VOL. MMXIII..No. 209

retail by design | STRATEGY IN PERSPECTIVE

You and Me and Facebook: A Bitter Pill

Last Monday was a virtual bloodbath.

 

I “unfriended” first twenty people, then another fifteen, until altogether I killed off seventy people from my list of facebook friends.  What at first felt daring began to feel strangely thrilling.

 

Less thrilling, though, was the recent news that facebook had, unbeknownst to anyone, been spying on our browsing history and that a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology cited a positive response from a sampling of human resources professionals who said they used facebook to evaluate potential candidates for employment. Is our facebook page really a representation of who we are?

 

It was while contemplating this that I began to take a closer look at my list of facebook friends and discovered that I didn’t actually know some of them, while others were the classic “let’s reconnect” friends who then vanish. So I did exactly what Jimmy Kimmel does every year as a quasi-national event: the ritual slaughter of all that dead weight. Who really needs 500 friends anyway?

 

B.F. – Before Facebook — we had a just a few friends, real people who we saw regularly and when we couldn’t, we talked to on the phone or exchanged letters. Those were the days when the mailbox held the promise of a letter from any number of friends and family who chronicled the changes in their lives. They were letters written just for you. That is all distant memory now – au revoir U.S. Postal Service. Now we get the US Weekly version of our friends’ lives with status updates meant for hundreds to see, a veritable smorgasbord of the esoteric and random.

 

 
The status update has essentially become longhand for saying “I’m alive and I am actually doing/thinking something that (I hope) you’ll find interesting.” That “something” becomes something by virtue of posting it to facebook. The minutiae of our lives now recorded and archived forever. What once was forgotten is now unforgettable, no matter how great or insignificant.

 

Every night on my bus commute home, over half of the passengers are women and many are reading status updates with the utmost concentration, what has now been termed “creeping.” Women, it seems, are preternaturally fascinated by what everybody else is doing.

 

Of course, our facebook identity is nothing more than the “face” we want the world to see. We generally don’t see the loneliness, loss, or heartbreak but when we do, it feels more like a hollow plea that begs the question: why the hell are you putting it here?

 

 
So is it wrong for me to say “I like you a lot but I don’t need to know what you’re doing everyday?” Does that in fact make me less of a friend? More importantly, are you less of a person if you don’t post anything at all? It may be almost impossible in an age where everyone is clamoring to to be heard above the din of everyone else talking about themselves. But in the end, all that communication is like whip cream: sweet but empty. The status update becomes little more than an arrow, one that points at us.

 

It beckons to us saying, “Here I am. Over here.”

 

And so, seventy fewer friends later, I am left to wonder: is it too late to go back to not knowing what my friends are feeling or doing until they tell me — and only me? Like the “slow food” movement, can we go back to a slower time of  friendship?

 

When Thoreau wrote that he had “never found a companion more companionable than solitude,” he more than likely did not mean one in which we are texting and tweeting, or sifting through status updates. Rather, he meant that now almost quaint notion of completely private and unselfconscious musings on life’s inexorable passage, the experiences which occur with no one ever knowing or needing to know.

 

And is that OK, can we survive without life’s rich pageant ever being posted to facebook?

 

Of course we can, and hopefully we can discover what that means without feeling the need to chronicle our every role in that pageant.  Besides, I’m not so sure I really want to remember everything that happened to me, and more than likely you’ll be far better off without me telling you about it — even on facebook.

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