Okay, I’m going to just go ahead and say it: Facebook is a popularity contest.
Honestly, I hate the fact that I’m about to blog about Facebook, and should probably just stop there. But it’s on my mind and it’s annoying me and so you get to hear about it (lucky you!). I make no bones about my addiction to social media, be it Facebook, Google+ (join me there!), or Twitter. It’s all on my phone, for crying out loud, and I’ll click on each of those before I read the news most days. But I have noticed some angst-y-ness in relation to Facebook that compares only to high school.
I think high school is the epitome of awkwardness. As Brian has pointed out many times, you end up being “friends” with someone simply by virtue of being locked in a building with them 8 hours a day for 180 days. You’d end up “friends” with someone in a six month long hostage situation, too. Don’t get me wrong – I have many friends I met in high school who continue to be a valuable part of my life to this day. Many of them are reading this blog right now (hi, guys!). But at the same time, that building was full of people who made and continue to make me feel…awkward, for lack of a better term. I can honestly say that I more fully came into my own in the atmosphere of acceptance that college provided, especially given the “we’re all the “different” kids” sort of liberal arts, conservatory-based university from which I graduated. Band Geek was the norm there, and the school flag was a Freak Flag. For me high school, good friends notwithstanding, was a prolonged exercise in pretending to fit in. And failing.
Enter Facebook. Which you have to admit, even if you love it, is High School Part 2. High School, The Sequel. I’d go so far as to say that if you just dearly love Facebook you were also popular in school. If you’re not experiencing some level of Facebook anxiety, you probably were one of the cool kids. And now it’s carried over to adulthood. Suddenly we focus on accumulating “friends”: people we never would have spoken to in school, or more specifically wouldn’t have spoken to us. Granted, it’s very cool to find that people we didn’t know well are so similar and are excellent adult friends. But the constant compulsion to compare ourselves can’t be healthy.
Looking at it from my current outlook, I see babies. Tons of babies. Babies I can’t have. And vacations I can’t afford to take, rooms I don’t have time to paint, concerts I don’t have tickets for. Events I’m not invited to, even if I don’t want to go in the slightest. It almost seems as if everyone is striving to appear perfect in that little status-update world to avoid being honest and real. If we all tell Facebook our lives are awesome, someday it will be true. I hate that I am reluctant to put pictures up on Facebook because I don’t want people to see what I actually look like, and that I’m not honest in what I post. The expectation that we must break important “news” on Facebook before it’s official is mind-boggling. When did our lives, and indeed the value of human interaction, become about a few pixels and characters on a screen? Instead of feeling bad for not sending cards or calling, now we can add feeling bad about not wishing someone happy (facebook) birthday because Everyone Can See!!
Yes, I see the hypocrisy of all this griping from someone who writes on a blog, hoping people will read it. But I’m cool with that. I can be honest here: I didn’t want to work today, I have a migraine and just want to sleep, my two year olds won’t. freaking. stop. talking until they wake the baby. Three of the five noses in this house are running this week and I’m done with it. I should be cleaning at least one bathroom at naptime but instead I’ll probably crochet. I work in jeans and a T-shirt, no makeup and glasses. I have daycare bras because the girls don’t have to look good just for kids. I rock a ponytail more days that not. My door posts have been scratched by a cat, as has my furniture, and my spare room houses a disgruntled kitty because she wouldn’t stop peeing in the living room. I have ants in my kitchen again and because it’s fall we also have gnats. I swept my porch Sunday for the first time all summer. If I don’t soon wash the downstairs window, it’s liable to be impossible to get clean. See? I’m not perfect, and I’m not afraid to admit it. But I’d never want people I haven’t seen or spoken to in 12 years to see all that as a Facebook status. Because they might judge me, heaven forbid.
I don’t have a solution, or a challenge, or whatever. This is just a collection of ramble-y thoughts. I have to wonder, though, at the anxiety and angst that this expectation of perfection and false friendship is affecting us. I painted my door Sunday, and immediately wanted to post pictures of it to Facebook. Why?! So others can see that I accomplished something? I already find myself worrying that when we get a nursery put together for whatever children come our way it won’t measure up to the other nurseries my friends have put together and posted online. Do we really need comments on our status updates to feel validated, and compliments on our pictures to feel pretty or blessed?
So maybe I do have a challenge: figure out who your real friends are. Keep them close via Facebook if you want, but also call, text, email, or chat. Better yet, get together and have actual people-time. Stop making life a popularity contest, stop striving for Facebook acceptance, and be real.