This past week I personally experienced for the first time the power of Facebook and what all the debate is about, the claims that it is making us anxious, and in fact, in spite of all of our "friends", lonelier.
We have come to believe that Facebook is a barometer of how well we are doing in life as far as our popularity and desirableness go. We add friends to our page like the Tanning Mom adds hours of time to her tanning booth. Many more than we need. The term "friend" takes on a new definition. These friends are not necessarily the friends we would invite out to dinner, to our daughter's baby shower, to our son's wedding, well in fact, most wouldn't even merit an annual birthday or Christmas card. They are friends in name only.
We post photos that show us happy, enjoying life, adventurous, making sure we are the envy of our "1546" friends. Checking back frequently on our status to see how many have "liked" the photos, how many great comments we have received. And if in those comments we find remarks like, "you look great", "you have never looked better", or "way to go!", we now feel complete, we can sleep much better. It is our new modern day version of being loved.
I joined Facebook in 2009 at the urging of my daughter. She is in a band and would post photos and show updates. "Go on Facebook Mom." And so I did. Adding a few friends as the requests would come in, but I never went looking for friends to add. I admit I do love Facebook for the mere fact that I can stay in contact with past connections that I really want to stay connected with. For example, my lovely and adorable exchange student that lived with us in the early 2000's, now back in her homeland Germany, I can keep up with her. I love that. If it wasn't for Facebook I am sure the emails, written letters and phone calls would be few and far between. What I don't love is the friends who are not friends. I guess if you are using it as a business networking site, you should have many many friends to communicate with, advertise with, keep abreast of what you are doing. But true friends? Do I really want everyone to know where I am at this weekend, where I had dinner, what my thoughts are about Amanda Bynes and the trouble she has found herself in? I think not.
When Facebook is used properly it can be invaluable. Keeping up with real friends and distant family. But there are some of us who have taken advantage of this medium to provide us not only knowledge and entertainment but even "get back at cha" tactics. A good friend of mine recently told me she had been having Facebook wars with a semi-ex-boyfriend. They are not quite over and not quite on, and yet they both seem to want the other to know that the other is doing just fine and dandy on their own. He will post where he is dining out, what events he will be attending and photos of friends and family. She will then turn around and make sure to post a photos of herself in situations where she is having a good time. Take that. It is similar to the combat sport of fencing, but photos and comments have replaced the bladed weapons. A large part of Facebook seems to be about one upmanship. I'm sorry, how old am I? How old are you?
But what I really noticed was how much I too, have come to rely on the pats on the back that Facebook can provide. On this recent landmark occasion (landmark is a stretch here), my birthday in late April, I woke to not one Happy Birthday message on my Facebook page. Ouch! Years before I had many happy birthday wishes before I had even woke up. They came from friends overseas, friends on the other coast. This birthday morning, nothing. There was a private message from my daughter, "Mom, I tried to post on your wall but you must have your privacy settings set so that no one can post on your page". I nearly panicked. What? We need to fix this STAT. How else will I know how loved I am, how thought of I am on this special day? Even surrounded by the people I really adore, my true friends on my birthday, I wanted more. I wanted to be recognized by all of these "friends" who would receive their daily Facebook reminder that it was MY birthday. Need to inflate the ego a bit. And even though it is lame, you know they only know it is your birthday because they got the notice, it still is validation of our existence, our importance. Yuck. This is scary.
By the time we had figured out that indeed my settings were set to private, I managed to rake in about 18 birthday greetings. Not great, not in the Facebook Hall of Fame scheme of things, but it was something. And in this world of dog eat dog, Facebook eat Myspace, that is saying something. I need to make sure that those settings are never set to private again. In fact, I might even go to the "find friends" app just so I can have an ample supply of likes, comments and birthday wishes. Thereby ensuring a future full of very Happy Birthdays to me.