I will be the first to admit I spend more time on Facebook than I should. I’m not completely addicted or have 1 million apps like some people I know, but I do check it no less than 5 times a day. One of my employees isn’t signed up on Facebook & I constantly warn her away with a straight face.
Part of the reason is because, yes, I’m obsessed with my Facebook but also because simply, Facebook makes life weird. That’s the long & the short of it. Facebook, & I’m sure other social media, basically reduces you down to numbers, options & a virtual trail of clicks & Wall stories.
I mean, some things on Facebook are capable of it’s own limited poetry, like a coy status update or what someone might write in their info section. For instance, when my friend Courtney’s mother passed away, she wrote in her “About Me” section one sentence: I’ll never stop missing my mom.
But, what I’ve noticed is that virtual acts in Facebook often have strange repercussions in the real world. The term “friend” has become this loaded word, a phrase that includes indifference, a desire to be recognized, exclusivity.
I’m “friends” with people I hardly talk to, simply because we knew each other at some point in time. I’m “friends” with a few of my former professors, which automatically makes me re-think anything I post so I don’t embarrass myself. I’m “friends” with my mother, who would consider it the epitome of rejection if she wasn’t included. Which I can understand; I’ve been “unfriended” by people I never talked to & still thought “Why did they do that? What happened?”
Or maybe this story would better illustrate my point: My husband Kurt originally got a Facebook account awhile back & didn’t tell me. He wasn’t being deceptive or sneaky; he wanted to see what was taking up so much of my time. He wasn’t impressed & intended to get rid of the account when a couple of our mutual friends found him & “friended” him. In fact, that was how I found out; I read a notice on my friend Erin’s Wall.
I was so hurt & upset because I felt at the time that Kurt was setting up his own virtual identity & I wasn’t a part of it. The term “friend” reared it’s ugly ambiguous head & I became incredibly jealous. That one little term made me blind to everything else: home-cooked meals, watching The Wire together, kissing on the Key Bridge suspended over the DC/VA border, our conversations in psuedo-Dutch.
It’s stupid now, but at the time the slight was very real, very immediate. These are my connections; you are not one of them. Of course, Facebook can never replace the real thing. It can’t give me what I feel when I watch Kurt nap on the couch, long eyelashes on his cheek & toes peeking out of his holey socks.
Time may also heal all wounds, but Facebook certainly plays on them. Every time I login, my father’s name & picture pop up in the “Suggestions” sidebar. I’m currently estranged from him while my sisters, who have “friended” him, are not. My pulse beats a little faster each time I see his name, remembering all that is between us.
It’s an ironic moment, something that makes me laugh & groan at the same time. Facebook–the great mediator. “If only we were Facebook friends, all our problems would be solved. Or at least I could make it a point to ignore you in cyberspace as well.”
The other wrinkle in this family Facebook drama is that I have a sister I’ve yet to meet. I can punch in her name & find 5 different people who are about the right age & description. I can glance at the profiles of strangers & think, “Are you my sister? Are you? Are you?” & wonder what that really means. To have access to someone at the click of a button, to make that connection & have no idea who that person is truly.
Or maybe that’s the trick. Maybe all Facebook profiles really reveal about us is how little we think we know about each other & ourselves.