To Facebook or not to Facebook.
Before I begin, just go to your Facebook for a second and take a quick look at your timeline. Now ask yourself, "Is that me? Is that my life?"
If you answer yes then I'm betting you're part of a minority which is either remarkably deluded or blissfully self-confident. If I look at my own Facebook page, I see the life of a young(ish) woman who has read a lot of books, likes to read articles on all sorts of oddities and who has a rather charming collection of pins on Pinterest. On that timeline, I seem like a perfectly well adjusted member of society who blogs plenty, whines little and reads a lot.
Now, that's all true enough, but it's also remarkably two-dimensional. It doesn't really tell you anything about me as a person, does it? So lets go to the pictures. Maybe there we can glean a little more about things.
Just take a look at this girl who's always out with friends. She's always smiling and seems to have a whole bunch of buddies... especially when it comes to drinking! Look at the happy bride, the loving sister, the puppy-hugger! Hundreds of photos that act as evidence to a rather shiny existence.
Now I won't deny that plenty of it is true enough! These picture do, indeed, show my happy moments in all their technicolour glory... and some in black and white. I look better in black and white. And that leads me to a rather neat little metaphor because, just as I tweaked a few photos to black and white to make my complexion better, so did I edit the rest of my own little corner of Facebookland, to make it look better.
I can't be the only person in the world who chooses my profile pictures based on their light and angle. Surely all girls know that you want to be looking up at a camera, never down. And although my skin's okay, even I know that black and white evens out the complexion.
Therefore, my profile pictures include these gems:
Not great, but not bad. When I have particularly grumpy days where I consider no angle high enough and no light or tint flattering enough, then I can fall back on an avatar.
Et voilà! The fingerless mittens, tie and grin do me justice enough that I can get away with it. It could be worse... I could amp up the fake and be one of the multitude of irksome tweens who can't look at a camera without making the "kissy face" or doing that weird L shape with my thumb and forefinger, propping my chin on it and then looking off the the side. I think there might be two pictures like that out of my few hundred and both were meant to be ironic.
My point is that we choose the shiny pictures to use in our profiles. The two pictures that follow also exist on my Facebook, but not in the "Profile pictures" section. Be warned... these pictures are not for the faint of heart.
Ouch. Pretty bad. In the picture on the left I'm dressed up as the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle, Leonardo. The drink in my hand makes me look particularly rough, and that hint of blue under my arm is, indeed, my bra. Oh, and I'm green. Hardly flattering. The picture on the right was taken the night before my wedding, after I'd been stood in a howling gale trying to protect party-favours. I obviously did not know I was having my photograph taken so there was no time to lower my chin(s) and slap on my usual toothy grin.
Now... I'm one of those girls who'll never be able to really like a picture of herself, but the top two are as good as it gets. The bottom two are NOT as bad as it gets, believe me, but they are as low as I'm willing to go in public! Overall, the four photographs are about as useful in portraying the real me as the animation in the middle. None of it's me. None of it is "real".
And it's not just me, is it? Are you reading this and thinking, "Wow, I'd never be willing to put such fugly pictures of myself online!"? Are you reading this and smiling shyly, nodding your head and thinking of that one "good" picture you have of yourself, which was taken ten years and ten lbs ago but is still your profile picture on all of your social media accounts?
The point is that NOBODY posts 100% of the truth (pulpy bits 'n' all) online. Most, like me, post the shiny-shiny-shiny-all-the-time aspects of their lives.
Some, I guess, prefer to complain, emphasising the negative and highlighting the icky... but always with a strange sense of pride in the overwhelming misery of their lives. Isn't that weird? Why is it that some people feel that unhappiness is a competition? We all know someone like that though,don't we? My dad calls them the "dead donkey brigade", because if you've seen a dead donkey, they've seen two and they were tap-dancing in the street...
Now, I have 134 friends on my Facebook. I used to have a whole bunch more than this, but I had a very satisfying cull a while back. But if you read my recent post, The 1085 People In My Global Ghost Town, then you'll know that I only feel truly connected with a small percentage of this figure. So WHY, for the love of all that is holy, do I spend so much god-damned time on Facebook?!
This, readers, whoever you are, is where I start to home in on my points. Firstly, I know that most people, like me, only post a minute amount of truth on Facebook. I know that the always-smiling, full-lipped-and-pouting, always slim, ever-impressive people who are my friends on Facebook, are about as real as my animated South Park avatar. They all have their own troubles. Some of those beautiful girls have photos in which you can see where they haven't rubbed in their foundation properly, or where they've been out dancing so long that their hair is plastered across their face in soggy tendrils. In the real world they fart. Really, they do! Some of the people who are always posting about academic or career successes might be feeling lonely. I know this... but still I allow myself to feel deflated when I look at the lives of others on Facebook.
Worse than the sense of deflation is the crippling sense of ennuis that accompanies each journey into social media. We've all known, ever since Zuckerberg first created the heavens and the earths of Facebookland, that people are prone to sharing even the most pedestrian achievements of their days. They like to share what type of Bran-based cereal they had for breakfast, how annoying their workmates are, what song they're listening to... It's dull. Worse than the dull updates are the ones that make you feel bad about your own lack of pedestrian success. While I'm sat on my arse dreaming of cupcakes, it irks me to have Facebook tell me that So-and-so just ran five kilometers at a pace of too-fast while I was being too-lazy.
Worst of all, at least for me, is how Facebook has become my chosen form of time-wasting. There was a time when I always had a book in my bag, Whenever I was stuck in a queue, waiting for someone or just looking to fill five minutes, I'd take out whatever paperback I had lurking in the recesses of my bag and enjoy the time. If I didn't fill those rare, spare moments of time with reading, then I filled them with writing. If you're a smoker, maybe you fill such spaces without a cigarette. Me? I can't start my day without a little ETF (Email, Twitter and Facebook). I don't mind checking my email because I'm a busy lass and I like to keep on top of my world. I don't mind Twitter because it means I can get updates on the things I care about at a glance. But Facebook... It's like watching a tumbleweed. Actually, a tumbleweed would be more interesting because I've never seen one here in the real world and so would be fascinated to see one juxtaposed to the verdant sogginess of Wales!
Overall, for me Facebook is the land where we post stuff and hope someone comments, or clicks the magical "like" button. Facebook is the place of pretend, where nobody admits to gaining weight or having a dull life.
I know that there are good elements. For example, some of my Facebook buddies share articles they've read and liked on their Facebook, including This article, the one that inspired this very post, (I know...the irony isn't lost on me). I know I would miss these aspects of Facebook if I did the unthinkable and walked away from it, (hopefully to the sound of the walking-away music from The Incredible Hulk). I guess I'm just starting to think that there are better ways to use my time. Hell, there are better ways to waste my time, too!
Finally, a question. Has anyone out there taken the plunge and ditched their Facebook? Who has had the courage to remove the app from their phone? Who has fought their inner nosy-parker into submission and settled for not knowing exactly what sandwich filling X chose for lunch or what club Y is getting wasted in? Are we all victims of the Facebook virus...or are there survivors?
Please, let me know there's a chance of escape and if not...be sure to "like" this rambling when it pops up on my Facebook feed...