Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Truth About Facebook Profiles

Facebook shows me the good times. The milestones. Which, at this point in my life means one thing: weddings (Be honest: who hasn’t been sidetracked by perusing a friend’s album of wedding photos?).  Wedding photos document a beautiful day: smiles, pretty dresses. A wedding day is just one example of an event that paints an incomplete picture of a person’s life – if only viewed from Facebook. 

However, Facebook does not reflect the complexities of human life. I have never seen a photo album of a funeral. Nor have I ever read a post describing a friend’s struggle with bulimia. It is only through deeper, shall we say “3D”, relationships that I learn about those darker details of human life.

Lately, I’ve been catching up with some college friends over the phone. Since I moved away from my hometown and my college town, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to stay in touch. But one thing is for sure: Friendships that last do so because involved persons communicate beyond the web.

One of my best high school friends is not on Facebook.

That’s right. You heard me correctly. She is not on Facebook. But you know what? Lisa and I talk on the phone at least once a week (or email if she’s busy with grad school stuff). Sometimes it feels old-fashioned, but I would argue that the absence of Facebook has forced our relationship to be stronger. Social media is not a crutch to sustain our friendship.

I’m not perfect at keeping in touch with every friend. In fact, I fail a lot in this area. I know I'm also not the first person to have this epiphany, but maybe writing it here will reinforce this in my own life. 

C.S. Lewis talks about how we create “shadows” of other people. In his satire “The Screwtape Letters”, a demon writes to his tempter-in-training. The demon encourages his pupil to manipulate humans to pray for the idea of a person, rather than the reality of that person. There's some truth to it, though; it’s easier to imagine a person as we wish them to, rather than to see them for what they are. This concept is easily transferred to Facebook – it’s so easy to see that newly married friend as swimming in bliss because every photo contains a beautiful dress, perfect makeup and smiles all around. 

For many, Facebook will be a placeholder until the 10-year reunion. Yet if left on its own, Facebook is sure to offer a limited picture of someone. And if you let it, Facebook can dilute a friendship until there is nothing left. 


Patricia Desmond Biallas said...

Proof that it's critical to maintain "real" friendships. Just like most "reality" shows aren't the least bit real; "friends" on FB is a bit of a misnomer--for the most part, they are not genuine friends in the way we've always used that word. Instead these people could be labelled " acquaintances, relatives you wouldn't normally keep up with, a few (genuine) friends, and people you've met in life that you'd kind of like to keep tabs on." But of course that title is a bit too long for FB. So keep up the phone calls to those "genuine" friends when you can fit them in because when you can't, they will understand anyway. After all, they are your true friends. (Oh, and say "Hi" to Lisa from Mama B next time you talk to her on the phone!)

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