I had this super young, pretty and incredibly intelligent teacher at secondary school, and when I left a few years back, I added her on Facebook. Over the years, I saw her life unfold through my mini-feed. She moved to America, went to film school in San Francisco, eloped and married a gorgeous American guy on a beach, worked for an awesome charity, moved back to the UK, bought a house, renovated it, had a baby boy… and I just sat and watched her live out my dreams, wishing that I could have a life half as amazing as hers.
One day it struck me that: I had been comparing my day-to-day life to the best moments of hers. Status updates sharing the extraordinary. Photo albums compiled of carefully selected visual records of memories. And instead of being out there in the world, making and capturing my own memories, I was living vicariously through other peoples’ mini-feeds. This upset me enormously. I decided that I wanted to get out and actually live my life.
It is incredible how much of a reference point Facebook has become in my life. I spend so much time on there, yet in reality the people I spend the most time with and are closest to, I hardly interact with on Facebook – ‘I spend so much time on there’, as if Facebook is a place where I go; a reality.
My account has become a mish mash of people from primary and secondary school, and a whole load of people I want to be friends with but do not have the courage to speak to in person. A friend of mine recently did a ‘Facebook cull’ and removed all the people on his ‘friends’ list that he probably would not speak to ever again. He said that is was so cathartic. I tried to do it, but each time my cursor hovered over the ‘remove friend’ link I thought ‘but what if I need to get in touch with this person again?’ Perhaps some people are not in your life for a reason and that Facebook just drags out connections with people that should naturally be dead? Like a kind of relationship limbo?
This thought provoking article on the pathology of Facebook and Twitter: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/22/social-networking-cyber-scepticism-twitter
touches on the irony of the illusion that social networking increases our communication when it can be seen to decrease our social skills and isolate us to an empty room and a computer screen.
“Turkle’s thesis is simple: technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world.”
What kind of reality are we signing in to? And what are we denying ourselves when we do?
A couple of months back, I met a guy. However, before actually going on the first date, I had totally Facebook stalked him. On the actual date, I realised how much excitement and interest I missed out on by denying myself the process of getting to know someone in person by finding out all the ‘facts’ instantly though mutual friends, his education information, networks and observing his ‘liked’ interests. As a friend put it, I had cheated. Getting to know someone is one of the most basic social interactions and there I was employing Facebook to do it for me; robbing me of the joy of discovering a shared interest, a mutual friend, a hobby, a person’s history.