Not Suitable For Facebook

Real 3

I recently posted a picture of myself and the beau on Facebook from my birthday weekend. It showed our smiling faces at a beautiful beach. Happy, happy!  Everyone posts pictures like this on Facebook. Everyone looks good on Facebook. I feel bad that I am contributing to the un-real-ness of it all.

I use Facebook mostly to stay in touch with old friends. I mostly don’t know the real life stories that are going on with my old friends, but seeing their updates makes me feel like I am in touch with them. Truthfully, I don’t have time to stay in closer touch with each of these old friends, but I do genuinely wish I knew more of the real stuff going on in their lives.

No one posts pictures of their bad days, or bad relationships, or bad hair but knowing about those things is part of how we create connection. I am not advocating for public complaining or over-sharing, but I am starting to wonder if having happy, happy Facebook friendships with old friends is healthy.

Is this something you think about? Do you consider whether looking at Facebook makes you feel good? Does posting only your best photos make you feel safely invisible, but sort of unseen? Or am I over-thinking all of this?

In the spirit of being “real,” I will share a story which is not suitable for Facebook. Sorry, I don’t have any pictures to go with it.

Here is the real story behind the happy, happy Facebook photo of me and the beau at the beach…this year, I did have a very happy birthday, but for the previous two years, the beau has not made a big deal out of my birthday. Birthdays have never been important to him and he didn’t realize it mattered to me as much as it does. In fact, he was out of town on my birthday both years. It just worked out this way. And this upset me greatly. I don’t think the beau will mind my sharing this story, because anyone who knows me (outside of my happy, happy persona on Facebook) has heard me complain loudly about feeling neglected by the beau on my birthday the last two years.

After much discussion, an embarrassing confession that I really do want special treatment on my birthday, and some tears, the beau got the message. He is really good at hanging in there through the mess so we can get to the other side. Getting through difficulty is what creates deeper intimacy in any relationship. So this year, he outdid himself with a very thoughtful and sweet birthday celebration for me – and, of course, I shared it on Facebook – because I was all happy, happy!

The thing is, I want relationships filled with the good and the bad. I don’t want just happy, happy Facebook friendships. I want to be close enough to the people in my life to share the good times, as well as the bad times, or even my embarrassing, childish need to feel special. Intimacy and connection are all about taking the risk of being seen. Saying the hard stuff. Not keeping yourself safely invisible. Owning who you really are. Is there a way to do this on Facebook?

If spending time on Facebook is not building real friendships, why do it? Several friends have closed their Facebook accounts lately, so I would really like to hear what you think.

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  1. Carolyn says:

    I think you are overthinking it Annie. Even though we do not communicate much if at all any more, our friendship was once a big part of my life. I enjoy seeing how you and the kids are doing even if it is just superficial stuff without needing to make a “comment”. This way no worries of what I am thinking. I always wish you and the kids well.

    1. annie kip says:

      Feel free to make a comment anytime, Carolyn – here or on FB! I always enjoy hearing from you and wish we could be in closer touch.

  2. Jean Owen says:

    For me, FB is a way of seeing what my grandaughters are doing

    1. annie kip says:

      It is fun to see all of the pictures!

  3. Stephen says:

    Great post, Annie. As my FB friends know, I’m a very active FB user, and I have a different perspective. For me, FB is a tether that helps me maintain some connection to friends and family with whom I would otherwise not, whether it be because we are geographically distant, at different stages in our lives, or just too busy. Having that tether via FB means that when life brings me back in contact with people in “real life”, the tone of the conversations is always markedly different. It’s not “How have you been?” or “What are you up to?” It’s, “Wow, I can’t get over how big your boys are.” or “Looks like you had a busy summer.” We get past the pleasantries faster and into more substantive discussions sooner. That’s something I appreciate greatly.

    Yes, we do carefully curate our online lives, and leave out the unsuitable parts. When I have a setback at work or an argument at home, those won’t be going into my posts. But, I don’t believe for a minute that others think those things don’t happen to me. But, even in real life, unless you’re very close to me, I am not likely to tell you those things either. My mom always used to tell me, “Everyone has problems, so they don’t want to hear about yours.” Is there a real difference between putting on a smile after a bad day to head to your friend’s party and posting only when you have good news to share? Aren’t you hiding something in both cases?

    So, I don’t think one should over think FB. It’s a new social situation we’re still getting used to, but many of the same rules we’ve always lived by apply. If there’s one meaningful difference, I think it might be that the image we project on FB is usually the same regardless of the person on the other end. In “real life” you can project one version of yourself to your family, another to friends, another to your coworkers, and another to strangers. FB power users may attempt to do the same online, but most of us don’t. That’s interesting to me — and maybe a little unnerving. But, maybe it’s a bit more honest, in a way? “Worlds are colliding!”

    1. annie kip says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Stephen! You so eloquently describe what is truly good and valuable about FB! I think you are right – putting on a happy face and not making as much of a big deal about problems is what we do in real life. Your posts are fun to read and they have a real-ness to them that is refreshing. I notice that you do share some of the humorous ups and downs of everyday life – which everyone can relate to! You are right – FB is a just new form of socializing and we all have to figure out how we want to use it. Thank you for sharing your experience and helping put it all into perspective!

  4. Rita says:

    I have really mixed feelings about FB. I appreciate reconnecting with old friends there, even if the connection isn’t as deep as I would like. I think I tend not to post bad/hard stuff because not all of my “friends” are those I would share that stuff with IRL. I’ve got some stuff going on this week that I wanted to post about–’cause I could use some support!–but didn’t want to divulge all of it. I hate the cryptic posts others sometimes share, but found myself wanting to post one of those. So, I didn’t share any of it.

    I think the key is to be clear with ourselves about what FB is and isn’t. For me, it’s light, fun, entertaining. It’s often a source of good information I’m glad I came across. (Honestly, I appreciate the articles my friends link to as much as their status updates. Maybe more?) That’s about it, though.

    1. annie kip says:

      I dont like the cryptic “pray for me” or “could use your thoughts this week” kind of posts either – but then again, that is one way I know to get in touch with someone. Otherwise, I wouldnt have any idea that things might be tough for them. I also agree that FB is a good way to share and get info – sort of a curated newspaper based on shared history and interests!

  5. Stacey child says:

    The good the bad an the ugly is what makes any relationship genuine. Love it!

    1. annie kip says:

      Thanks for commenting, Stacey! My impulse is usually to go hide under a rock when my life is not “suitable for Facebook” but when I do a let myself be seen by a friend who is equally willing to share their good and bad times, it is so uplifting and affirming. Glad you know what I mean!!!

  6. Sarah says:

    You just described in detail my thoughts about FB as I recently deactivated.

    1. annie kip says:

      Interesting – do you feel good, bad, indifferent now? Do you keep in touch with old friends in a different way?

  7. Pam says:

    Annie- I constantly assess my motives for “checking”or “posting”on Facebook–but articles like yours are what keep me hanging in there. You are a Gem. Xo Pam

    1. annie kip says:

      Thanks, Pam! I think keeping an eye on our own motives is a really good idea. Facebook isn’t a bad thing – but feeling bad about not having a Facebook-friendly life isn’t productive!

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