“Facebook is my life” would not be a true statement but it would not be far off.
People, communication, sharing, interaction…these things really matter to me and if the people in your life account for anything, I am a wealthy woman. My friendship circle is made up of a collection of individuals gathered over a 50 year lifespan: from school friends to people I shared my misspent youth alongside to several of my children’s school teachers and the pastor of the church (I do not attend) across the street and there is just no other way to enjoy them together…or maybe, in a few cases, to enjoy them at all. A dinner party with any random group of ten of them could be disastrous but online I get to visit and share any number of them at once.
On Facebook I have instant access to hundreds of friend’s thoughts and celebrations, complaints and victories, gripes and brags and I respond or ignore as it suits me in the moment. I scroll past the political rants that feel off kilter to me and I chime in when the sentiment resonates. I employ the same code of conduct online as off (criticism is ugly and correction is arrogant and unacceptable) and thus it feels like a more comfortable world that I have better control of than any I experience in person. It is harder, by far, to master ignoring the obnoxious or ignorant viewpoint of someone you otherwise like when you are face to face. Staring back blankly at your friend, the gifted diagnostician that is your F.N.P. at the doctor’s office, while she explains her reasoning for supporting Donald Trump…damn, that’s hard, but using my computer mouse to scroll past her post, easy-peasy.
I’m not delusional. I know that my own “viewership” of my friends online receive me through their own filter and thus, not necessarily as I intend them to. There can be something lost in expressing yourself through typed words and not in person. The viewers have to interpret my posts as they see them just as I interpret theirs and I’m simply buffering myself from the likelihood that the reader is potentially misconstruing my message by the distance of the Ethernet between us. I am willing to accept that: it’s pretty painless.
Sure, there is the fair cliché complaint about many Facebook users, some of my own “friends” fall into the category of posers who post rosy colored bullshit about their lives but I see it for exactly what it is and it costs me nothing to indulge them in that…unlike if they were in my actual living room rather than my virtual one as the self control it takes to stifle the full body eye roll can leave one exhausted and we are back to the magic that is the scroll feature on the computer mouse. By the same token, my friends have to tolerate my “no filter” style of showing my life, warts and all. An older friend recently complained to me about an article I linked regarding menstruation: “is NOTHING private anymore? Must everything be discussed these days?” And I responded: “Little is private or sacred to ME and you do have the ability to scroll past it if you don’t like it.”
See, I think openness makes the world a better place. I think secrets and shame and the notion of “private” contribute to the world being a lonely place, lonelier by far than me sitting at home at my computer. I grew up in the era of whispering the words “cancer” and “depression” because they were too grim a reality for genteel people to handle and I never liked that. Facebook has given millions of people a platform to blow the doors off that crap and it probably only offends facebook users who still religiously read Peggy Post in the newspaper…(not that an etiquette columnist and paper news aren’t relevant! 😉
Perhaps we have swapped one world of fakery for another but my hat’s off to the mom who posted about her son’s suicide and the dad who openly grieved the loss of the baby his girlfriend was carrying and the sister who shared feelings of helplessness when her brother came home from Iraq with crippling P.T.S.D. If the price I have to pay for that unvarnished honesty and a window into the authentic lives of real people with real emotions is that I endure one more super mom post about her charming theme snack delivered to her kid’s preschool class in an effort to validate her overblown sense of perfectionism, then so be it.
Sitting at my computer, at home alone while the kids are at school and my husband is at work, I am in control of friendships and interactions, and to some degree, my life, in a way that when I leave my desk, I accept I never am. It’s my world, and I like it.