On Social Networking

Dear Annie,

As someone who has a baby, and who sometimes posts pictures of said baby on Facebook, I feel I must address what I can only call strong feelings of resentment I have heard from various Facebook friends recently about that very practice.

Facebook is a website that asks you, every time you log in, what’s on your mind. It’s a place to tell people what you’re up to, what you’re thinking about, and what you’re doing. That’s what social media DOES.

I like all kinds of things on Facebook. I’m going to use the “you” here, Annie, and I hope you know I’m talking universally, not to YOU SPECIFICALLY (although that too), but I’ve liked pictures of what you had for dinner, some building you saw that had sunlight slanting off it, your college graduation, and your bike. I’ve liked that you’re at happy hour, that it’s Friday, and a picture of a microbrew. When you bought a house? I liked it. When your band played? I liked that too.

I like your dog. And your cat. I like when you are standing on a beach. I like when you had a great day with your friend/roommate/significant other/family/co-workers. I like that you went to a show last night. I like that your show opens this week. I like that your record release show was a success. I like that you like the new show that I like (“Girls.” Have you seen it yet? Another post!).

Furthermore, I like my baby. She’s sweet and funny and VERY photogenic. And I like when you like pictures of her. And when I post pictures of her, I am not trying to imply that she should be more important to you than your dog or your graduation or your upcoming gig or what you had for dinner. I am not trying to rub your nose in anything, because there is nothing to rub it in. I believe that, in the grand scheme of things, what you have for dinner SHOULD MATTER MORE to you than my baby.

In my mind, Facebook isn’t a place to hate on your friends, it’s a place to share what’s important to you. Right now, my life is 75% Violet, 15% my friends and family, 8% work, and 2% assorted other things, like this blog. And I think my timeline pretty accurately represents this.

Sure, I have my own “rules” about what I will and won’t do on Facebook, and how often. (I won’t go into them here, because I don’t want it to seem like I think it’s WRONG to do them, it’s just my personal preferences for my own account.) I hold back. If I had my druthers, there’d be AT LEAST a hundred more pictures of Violet.

To each his own, I guess, is what I’m saying. I post pictures of my baby because I find her delightful, and I want other people — including my cousins, my in-laws, and my faraway friends from college — to see her grow up. I hear people talking about how this age of social media has created a society where everyone overshares. I disagree. I like that I know what my best friend from college’s two-year-old daughter (whom I’ve never met) looks like. I like that I’ve seen my cousin in Florida’s dog. I like that I get to know what kind of beer my friend had last night, and what someone else ate for dinner. If it ever feels like too much, I just shut my computer.

Annie, I just want for everyone to be excited about what everyone else is up to. There are plenty of things to NOT support these days, so, if you’re given an opportunity to like something one of your friends is doing, I say do it.

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

Your pal,
Amy

PS Here’s yesterday:

Dear Amy,

I read an article somewhere (probably on Facebook) about several studies linking social media usage to higher instances of depression and anxiety, particularly in girls and women. I don’t know how other people feel about the accuracy or science of this claim, but I can say that before I heard about this phenomenon, I had experienced it.  Oh hi, photos of ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, how are you?  Oh hello, wedding photos of weirdly competitive friend.  Hey, look at that, marathon you completed/shit you knitted/house you refurbished/album you released/motorcycle you built/baby you birthed/trip you took to Spain/celebrity you hung out with/attractive hi-res picture of you wearing an amazing vintage dress OH GOD I AM USELESS WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE I HAVE ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING.

Now, readers of this blog may have already gleaned that I am sometimes kind of a secret asshole.  For example, I have a few social media connections whose only function is to provide me with material to hate-read.  I find that stoking my disdain balances out the self-loathing created by other people’s perceived successes or occasional outright bragging.  It’s like how our friend Ryan used to watch Fox News just so he could get angry about something.  I am by no means advocating combating negativity with more, different negativity as a healthy way to deal with ANYTHING, but that’s just how I’m working it out these days.

And truthfully, I’m mostly fine with my lifestyle and my choices.  I think these jags of Facebook Anxiety ™ are the other end of the evil jealousy worm created by social media oversaturation: you (and by “you” I also am utilizing both the Specific and Universal “you”) show us only the best of yourself, I in turn base my idea of you on this perfected version of you, I then feel that I must present myself as better than I truly am in order to be as good as everyone else’s idealized versions of themselves, because this is how I will be judged, I then spiral into an anxious fugue state trying to figure out why I even care what anyone on the internet thinks of me in the first place when clearly everyone on the internet is giant liar, I yell “I HATE YOU” in the general direction of my laptop, I slam it shut and condemn it to the far corners of my room, where I glare at it, eating a tiny comfort bucket of Sugar-Free Jello.  

The snake (it’s a snake now, sorry) swallows its own tail even further in the ever-popular Social Media Complaint Post, with which I’m sure you’re familiar: the tweet or status update that completely misses its own irony, a post that is all about how annoying other posts are. It’s often addressed in the form of a open letter to general entities: “Dear Sports Fans, I do not care about (sporting event), so STFU about (sporting event).”  Yes, well, we don’t care about your band’s Kickstarter campaign either but we are trying to co-exist on this website in relative harmony so maybe you could just deal.  

At the end of it, my occasional inability to put up with other people’s oversharing has infinitely more to do with my own moderate dissatisfaction and unwillingness to publicly admit this dissatisfaction, and less to do with how often my friends post pictures of their babies on Facebook.  I suspect this may be true for a lot of people.  So you go right ahead and keep putting up those pictures of little Violet.  I will continue to like them.

XOXO,
Annie

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3 thoughts on “On Social Networking

  1. Sophie says:

    I love this post! I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the topic, but I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that posting stuff on Facebook is fun– and I’m always up for things that make me feel happy/relevant/cared about. Which is why I’ll continue to post pictures of myself in various costumes and publicly acknowledge the dumb things that Haley and I do and even ask for some “virtual hugs” once in a while. It’s also why I hope you continue to post pictures of Violet, because she makes me almost sickeningly joyful. And if you ever need an outlet for those hundreds of extra photos that you don’t post, you know how to contact me.

  2. lauras50by50 says:

    Nice post. I can relate to both sides, but I think being genuinely happy for your friends even if you think they are liars is a path to your (by which I mean the specific and the universal “your”) own ultimate happiness. It’s such a beautiful (if a bit hot) day outside…I hope you both get to enjoy it!

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