I was taking what I affectionately refer to as an “internet vacation” at work yesterday. You know, where you start by Googling restaurant reviews for the weekend and you end up looking up things like, “What ever happened to Roooobeerttt on The Cosby Show?” (Wasn’t he cute?) Anyway, I came across an article in The San Francisco Chronicle speculating that Facebook may have reached its 500 million member mark.
Facebook has connected me with everyone from long lost cousins to people I shared class pictures with in the first grade. I can count the people that I know who aren’t on Facebook with one hand and most are either under the age of ten or over the age of seventy. It is hard to believe that in just 2004 what so many of us can no longer live without did not even exist.
With the alleged 500 million members floating around its virtual world, Facebook offers us daily access to the witnesses to our lives. Whereas our parents’ generation had faded pictures and fuzzy memories to rely on to communicate stories of their childhood and successes, we have witnesses that we can call on… daily… to reminisce with, remember with… People that serve as living breathing evidence that we existed and continue to exist.
If you take the time to think about it, it’s a pretty powerful concept.
But with all of these advantages, the lawyer in me can’t help but wonder about the disadvantages. If life is a house, Facebook is like a bay window without shades. It creates local celebrities among us offering free tickets to our edited reality show. But like every reality show, I wonder how much is illusion and how much is real life. And in turn, how much of the illusion becomes a part of your real life?
I consider myself a fairly happy person. I love my family and they love me. I am content with the direction my career is going in. While some days are sunnier than others, my good days far outnumber my bad ones. When I am sitting at my computer, updating a status, uploading a picture or adding words and phrases to my profile, I realize that as social networkers, we can paint our lives however we may want. Yet still, I often find myself perusing the pages of my Facebook “friends”, fighting my inner green eyed monster to keep up. One women on my friends list posted pictures of her child smiling ecstatically with DJ Lance Rock from a recent Yo Gabba Gabba Live concert. While I was happy for her and her clearly happy child, after seeing the photos, I manically went on a search to find the pre-sale code to purchase tickets for my son for the show in New York this fall. Before I knew it, I had three tickets, was negative $300 bucks and I was calling my husband telling him about our plans. He was okay with it (because he knows a happy wife makes a happy life) but I missed out on engaging him in the process and including him in the excitement of planning our son’s first concert.
Similarly, the other day my son was serenading my husband and I with his toy microphone and I spent half the song searching from my Blackberry to snap pictures and videos of him and the other half sending the pictures to Facebook and family members. I even urged him to sing the song again so I could capture it from the beginning. By the time it was over, I realized I had practically missed out on the entire moment trying to record it and share it. Trying to remanufacture a period in my life just to say – “Look how great we are!” I am angry at myself for not just sitting down and enjoying the moment. Capturing that beautiful moment where my son was singing and my husband was smiling in my mind and finding contentment in the experience. Why couldn’t I just kick it old school and call the grandparents and tell them about it the next day?
When did the “Share” button become such an integral part of my human experience?
Recently, a couple close to me has been going through a divorce. A knock-down, drag-out, messy divorce. However, one glance at their respective Facebook pages and you would assume they are still living in marital bliss. Despite their fighting, they still manage to create happy status updates, pose for a picture with the kids or take a picture of their beautiful home on a sunny day. Despite their mutual unhappiness, they still find the need to manufacture their lives for public consumption. Why? For what?
This is not to say that I am going to give up all social networking. The fact that I am a blogger is not lost on me. I just find it ironic that this mechanism whose goal was to make us connected can leave us feeling so disconnected. I can only conclude that I may need to start consciously limiting its exposure into my life – if for nothing else, but to be more present.
What about you? How do you balance this new age of social networking into the realities of your everyday life?