Something has been bothering me lately about Facebook. Or should I say, about how perceptions operate on Facebook because actually Facebook bothers me on so many levels that it is amazing I still use it. I use it because I seek to connect, because it is a piece of armor against isolation.
And so I, like many, put up with all the things I hate about Facebook for this one reason. Connection. I know that I would most probably dislike Mark Zuckerberg. I know that when I post political content I am preaching to the choir. I know that my personal information is being mined for marketing purposes. I know this and yet I continue to indulge in those idiotic quizzes, and offer up my personal data just so I can find out which poet I was in a past life. And in my most imaginative (or paranoid, take your pick) moments, I suspect that ultimately all those little memes about myself are fodder for a soulless data harvesting machine that will teach AI how to mimic human beings and devalue one another.
All of that is par for the course if you choose to remain on Facebook. And especially as a single person with friends abroad, I connect with people through this medium that I would never have the opportunity to connect with any other way. Facebook feeds off my desire for connection, and for now I am willing for it to do so. I’ll come off soon, I say to myself. But here I am posting this blog on Facebook. So if I’m still here, it’s time for me to talk about it. What is bothering me? I think it is how, even though we know better, we continue to take the lives of others at face value. We fall for the hype. And I am wondering how much real connection is happening here.
When I admitted to someone lately that I was struggling with depression, her response was “Oh but you look so happy!” When someone sent me a link about romance and I responded saying that romance was not in the cards for me, her response was “But you look so vibrant!”
A person’s FB profile can tell you some useful things about a person. It can tell you about their position on gay rights, for example, or who they are likely to vote for in the next election. But it does a pretty bad job of showing who we really. It is no coincidence that some of the most authentic people I know wouldn’t touch Facebook with a barge pole. I struggle with depression on a daily basis but I rarely post about it. This doesn’t mean that I never feel happiness or that every post where I’m smiling is a lie. It just means there is a lot more going on. Those who know me well, know this. Facebook knows it now. I guess next time I get asked what poet I most resemble, the algorithm will offer up Sylvia Plath.
Maybe we can try to pay a little more attention to the expressions in between the smiles and the silences in between the words. The gaps between the posts. Because those are the places where the possibility for true connection lies. It is such an easy to mistake to believe that others are the image they present to the world. And it becomes a deeper problem if we begin to believe our own projections. So if the reason we use Facebook is for more real connection, in maintaining a tightly edited “best of” narrative of our lives, we are actually ensuring the opposite. This is not, as one friend pointed out, about posting all our personal aches and pains for all to see. It isn’t about what we post at all. It is about stretching ourselves to see the posts that are not there, and past the ones that are.
Well said Rebecca and I mostly agree with you. Bye the way, FaceBook with about 6,000 employees, is only 10 blocks down my street, Willow Road in Menlo Park, California.
Ahh well it is how you use it, of course. I remember your street! Nice to hear from you my friend. Be well.