Monday, April 30, 2012

On Virtually Telling the Truth... Almost

“It’s a lonely business, wandering the labrinyths of our friends’ and pseudo-friends’ projected identities, trying to figure out what part of ourselves we ought to project, who will listen and what they will hear.” -Stephen Marche
In a recent article in The Atlantic, Stephen Marche posed the question, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” It got me thinking about my own online identity via Facebook, Twitter and this, my blog. In the digital world, I am able to create an image of myself specially designed to project the person I want my cyber neighbors to see. My facebook makes me seem artistic, fashionable, young, alive, free, namaste, blah blah blah… and while this image is certainly close to how I am and damn near exactly who I want to be, there are things about me omitted from my online collage.
Do this exercise. Forget you know yourself and look at your Facebook wall. What does this person usually feel? What is going on in their life right now? What do they care about? What do they think about the other people in their life? My guess is that most of you seem confident, successful, attractive and popular… and that is how we all want to be… but are you really all those things? Every day? Really?
Your sixteen-year-old cousin in the Slipknot hoodie excluded, most reasonable people don’t post their fears, hurt feelings, disasters, nagging issues and insecurities online. Even Facebook has a social etiquette and the people who complain on Facebook are annoying. You know you’ve hidden that old friend from high school who posts about how the rain makes her want to die because she's alone and that really conservative cousin who posts about how America's problems would be solved if women returned to the home. There are things you just don't (or shouldn't) say (online).
If I wasn’t a reasonable person, here are some things I would post that I have felt or experienced recently:
“I made blueberry pancakes this morning alone and that made me miss the man that I left a year ago. Regret is a b, and not b for blueberry.”
“@Jenifer Clement, I never want you to die.”
“Last night’s whiskey gave me some serious digestion issues this morning. #youdontwannagointhereafterme”
“Yeast infection. Great, thanks, ladyparts.”
“Some days I’m afraid that I’m a bad actress.”
Terrible, right? Overshare, yeah? So I am not calling for all out honesty here; I don’t want to know that you cried yourself to sleep because you think you're tubby. (And I've told you a hundred times that you aren't!) But this selective posting and conscious omission leads to our digital selves being a picture of only our best selves, which isn’t real or honest.
For example, let’s say I have a terrible night, which happens, right? Because I am a mildly decent, mature human being, I am never going to post online: “@Beth Jones, you were a real b tonight. I didn’t have any fun. I wish I’d stayed at home and watched my roommate workout on the rowing machine all night because at least that is more interesting than your latest narcissistic rant. Lay off the mojitos.”
But the next week, when Beth and I run into each other in Wicker Park and she suggests we stop into Myopic books where we bump into Aziz Ansari who takes us out for pizza where I pitch my sitcom called Aayush and Me* which he loves and he calls Greg Daniels to arrange a meeting in LA and we get on the next flight out of O’Hare, you can bet your britches I’m updating my status to read: “AHHHHH! Thanks to the fabulous @Beth Jones, I met Aziz Ansari and am on my way to LA to meet with NBC about creating a sitcom for next fall’s lineup! My life is so crazy awesome!!”
So the result is that in the virtual reality version of my life, the world sees only that I think Beth is fabulous and that we do fabulous things together. [But we all know that in real reality, she is a narcisstic b with a drinking problem.] You need only look at your own newsfeed to see that most people’s facebook walls are full only of the fabulous things they do with their fabulous friends in fabulous places. Which of course quickly leads to… JEALOUSY. My whole point is that what you’re being jealous of is not real. You are busy being jealous of someone’s new job, baby, wedding, boyfriend, house, vacation, while they are secretly struggling with a drug problem, a sick relative, an STD, loneliness, fear… Here's a clue, everyone is a mess, just like you.
So remember: 
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
There is nothing inherently wrong with posting happy, celebratory, fun or fabulous things on Facebook. I do want to know you got that amazing job in Antartica, and gosh, your baby dressed up as Yoda is really effin cute, and I can't believe you just got married, your husband is so attractive I'm going to steal him when you die... But these cyberspace blips are not the 360 degree reality of a person. As my mother just said to me, "We must stop comparing our insides to other's outsides." It's a losing game and the loser is always you and you aren't a loser, you're fabulous, remember?

And make sure to write on my Facebook wall how much you loved this post, because as you know, I am a fabulous writer and you are one of my fabulous friends. Let's go some place fabulous together, I just hope my yeast infection doesn't come back while we're there.

* A quirky, yet heartfelt comedy about two struggling actors who fall in love despite their ideological and cultural differences.

1 comment:

  1. People can relate to the truth. You speak the truth; albeit sometimes very crudely (yeast infections, GROSS!) and people love that you say what is on their mind. Keep on preaching Maura, I hear you.