“Everything is perfect.” In speaking with a friend who recently gave up Facebook, she cited this as the reason. That seemingly every post by every person she follows is filled with status updates that say, “My life is better than yours.”
“It’s complete bullshit.” She said. “Nobody’s life is always perfect. Yet when you visit someone’s Facebook page, you’d think they were in competition to ‘out-perfect’ everyone else.”
I don’t disagree. Facebook is a platform that lets you project your life within the communities you belong. Unfortunately, all communities are subject to certain politics. Take social hierarchy for example. Status is a pretty big thing that exists in our real life communities, and online. At their very foundation, deep beneath all the whistles and bells, all social platforms, like Facebook, are based on one concept – connectivity. Humans want to connect. Need to connect. And so thanks to Facebook, we’ve been able to ‘connect’ at hyper speed. This also means reconnecting. Which explains why you’re Facebook friends with that girl from High School who you never liked before, and who you like even less now because of how she has this ‘perfect’ little life to go along with her ‘perfect’ little past and her ‘perfect’ new boobs. You hate her. And, despite the benefits of connectivity, you can’t get past how social media feels like an ego showroom. The Guy showing off his new Corvette. Friends who all take perfect vacations. The six months of blather leading up to the perfect fucking wedding. It’s all just perfect. And it’s all done to work the social hierarchy.
Except – it’s like this: Life isn’t perfect. In fact, it’s terribly flawed. Wrought with pitfalls and adventures; twists and turns. And very few of these things take place in Candyland. No, the closest thing to perfection that we will ever know is simply being happy in any given moment. Yes, sometimes we are. Hopefully a lot more often than not. And we share that. But to follow some people, you’d think they were a gumdrop sliding around a colorful board. As it turns out, Facebook is a great revealer of character. Those who consistently project perfection almost certainly lack self esteem.
“So you quit Facebook, then? Because of this?” I asked my friend.
“But all this stuff – this politicking and social jokeying – it’s not Facebook’s fault. It’s the people using it. And it’s nothing new. People are weird. They don’t even know they’re doing it.” I said.
“But perfect? Come on. It’s sickening. I can’t keep up with that.” She said.
“You mean you can’t keep up with their idea of perfect?” I asked.
“Yes. And I don’t want to have to worry about who ‘likes’ my pictures or status updates.” She added.
There was a long pause. I looked up at the sky and said something about weather.
“So, Jim, how was your trip to The Bahamas last week?” She asked me with a raised brow.
I hesitated to answer.
This image above is an ad I created for our daughter’s school’s yearbook. A different ad ran, obviously. It is a Montessori school, after all. But we all got a laugh out of this.
“The bed’s made, but there’re no sheets on.” – John Mellencamp, Case 795
3 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Jul 25, 2012
Jim, I’ve been thinking about this post for days now – very well written and really thought-provoking. I never thought of the subject this way, honestly.
Sure, it makes me feel good to know that people think my beach pictures are great, but that’s not why I only post things that would be thought of as perfection or anything for others to try and keep up with. I don’t post things that would be perceived as overly sad, imperfect, or negative for several reasons. One is that I don’t like complaining, and to post something about how I received bad service at a restaurant or how my checking account is almost at zero (which both happen quite often) just seems inappropriate, unnecessary, and certainly wouldn’t add anything to anyone’s day. It’s just not who I am. And while some really sad things happen to me, I don’t want people to feel obligated to post “I’m so sorry” and the like as they offer support, condolences, etc. For example, I haven’t yet posted anything about putting my mom in an assisted living / memory care facility. It’s just not something that needs to be discussed or commented on via Facebook, in my opinion, especially when I’m nowhere near finished dealing with it emotionally or mentally. My friends that don’t live here or who don’t know the scoop would feel awkward. And my separation with Troy was pretty awful, pretty far from perfect, and just not Facebook worthy, frankly. So nothing there, either.
I think of Facebook as a way to stay connected (on the surface – let’s be honest, there’s not much depth in Facebook world) with lots of joyful events in people’s lives. I don’t use it to make deep meaningful connections. I use it to gather information that matters to me about people who matter to me. It’s like the wall in my dining room. I put things on it that make me happy. Pictures of my family that evoke joy. Pieces of found art, a giant wooden star, and various other things that make me smile. I wouldn’t want to nail anything on that wall that would make me sad when I walk by it, or elicit a concerned look or question from a guest in my home. “Hey, looks like you had a tough time in your marriage awhile back. Um, sorry about that.”
So while I completely see your friend’s point, and I’m sure she’s loves being Facebook-free, I just see it differently. Also, I’m a Pollyanna. And probably a bit too bubbly most of the time. But perfect? Far from it.
Thanks for this great post.
Jul 25, 2012
Hi Molly. Thanks for the response. As mentioned, I don’t disagree with the person in my post. If you look around during summer at the people you follow, it seems like everyone is posting the arms-length portraits of a happy family on vacation. Or, in our case this year, a happy family in an island paradise. And yet, for the same reason I don’t disagree with the person in my post, I get why you choose to only share that which makes you feel good. We are all different. We all share differently. Even when it’s the same stuff (like obligatory vacation pictures in summer.) And whether we like it or not, there IS a social hierarchy at play in the digital realm as much as in person. And that’s why we don’t share pictures of real life things that aren’t so nice – like a 9-yo kid throwing a tantrum. And these not-so-pretty things sometimes happen more frequently than the sharable stuff. My take is this – Facebook didn’t make people the way they are. Someone quitting Facebook for the reasons stated in the blog only reveals issues with the person quitting Facebook. You can’t deny that socializing online doesn’t exist. You have to cope with the medium. Not the other way around. And everyone uses it differently. Though, to the persons’s credit, what happens is that as we congregate in our social circles in the digital world, we tend to share similar experiences. And yes, this can *easily* look like we’re trying to ‘out-happy’ each other. Absolutely. No question. Even though you and I know we’re not. Not really. Not intentionally.
As for me, I use Facebook like I’ve used all of the social mediums these past 4 years – as authentically as possible. If someone follows my blog, and is connected with me in any of the social channels I’m active in, then they know me as well as anyone who has ever met me in person. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to get on here and start talking about hemorrhoids, but when I have to go in for a colonoscopy you can bet your ass I’m going to post something. Because for me, life is bigger than just the happy things we all like to share. I, personally, want to share my life with people – as honestly as possible (just not all the gory details every time.) I am what I am – for good or bad, in person or online. A few years ago a good friend of mine said that I was ‘born to be alive during this age.’ I’ve known and worked with this guy for 10 years. He knows me pretty well. And he knew that I’d flourish in the digital age. Not ‘get famous,’ but flourish. I love connectivity. I love sharing my ideas and my life. And yes, I love the serendipity that comes along with how we randomly collide with each other because of the medium. I don’t, however, love having to shake hands with someone to make things real. I’m real enough right here.
I will say this though – despite your apprehension to share things that might be too intimate, when you had your brain surgery – I remember being part of a group of people from Twitter who came to clean up your yard one day. I believe that this stuff – the ‘helping each other’ stuff is PRECISELY why this medium is here. So yes, please continue to share the good stuff. But don’t be afraid to share the real stuff. Your ‘friends’ will understand and support you. Digital or otherwise. Community is community.
Sharing | Obsessed with Conformity
Jul 28, 2012
[…] ever before. When you share your life, and practice authenticity, people care. It’s not about trying to outdo each other to see who has a better life. It’s about the willingness to be vulnerable enough to share the life you do […]