have a Facebook account,” gasps almost every new person I meet. “What’s wrong with you?!”
I finally got the hang of texting. For the longest time, I called friends for brief chats. But then, once I had a baby, I learned to thumb my words silently into an iPhone so that my daughter could simultaneously breastfeed undisturbed. This has allowed me to share tidbits of information with my chums during the day when I’m all but overwhelmed by everything baby.
But texting hasn’t taken the place of in-person social intercourse. I still see my girlfriends and their babies two or three times per week. I still pop into my office and interact with coworkers once a week. I still call my mom and brothers to check in every once in a while, even though the basic nuts and bolts of my existence can fit into a text. And I still make a point to sit down and write my remote friends 2,000-word emails, or settle in for a lengthy phone chat, from time to time because I want to know more – experience more – than just a Wall can hold. I want real friends not Facebook “friends.” And besides…there isn’t that much information to text. If texting were what I’d put on my Wall, broadcast for the world to see, then my Wall would be the size of one side of a bread box: itty, bitty, teeny, tiny…impersonal, cold and useless to humanity.
If future humankind looks back to early 21st Century and reads Facebook in order to learn what life was like, what would they conclude about us? For one thing, we watch and talk about television, a lot! We swear often. We’re obsessed with our social status: married, single, divorced, etc. We feel the need to comment on the most mundane shit. Sure, some of us rarely post…when we do, it’s about the big stuff: travel, our kids’ firsts, life-changing events and other important things. But the minutia on Facebook comes from people with a reality show mentality: the crowd that treats Facebook like their personal entourage or audience and feels the need to announce their farts. And that’s just the posters. The readers are a whole other breed. Who wants to know about farts? Apparently somebody does…because there’s always somebody to comment. (I predict that some day, a great number of self-absorbed people will be diagnosed with SND: Social Networking Disorder.)
How do I know this? My husband has a Facebook page. He posts information or pictures of Ellie once or twice a month, but he reads his News Feed almost every day. And in doing so, he learns more about his “friends” than I do about my friends who are posters but who don’t want to spend time repeating what they’ve already exposed to their Facebook network. (I dare say this has cost me a relationship or two.)
Facebook hosts a type of social interaction that has no rules; or perhaps has some rules that nobody can agree upon. For instance, we’ll never agree to what information should constitute a Wall post. For the active posters, one rule is READ ALL MY SHIT, BUT DON’T DRAW CONCLUSIONS ABOUT MY LIFE. I had a friend who used to always post things like “went out and got hammered last night” and “still hung over today” and “got really drunk at lunch” etc. but would then get mad if you expressed concern in person about her drinking habits. Another posted information about her pregnancy, but then got upset when someone asked a clarifying question about the pregnancy citing the question as “too personal.” Doesn’t posting personal stuff mean that it’s fair game for readers to think about it and even post about it as they will? Apparently not.
Another rule: DON”T GET UPSET IF I TELL YOU ONE THING IN PERSON AND WRITE ANOTHER THING ON MY WALL. One friend is always making and then breaking plans explaining “I have no money.” But then she’ll post comments about going out with other friends in place of our planned/unplanned outing or spending gobs of money on ridiculous crap. How am I not supposed to take that personally? And back to the first rule: how am I not supposed to draw a conclusion that she’s an idiot when it comes to money? This isn’t the separation of church and state. If your real-life friends and your Facebook “friends” travel in the same (Web) domains, then you better keep your story straight.
Rule three: GIVE YOURSELF A VIRTUAL MAKEOVER. That means you should feel free to embellish, or even lie, about what’s really going on in your life. There’s a movie about this: Catfish. It’s one of the great human tragedies of our time. Here’s the problem: if you lie online, you might eventually get caught, especially if any of your myriad “friends” (all 500-1,000 of them) meet you in person. While you might get away with Photoshopping your zits away, substituting a fashion model’s photo for your own doesn’t make you look pretty…it makes you look sad. Facebook was founded on a frat boy mentality that lining up and comparing girls to one another is a fun way to pass the time. And it still happens today, because – if you’re public – anybody can see your main Facebook image. Google yourself and see.
As far as I can tell, Facebook isn’t a healthy place for someone as insecure as me. I’d be one of those constant posters, I’m afraid. I’d put useless information out there about my comings and goings and even my moods…and wait for “friends” to comment. “Femspotter is sad today.” Let the condolences roll in. I’d be looking at my measly tally of 200 “friends” and feeling embarrassed that I don’t have as many as others. I’d be reading News Feeds and thinking that everybody’s ambiguous posts were somehow criticisms of me. I’d be virtually dropping 15 lbs. off a picture of my prettiest self so that far away “friends” could stew in envy over my svelte figure. And I’d be sucked in…and eventually decide that there really is no difference between my Wall and a private conversation between friends, because Facebook holds my own reality television audience and EVERYBODY wants to know EVERY detail about ME…and afterall, there are rules, aren’t there?
When I explain to some people why I’m not on Facebook – “because I’m really insecure and afraid of the high school-like vacuum therein” – I get varied reactions: eye rolls, indifferent nods, the token “do what you gotta do” response, etc. But I don’t think people really understand how I’m saving myself from a world of pain. It’s hard enough trying to like the person I am without thinking about a new medium in which to impress people. It’s hard enough accepting my flaws without broadcasting them. And it’s certainly difficult to discern who my real friends are already. I can’t deal with another means for us to misunderstand each other.
I’ll stick to words in person over coffee. (People still speak in complete sentences, don’t they?)
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