The Secret Lives & Lies of Facebook

This topic has long been on my mind.  Everyone knows what Facebook is of course, and the vast majority of us use it.  Myself included.  I use it for not only my Lenora Howard author page; promoting my books and projects, but I have a personal account too.  We all know it has various uses and is a great way to connect with long lost friends and relatives.  Or so we believe.

My personal view of Facebook is that I’m able to stay connected with the people that I care about, whether or not I talk to them over the phone or in person.  I’ve always felt like my “Likes” or “Comments” on their status’, show that I support them in the things that they’re doing, or that I’m letting them know I’m keeping up with their lives.  At some point it became so commonplace that I decided that this interaction was sufficient for my friendships.  It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve discovered that this limited interaction I’m having with my “friends” leaves me, in fact very NOT involved in their lives at all.

Several instances have brought this to my attention.  Occasionally I decide that I miss the sound of someone’s voice, and I call them up out of the blue.  I only call a select group of people usually,  but sometimes I want to get back into that one on one connection of actual talking with someone.  By doing this, within the past year I’ve discovered that what I saw on Facebook was anything but the reality.  Those happy photos of my friends with their spouses, their family outings, or their constant status updates about their wonderful lives have been nothing but a ruse; a mask if you will that covered their harsh realities.

Not only are several of my friends’ marriages in turmoil, but some are suffering from eating disorders, depression or even poverty.  If go by their Facebooks’ alone, I have no idea what iceberg lies beneath the surface of the water that is Facebook.  After talking to a friend of mine about this today, she made a good point that the majority of us keep our negativity/personal issues out of Facebook because it is so public.  Most people add their acquaintances and coworkers to their friends list giving them the ability to see their posts.  I know when I post something, I stare at the post for a long while, evaluating whether or not I want those select people to see it.

So with that being said, if you only connect with your friends through Facebook, you are only seeing what they want you to see.  Which means that it doesn’t matter how many status updates you “Like”, if they’re suffering in some way.  And with that, I wonder…are you really “friends”?  Can you be friends with someone if you have no idea what’s going on in their life?  Can you call yourself a true friend?  I guess that depends on what you define as friendship, or how much effort you put into your personal relationships.  I know that these sobering discoveries are making me rethink my approach to my relationships.  In fact I’m beginning to feel like a terrible friend.   I can’t think of the last time I actually spoke to the majority of these people, and here I am feeling jilted when I don’t get invited to their weddings.  Why should they?  We haven’t even spoken!

I’m actually a little ashamed now thinking on many occasions where I’ve thought that “Liking” and “Commenting” are enough to sustain a relationship.  We don’t know how much time we have on this Earth before it’s over, and if I knew one of my friends was about to die, you better believe I’d be calling the shit out of them so I could have a few more moments of their time.  I’m sure you would agree.  Then why are we still pretending that a Poke, game request, or Like is enough?  It’s because we all think we have time left, but we really don’t know!

A perfect example of this is a girl I mentioned in a very early blog post here.  I went to high school with a girl who was very kind.  She was the social butterfly of the school, and she never once wronged me while others did.  I spoke to her over the phone several years ago when she came into town.  I hadn’t seen or talked to her since high school and she was eager to reconnect with me.  We talked for many hours that day, and never again after.  I learned about her marriage that wasn’t doing so good and the joy of being a mother.  I then watched her on Facebook doing my usual occasional “Like” to show her that I was still there, participating in her life through the click of a button.

I saw one day that she was getting out of the hospital and had been ill or something.  I had this feeling in my gut that I should call her and check on her.  We hadn’t spoken in years.  I pulled out my phone, found her number still there and went to press the button.  I then stopped and put the phone away.  I decided that it would be weird.  I hadn’t even emailed her since our last phone conversation.  I regret that decision.  She died in a car wreck the very next day.  I often wonder what our last ever conversation would have been about, and although we weren’t close I feel guilty about not even trying to participate in her life.

But where do we draw the line?  It’s considered inappropriate to fill up one’s news feed with negativity, and most very personal subjects are sensitive.  So how do we know what’s going on with other people (the good and the bad) without calling them or reaching out with an email or text?  We can’t, and if we aren’t willing to, then those unwritten subjects are none of our business anyway.  Like my friend Kaitlyn said when I broached this topic.

Me:  Yes, but when one of my friends changes their status from Married to Divorced, I immediately want to know why!

Kaitlyn:  They don’t have to explain a damn thing to you about that subject.  People are always trying to explain their decisions to everyone and they don’t need to.

Me:  I guess, but it’s such a shock!

Kaitlyn:  If you were really their friend you would have already known that their relationship was in trouble.  Because they would have told you already.  It’s not your business if  you didn’t already know.

 

And she’s right!  If we aren’t willing to put the time and effort into our relationships, then we don’t deserve to know any secrets, sadness or accomplishments going on in their lives.  In fact, if we are complacent to not put forth any effort, then we might as well just poke each other and send game requests and call it a day.

I’m not saying get rid of Facebook.  I love Facebook.  I’ve checked it several times while writing this.  But don’t let it be your only outlet of communication.  If you care about someone, and I mean really give a damn.  Prove it.

 

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chris Warner
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 03:32:07

    Facebook is your public face. A sure sign that a “friend” is emotionally unstable is that they have personal, family arguments hashed out in public on on Facebook. In that respect, Facebook is no different from a PTA meeting or a family greeting card.

    You would cringe and shy away if a friend complained about their cheating husband in a public forum, or sent out a family greeting card to you and fifty other people that was filled with complaints about life and how terrible people are. Facebook is a public space. When someone asks how you’re doing sitting on your couch in your living room, you tell them. When someone asks you how you are doing when you run across them at the mall the answer is “great!” especially if it isn’t true.

    Reply

  2. lenorahoward
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 12:01:00

    Yes, and I have friends that like to use Facebook as a place to air their dirty laundry. It’s usually pretty inappropriate and embarrassing.

    My point is that people are forgetting that Facebook isn’t meant to be our only means of communicating and are not interacting with each other the way we used to. I know lots people who ONLY talk through Facebook with the majority of their friends. It’s sad to me.

    Reply

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