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.