Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
I was late to Facebook. A friend from high school harassed me until I joined. Most people were already signed up, and I was dragging my feet. The idea sounded horrible (connect with everyone you’ve ever known), and yet another thing I’d have to do. Another thing to manage. Another popularity test.
This friend didn’t let up. I caved. I was one of only a few holdouts left anyway, might as well join.
My group of Facebook friends is small, a smattering jumble of the past and present. There are old neighbors I no longer live near, people from a running group I once ran with, exes, ex-lovers, friends of my ex-husband (I have no idea why they haven’t unfriended me yet), parents of children from the many schools my daughter has attended, my family, of course, and friends past and present.
The friends I see in real life are rarely on Facebook, and we don’t communicate via social media. Even during a pandemic we have socially distanced gathering in various backyards. Even as an adult, my close friends live within two miles of me. We see each other face to face, or what face to face means now – via Zoom chats.
We see each other once a week and text all the time; it seems unnecessary to comment on each other’s posts when we’re all pretty busy with kids, businesses, work, spouses, life.
I often wonder if I had a more exciting life or if I dared more in my 20s, would I enjoy Facebook more? Would the collective intelligence of my Facebook friends be higher had I gone to grad school as my parents and professors urged me to do way back when. “You should work for the UN,” a professor in college said to me after she read my essay dissecting the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It was high praise coming from this professor who was frequently asked by radio and cable news shows to discuss the conflict in the Middle East. I bet the comments on my Facebook page would be more interesting if I had worked for the UN or sought a higher degree other than the two I received in college. Or, more likely, my life would be so filled with value I wouldn’t be on FB in the first place. Ahh, wouldn’t that be lovely. Now I get comments like “Who is Pete Buttigieg?” a question from someone recently, an acquaintance I’ve only met a handful of times.
When I log on to Facebook, it feels like a reflection of the poor choices I made in my life; to play it safe and live a small life with minimal risk and daring. Or maybe I mistakingly think I can go on Facebook to be intellectually challenged, to be sparred with, in a healthy, respectful way.
Perhaps Facebook isn’t the place for that.
Maybe it is because I’m older that my Facebook feed is mostly pictures of kids and vacations and humblebrags. I have a few millennial friends, and the comments on their threads are opinionated, educated, politically savvy, and well thought out. And when I comment on those threads, my comments are well received.
But I really don’t care. I have never really liked Facebook and think it is huge waste of time and mental energy that I could be giving to something or someone I cherish in real life, in real time.
When I log on, I see mostly, “Look at my nice life and the nice things I have and the nice vacations I go on.” I don’t see the point in that. If you are loving life so much, why aren’t you present in it? I’m guilty of the same sort of thing in the past, although lately I rarely post my whereabouts because I’m just sick to death of it, I’m sick to death of myself on social media. I won’t stop sharing my writing, so I’m on Facebook for that purpose alone these days. And that feels better, like a better use of time. But on my regular Facebook page where I don’t share my work, I’m sick of my humblebrags, and everyone else’s.
I crave something more; I want more meaning, more substance, more of something I can sink my teeth into, and feel alive doing, not posting my latest trip to the hippest restaurant or the coolest vacation spot.
I want to feel joy; the aliveness you feel when you first fall in love with someone, or when you listen (and do nothing else but listen) to a great song turned up loud, or when you step off a plane into a foreign country and the air is different, the smell is distinct, the language not my own — Facebook gives me the opposite feeling. Dread. Like I’m just looking at life and not actually living it. And let’s face it, it is only the part of life people want you to see, the polished part. There’s no behind the scenes, the imperfect is taken out, glossed away, brushed, retouched or missing all together. That’s not life.
Even though my Facebook life is annoying AF, I like my life just the way it is. Maybe it could have been better, more adventurous. I could have been more daring, taken more chances when I was younger and had more energy, but even if I had and my life was fuller now, I know myself, I would still want to be in bed by 10:00 pm, I would still only have a handful of close friends that I surround myself with, and I would still be annoyed at Facebook.
When I look at what I value in life, it is the stuff you can’t post on Facebook: my exceptional relationship with my daughter, the time I spend with my partner, a real conversation with a close friend, walking around my block with my dogs in my little part of the world, my excellent health, my spirituality, my business, and the gratitude I have for my average life.
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