A friend just informed me that I have been ‘deleted’ from his list of friends as I am still ‘friends’ with his soon-to-be-ex wife.
Further, I was duly informed that should his soon-to-be-ex wife ever not be on my friends list anymore, he’d be more than happy to ‘re-add’ me to his friends list.
What you need to understand is that this lovely chap still speaks to me in person, despite my dastardly betrayal of having his soon-to-be-ex wife’s name on my PC somewhere.. but in the virtual world of Facebook, this indirect link (through my ‘Wall’) to a source of pain for him was too much to bear.. and so I find myself in my first experience of being deleted and it doesn’t feel nice.
HOLD ON JUST ONE COTTON-PICKIN MOMENT
What on EARTH are we doing here? Adding and deleting people willy-nilly as if friendship is built and obliterated at the push of a button! My so-called friend’s message made me take one good long hard look at my own Facebook page and ponder what IS the purpose here?
Is the idea to add every living soul I’ve ever met? If I do that, wont anyone I ever meet be offended if I DONT add them? Will my hairdresser ‘accidentally’ give me a bit of a squinty chop if I Ignore her Friend Request?
Or do I just add closer friends and family with whom I would be comfortable sharing my baby pictures and day-to-day musings? Well, that option is fraught with difficulty too – why would my Pastor want to know what I had for breakfast? And why would my best friend need to complete quizzes about which colour she thinks I am? Does my Mum really think my Facebook page reflects how I am doing? Will my work colleagues tell-tale if I rant about a Bad Day At The Office?
Before I knew it, my daytime pondering about Facebook turned into cold sweats in the night. As I logged on to have my daily nosy at everyone’s’ goings-ons it suddenly hit me: Facebook is ruining my friendships!
I suddenly felt like a goldfish in a very public, colourful tank with people gazing in and making snap judgements about how I am today. We’ve moved our social interaction from Pull to Push. In case you didn’t do a Degree in Marketing, that just means we now push out our communications to our chosen audience, instead of them coming to find us to ask. My audience, *cough* sorry, my FRIENDS don’t call, pop round, email anymore – they look at my status! This is a major societal shift! Hasn’t anyone noticed? Are we all too busy throwing virtual pillows, Farming and uploading Friday Night’s party photos to notice?
Gee – I’d better think very carefully about what I do on Facebook then.. right?
I had porage for breakfast actually (in case my Weight Watchers leader reads this.. Hi June!) but then I also ate a whole Easter Egg late at night – which my chocoholic friends gave their Thumbs Up to at least. Oooh, the conflicts, the dilemmas, the pointlessness of it all!
‘Loosen up and just chill, it’s just for fun’ chortled a friend (a real one, in person, I was able to touch her for real as opposed to giving her a virtual poke).. but is it such harmless fun?
Quite apart from the tangible decline of those lovely surprise texts/calls/emails you get in your pre-Facebook days, I was beginning to wonder if living life online, for all to see was actually rather psychologically unhealthy.
Tales of paranoia (‘why did you delete me?’) and technical failings (‘I wasn’t ignoring you, my Chat function wasn’t working) are everywhere you ask Facebook users. What is it doing to us? Do we even care?
The truth is we all wear masks. Facebook forces you to strip them off. And that is not good for you.
We are all like dice with many faces that allow us to present what we need to, to the right people at the right time. It’s a survival function. You cannot be all things to all men or else you lose yourself completely. You can try, but your multitude of ‘faces’ will be quickly spotted and people will lose their trust in you. What you do is bring to the fore the part of you, your personality, your thoughts, views, opinions, language, actions that are suitable and right for that individual relationship.
A fascinating thing happened when the Leaders in our church all joined Facebook. Some of the flock wouldn’t add them, which seem incriminating in itself. ‘What have you got to hide?’ ‘Aren’t you just being yourself?’ Yes! That’s the whole point.. my’self’ is a mosaic of different things. I’m a wife, a mum, a daughter, a sister, a sister-in-law, a colleague, a friend, an old friend from school, a current boosom buddy, an irate commuter, a dieting chocoholic, a budding entrepreneur, an adviser, a watcher, a writer … and much more.
I’m also just me, just being.. breathing in and out, when the lights are off and the Internet isn’t connected. I’m a combination lock and each person in my life has their own code to accessing me. That’s what makes each and every single relationship absolutely and critically unique, precious, vital, human … beautiful.
So, no – my Pastor doesn’t want to know what I had for breakfast, although my Weight Watchers leader might! My best friend is too busy to send me a note telling me she thinks I’m Tartan. My Admin Assistant at work doesn’t need to know which technique I use to burp my baby, even though my Mummy friends might find this fascinating. My hairdresser wont want to throw a pillow back at me and no, my husband doesn’t want to ‘reconnect’ via Facebook today, thanks anyway.
For some it must be fun to let all their worlds collide, for most I am sure they are oblivious that it’s even happening but for me it has challenged me. I’ve examined who I think I am, the way I present ‘me’ to the world and I’ve concluded that it’s ok, normal, natural and acceptable to feel uncomfortable with what this technology is doing to our psychology.
It’s fun, it’s fascinating.. but it IS changing us. Be under no illusion. Think about it. Are you emailing them a little less? When did you last share a frothy coffee and tap their arm as you giggled together? When did you last listen to their latest heartache over the phone, hearing every breathy sob as if it was your own? Are you sure it’s not changing you – and how you interact with these other humans you call your friends?
It’s changing us. Sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst. The problem is, we can’t separate the two – we have to accept it for what it is, or reject it and denounce the evil new technology which is sapping our social strength… or we have to somehow find time and energy to sustain both.
So, I’m off to plop some witty comment on my Status, have a nosy at your Wall and I might even add a few people I’ve not seen for 18 years.. but, if I love you – I’ll give you call this week too… x