Lately, I’ve dramatically reduced time spent posting on social media. Mainly in part because I’m passionately at work on my memoir, and hope to get it published sometime before the end of this decade. But frankly, it’s all too overwhelming and I can’t keep up. My entire life, I’ve managed only a handful of close friends; no more, no less. I go for quality and depth, not numbers.
With social media, we all have our public personas and avatars. Everyone has a brand or an image that they want to project out onto the virtual world. Social media affords us the chance to live-out our fantasies in parallel lives, and accomplish what we simply cannot or have not in our physical existence.
And despite knowing this, I’ve been guilty of something that certainly, many will relate to. I log into Facebook to stay abreast of what my friends are up to, duping myself into believing that I’m staying “connected.”
One of the job hazards of being a writer, is that one must spend inordinate amounts of time in quiet isolation. Solitude is required to churn out something insightful or entertaining. And because I no longer strive for a balanced life, but one led by sincerity and passion instead, I don’t get out much to see friends. And because of my hearing impairment, I'll rarely pick up the phone to make a call. So like many of you, I find myself sending a quick text, FB message or email to keep in touch. It's easier, more efficient and simply another way to nurture our existing relationships.
An incident noteworthy of mention occurred with one of my closest friends which only reinforces the deceiving role Facebook plays in my life. And exemplifies precisely how Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media lead us astray. Because I depended upon social media to unite me with the people I care about, I hadn’t noticed my dear friend was in distress. Rather than take time to talk on the phone, I relied on her Facebook updates---that detailed her worldwide travels and fascinating “check-ins”---to assure me things were going well in her life. I mistakenly assumed that whatever she'd been highlighting was an accurate and reliable depiction of her entire life.
And like so many of us active in social media, “on paper” her life seemed to run smoothly although emotionally, she had been having a rough time. Thankfully, we spent the day together and I learned of her reality. Being there by her side enabled me to be a friend.
But think about it. Without a consistent, non-virtual means of communication, how could one possibly know that behind the created online persona of what seems to be an enviable life, there is someone who is undergoing the same life conditions as the rest of us?
When we post only half the story, or random snippets of our experiences, unwittingly, we’re being duplicitous. Surely, most of us don’t want to disclose the intimate details of our inner lives to the public-at-large. Si instead, in today’s harried, automated society, we opt to reveal the same generic data to an entire audience of friends. The end result: we achieve an equal level of intimacy with everyone, the same quality relationship across the board.
Undeniably, Facebook and all other forms of social media are limiting; they're one-dimensional. There’s no room for depth. No eye contact, no body language to read, and invariably, no tangible chemistry to ripple through our bodies when we really do connect with another soul. In the virtual world, our normal human complexities are not adequately represented or worse yet, are entirely misrepresented through this digital platform. And so, the entangled cast of interacting characters that perform in this vast charade are not the same, three-dimensional figures we are in real life.
The problem is that if we delude ourselves into trusting Cyberworld to keep us united with friends and loved ones, consequently, those very ties will unravel. And furthermore, we’ll lose our knack to portray ourselves accurately and honestly during face-to-face conversations.
And beware: we may even lose sight of who we are and who our true friends are in real life.
Because Facebook for friendships is a lie.