My husband hates Facebook.
I mean...seriously. He hates it. He doesn't have a Facebook page, but he hates it. He doesn't see why you'd want to share all your personal, private stuff with a bunch of people who are only "friends," not really friends. He doesn't know why anyone would care what someone else had for breakfast.
Since he doesn't have a Facebook page, he also doesn't know what people actually DO on Facebook.
Every time he sees me on Facebook he gets annoyed.
Which sometimes makes me defensive because it's not like he's the boss of me, and if I want to putz around on Facebook it's really not his choice, right? And it’s not like I spend hours and hours on Facebook. Just some time, usually when I’m on my phone and we’re just hanging out, doing nothing.
Sometimes it just makes me think about why I like having a FB page and putzing around on it. In fact, he asked me that just a few nights ago, I think out of sincerity and not annoyance: why do you like Facebook? After I thought about it I decided:
it's like having friends.
Which sounds like I'm the most pathetic person ever, so let me explain. Because really: I do have friends. Good friends whom I cherish.
But I've never been one of those people who has tons and tons of friends. I'm OK with that, as I would rather have the handful of authentic friends I have then a bazillion casual relationships. But sometimes, I confess, I wish I had more friends. And when you're scrolling through Facebook, reading bits and pieces of other people's lives—people you know, however remotely—it feels a little bit like hanging out with a whole bunch of friends.
I enjoy that feeling, even while I’m simultaneously understanding that it’s not 100% authentic. We create an image of ourselves on Facebook, using the words, images, links, likes, and discussions we put out there. It’s not dishonest, just not the whole picture.
A couple of months ago, an old friend from high school found me on Facebook and sent me a friend request. We chatted briefly when I accepted it, and then here and there, started liking some of the other's statuses. Getting to know a little bit about the life of a person we used to know, years ago.
We've chatted a couple of times since then, and the last time he said something like "it seems like you are happy" and then I got sort of defensive. Calling my life happy seemed like a sort of...flattening of it. Because yeah: I’m happy. But I’m many other things, too.
And then I thought some more about Facebook, and why I use it. (USE it? Am I, like Kendell hints, an actual Facebook addict? Do I use it in a way that makes me not have to deal with real life? I don't know.)
I spent some time, in fact, reading through my status updates for all of 2014, so I could maybe see the image I’ve created of myself there. I discover I post a lot about running, reading, and gardening. Quilting when I am actively quilting. Some little bits about scrapbooking. I post lots of flower pics, and some of my kids (I try to keep a good balance of this, because I don't want to post things they would be embarrassed to share), and some of weather. (WEATHER! How boring am I?) I also, despite protesting to Kendell that no one really posts about what they had for breakfast, share quite a few foodie details. I post about some of my adventures; this year they've included the bear den, hiking, Ragnar, my trip to Cabo, my trip to Yosemite.
And, you know: my friend from high school is right. If all you knew about me was my Facebook statuses, you probably would think I was flatly happy. Because I don't ever post the whole truth. Probably no one does, right? Like...take that trip to Cabo. The pictures and the status updates make it look like, ah, fabulous! Peaceful beachy happy time with family, right? Swimming in the surf, relaxing by the pool, running on the beach. My motivation for sharing was to, literally, share. Because it was beautiful and fun and good. And plus there's the fact that I don't, in my usual Amy life, do stuff like that.
But what I didn't ever post about was how much I felt like a cuckoo bird. Like I didn't quite fit in the nest my mom and sister have made. The argument my mom and I had over what words you can use to call other people and how it left my feeling defensive and on edge and like she’ll never be able to see me as who I really am. The lingering feeling that I am the bad sister, the disappointing daughter who almost made the right choices but not quite. The thing that someone said to me that made me feel small and insignificant. Or that I felt guilty for spending not a small amount of money on myself, and for enjoying the time away from motherhood and wifehood so thoroughly. The complicated emotion of enjoying the vacation but also feeling like I was intruding on my sister’s good will.
Who would post that on Facebook?
Because it’s not a space where you really, really trust people, is it? Your real friends are there, but also your best friend from elementary school who turned popular in middle school and left you behind. (Why am I Facebook friends with her?) The wife of your husband’s coworker, who from every angle (body, but also personality and relationship skills and career and homemaker and mother) seems perfect and so makes you feel intimidated. The old childhood friend whose 200-mile running weeks make your 50-mile weeks look pathetic. Girls from high school who you don’t even really like and have nothing in common with other than you went to high school together, and you’re not even sure if you clicked “like” on one of their posts if she’d know who you were.
We want the people who used to know us to think we turned out successfully (or at the very least normal). We want our family members to think we have it all together and never fight with our spouses. We want our co-workers to think we’re intelligent, our kids to think we’re cool, our neighbors to think we cook perfect dinners and keep our house perfectly clean. We don’t want to confess that the fact that the girl who used to be our fifth-grade best friend is now married to a doctor, fabulously wealthy, and obviously really—no, really—happy makes us green with jealousy, so we like posts and post smileys and keep our ugliness hidden.
We try to make our lives look beautiful.
(Or, at least: I do.)
Maybe Kendell’s right.
Except I still like Facebook. I like seeing how old friends from high school turned out, and getting to know (some of them) better. I like being exposed to other people’s ideas and opinions. And, if I’m thoroughly, painfully honest, I like feeling like I’m a part of something, even though I know it’s mostly illusion.
The same day that Kendell asked me why I like Facebook, I read an article somewhere about a guy who did a Facebook experiment. He decided to like everything that came up on his page, just to see what happened, and then end result was that he didn’t like his Facebook page anymore. I thought his conclusion was sort of obvious—if you are clicking Like on things you don’t actually like, what do you think will happen?—but it made me think about carrying out my own, more subtle Facebook experiment: being more real. Being more myself. Posting fragments of poems I like just because I like them (instead of worrying that people will think I’m weird or, even worse, highbrow). Making references to movies and songs no one else remembers or cares about. (“That’s because you don’t own a Prada backpack.”) Letting some of the tarnish show.
Not because I care what people think. Actually…yes, I do. If I’m going to spend time on Facebook, I want it to be authentic. And I have never been someone who only shows the shiny bits. I try to be honest, and to tell the whole story, and I think it’s time to be that person not only on my blog (which almost no one reads anymore anyway), but among the Facebook “friends” I’ve accumulated. In the hopes of perhaps making more of them actual, real friends, who know that I am happy but also depressed sometimes, worried about my kids, frustrated with my husband, ashamed of where I live and of some of my life choices, disappointed at how I turned out, jealous of other people’s happiness. That I’m human, but they love me anyway.
How do YOU feel about Facebook?