A few months ago a friend confided in me that she was having issues in her marriage. Since then, every few days I’d hear stories that went from bad to worse.
Then, about a week ago, I saw her status on Facebook: “Happy anniversary to the best husband ever! Love you!!!”
Hmmm. Maybe things are not as bad as I thought? Maybe my friend was just venting to me, but after the vent, she felt better and life was normal and good? It seemed strange, but lots of things on Facebook seem (and are) strange.
I called her a few days after the post. “So things are going better?” I asked. Not really, was the reply. He did this and said that and then she yelled at him and etc. etc. I asked, perhaps insensitively, “What about your FB status?” Oh that, she said, I don’t know why I wrote that, I guess I had too.
Hmmm. Listen, I don’t think the whole world should know about her problems; absolutely not. But if she hadn’t posted anything, people would think her marriage is fine. So why did she do it? Is she lying – to herself and others? I’m no psychologist, but this is what I think is happening:
Facebook, in its unintentional way, promotes lies and illusions that end up being harmful. It causes people to present and perpetuate a self-image that is always happy, always smiling, always having fun. And when we see everyone else having fun – with their spouses, boyfriends, kids, friends – naturally we want to present ourselves the same way. And if we don’t have everything our friends’ have, we’ll post pictures of all the busy busy busy and fun fun fun fun lives we lead.
But the truth is, life is not all fun, games and smiles. We have down times, and that’s fine. And I’m not saying people should post about them (that itself is weird – could you imagine if my friend posted, “Happy anniversary honey! Five crappy years – let’s try to make these next five a little better!?). But by only posting all the amazing things we’re doing, we’re actually creating a cycle of superficiality, half-truths, jealousy and FOMO.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing, and it’s not just about what’s going on at the time, but of missing out on life in general. If everyone’s having a good time, I need to post things that show that I am too. The Me Me Me Generation (so termed by Time magazine) is in a constant, subconscious competition with the other. This leads us to post only half of our lives – the superficial halves – which means, everyone is only aware of half-truths.
So if I hate Facebook so much, why don’t I just get off it, you ask? Good question! A few reasons: first, I’m human, and I like it! Also, it not ALL bad. There’s lots of good in it, like keeping in touch with friends who live far away, promoting causes, finding jobs, etc. Also, I fall victim to FOMO. I’m in a Brand News Mamas group – I’m afraid not to have that support! I’m in a Clothing Swap group – and I want to know when the next swap is going to be!
So for now I’m staying where I am, whether it’s hypocritical or not. But don’t get me wrong- Facebook will continue to irk me until one day (probably when my daughters are older) I’ll say goodbye for good. I certainly don’t want them to have it. I don’t want them sharing intimate details of their lives with just acquaintances, or posting glamour-shot photos of themselves and seeing those of other people! Anorexia, low-self esteem and other self-image issues are on the rise today. And I do believe it’s because of the superficiality and half-truths that Facebook (along with other media outlets) promotes. And if this is something that adults are grappling with, I definitely don’t want to put my children at risk.