Monday, August 31, 2009

Something's Gotta Give

Emma just got back from the dentist…glad the root canal is over!

Sam is done with his 5th cup of coffee and is getting ready for the conference.  Yey!!

Bianca thinks it’s strange that the man in front of her keeps looking at his watch. 

These are the types of information I have gotten used to receiving in the past year or so.  Ever since I signed up for a Facebook account, it has consistently become part of my daily routine.  Somehow I can almost hear my husband reacting to my use of the word ‘routine’.  Alright then, it’s probably closer to an addiction than a routine.  But what is someone like me to do to resist this constant bombardment of information regarding other people’s lives?...someone like me who, 95% of the time, is confined to the four walls of our home and whose only window to the exciting, colorful, global world is through the internet???  My curious, internet-loving self is much too weak to deny Facebook entry into my life, my home. 

With Facebook, I am able to indulge my introverted, yet voyeuristic self without being creepy or (overtly) pathetic.  Let’s admit it.  We all derive some form of pleasure from being part of what I call the ‘non-committal audience’.  By that I mean we are watchers, observers of our contacts’ lives and yet we are under no obligation to respond a certain way, or respond at all for that matter.  One of your ‘friends’ posts he just got a new dog, while another announces she’s gotten engaged to her boyfriend of 12 years.  You can ignore the engagement announcement and totally be ecstatic about the canine without hurting anyone’s feelings.  What’s more is that everyone still ends up happy.  One party’s curiosity is quenched while the other’s need to express found a hip, and might I add, far-reaching, venue. 

That’s the other thing about Facebook that fascinates me.  Yes, it’s a social networking site which means its primary objective is to link you to others;  for you to orient yourself outwards, towards others.  Yet the fact is that this medium can really only truly work for you and be enjoyable if you are willing to practice at least a healthy amount of egocentrism.  In this case, that is absolutely acceptable and dare I say it, encouraged.  Much of the thrill for us users is the fact that here is a place, albeit virtual, where we can pretend that we are the center of the universe.  I think this is possible because on Facebook, all members have their own universes.  And in your universe where you are the shining star, you can choose to believe that everyone is just there, orbiting around you, waiting for your next move, your next update.  Whether you are, in fact, a lone star in your universe or indeed in the presence of other orbiting bodies, is not the point.  The point is that you can make it your own world.  You can believe what you want to believe, post every insignificant breath you take while thinking that you are wowing an audience, and in the end still be labeled sane. 

That being said, I am not so much as concerned with Facebook breeding too much narcissism as I am with its capacity to breed unhappiness.  Constant exposure to your peers’ lives makes it so easy to fall into the ‘comparison game’ trap.  “How did he land that promotion so quickly?”  “Her boyfriend is so much cuter than mine.”  “Her clothes look so stylish and expensive.”  “I wish I had that kind of house”.  I call this a ‘game’ because it’s competitive, unnecessary, you choose to play it and someone’s bound to lose.  It should be obvious that it’s a trap because you’re going to be the only victim for choosing to play it.  My mother always told me never to compare myself with others.  As I grew older, I realized that comparisons are inevitable and that they could be healthy at times.  I suppose what my mother really meant was this:  That you should never make other people’s lives as the standards for your own.  What is important is to know yourself, your core values.  You need to know what is most important to you in order to know your definition of a successful life.  Aside from the subjectivity of the definition of success, the fact remains that we never fully understand the intricacies of other people’s lives.  Being mere spectators of our peers’ lives, virtual lives at that, does not really put any of us in a position to accurately judge who is truly worth getting green with envy over.  Bear in mind that on Facebook and mostly anywhere else in life, we only see glimpses, snippets, of highly complex biographies.  What’s more is that the authors of these biographies are the ones choosing which snippets you can see.   

So remember this…Unless Facebook announces that they are now giving away free unlimited Prozac and psychotherapy to all who need it, let’s just continue being non-committal audiences and healthily narcissistic beings.  We don’t need any additional elements in our lives, no matter how hi-tech, to confirm that our glass is indeed still half-empty….or is it half-full?

10 comments:

  1. I agree with you! What we often see are one-line snippets of one person's feelings,viewpoints,life events.. many of them well-thought out / edited. One time, I found myself murmuring in my head, "Now, why can't MY husband be like that???" What I should have been thinking was ---THAT isn't my husband, and why am I even comparing when I know very little about these people? I remember our church pastor saying, "Guard your heart." Indeed we must. It's just Facebook :-)

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  2. Hmm... your post reminded me of two people conversing lengthily wall-to-wall on facebook.

    One time, over the phone, I asked one of them... "close pala kayo ni ___? parang todo chika nyo sa Facebook.."

    She replied: "Hindi kami close. Facebook lang yon."

    Haha. It's just Facebook, indeed :)

    --C, the wannabe (still) lawyer(Darn.)

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  3. I see this as an astute deconstruction of the FB experience. As an avenue for reconnecting where there were no connections, I've loved it. If it is to be a substitute for F2F (face-to-face) interaction though, I'd rather it go away.

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  4. great post! what a thoughtful way of breaking down the facebook experience.  But it can be a pleasure or curse! I agree we need to take it for what it is and just enjoy being part of the show rather than developing our sense of self worth based on others "edited" achievements.
    Aaron
    http://www.aaronoutward.com/2011/07/lifes-greatest-lesson.html

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  5. Oh, I totally understand, people talk about being introverts and share so much details on Facebook and before you know it, the world knows! Also, putting my one's sexy pictures with all that editing and all. 

    Also, one update I found very weird was a lady announcing how spicy her last might was...really, why? And that she was so lucky to have married him! Why oh why...

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  6. Hi Joy -

    I'm still trying to discover some value in Facebook but not really experiencing much value yet. I see it as a tremendous time wasting experience. When you observe people in their real lives, you see and hear them all say how busy-busy they are. These are the same people whom spend 4 hours a day on Facebook, 2 hours text messenging, and a few hours watching TV. Me personally,,,,I am bored 5 minutes after signing in to Facebook. I don't know what to do there. :)

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  7. I think you are right. We create our universe online of which we are the stars. We take what others give us and fill in the blanks of the unknown. As far as we know, it's reality.

    I love your writing and your blog. So much insight.

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  8. Joy, this post meant a lot to me! Before I started using Facebook for business, I had turned off my wall and refused to use it for years! It had been taking over my life in the most negative way possible precisely because of what you say, because of comparisons.


    These days, I'm glad that I barely have enough time to waste on randomly checking profiles and comparing. But the truth is exactly how you said it... what's ultimately important is our values. It shouldn't even matter if I pull up someone's file and see what they're up to. I should be grounded in me. Thanks so much for having me think about this, Joy!!

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  9. I am starting to believe that I am too old for FB. Don't get me wrong, I was able to reconnect with old classmates and it was good, but all in all I don't really "get" FB. I much prefer blogging because I can share something a bit more meaningful.
    I don't spend much time on it. Not sure why. And I don't "snoop" in others' profiles. Something must be wrong with me!

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  10. I enjoyed your view of FB as your window to the world. Facebook has many faces (forgive the pun) and different meanings for its users. Some look for company, daily comments and/or news or gossip. Others become addicted and FB is their daily dose. For others, like my son, it's a way to keep up with his enormous group of friends. For me, when I used it more often, it was a way to discover and share information, get into discussions (still is), hook up with past friends and nostalgia about living in Mexico. For someone on their own a lot, FB can be an important companion, and a good way to always be in touch or surrounded by friends. So, if it suits your way of life, I think it's probably the perfect vehicle for now until something better comes along.

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Let me know your thoughts!