Facebook Friends Without Benefits (broken heart) and Other Newsfeeds
16 Mar, 2012 - Clare Halpine
You have a secret. You are a masochist. You were feeling down on yourself and so you checked the Facebook profiles of the last three people you have been involved with.
Kendra Robinson wrote on Nick Patterson’s wall.
Sure, no big deal, right? But, then why is Kendra’s profile picture of her and Nick? And, if you scroll down further, why did Nick post a picture of the two of them when he has never posted any of the pictures he has taken with you?
Poster of a kitten knocking over a glass of milk: FML.
Now, all of the typical things you used to enjoy bring little pleasure. You don’t want to poke anyone and you haven’t been able to “like” anything for weeks. You’ve taken Vitamin D. Nothing helps.
You should have known: the rule of thumb for photo posting and tagging is, generally: (two words) pretty clear. The hurt is indescribable, but the term for someone who carefully manages the contents of his or her profile page like it’s a promotional site is a “Po-Sé”, or, Post selectivist. You should have guarded your heart like Mr. Po-Sé guards his wall.
Your Status Update: “Dreams don’t come true.”
Darren Feldman: Hey! Haven’t talked to you since grad. Just wanted to say that mine did! Got a job in Atlanta and just married the woman of my dreams!
Brett Chan-Man: Hey, is everything ok?
Saw that you recently took a “which lonely island character are you” quiz. Who’d you get?
Karin Tanner-Feldman: Would have to agree with Darren! Love you babe!
Somehow, you used to be able to get away with using Facebook as an emotional outlet; by putting your rambling tidbits of melancholia in quotation it seemed plausible that you were just quoting Sylvia Plath. But then, Facebook changed. What’s on your mind? Facebook began to prompt.
And now, every poem, song, video and bulletin you share is, however minutely, a reflection of your state of emotion and your state of consciousness; it is a reflection of you and a reflection on you. You are what you post. And, by extension, it’s easy to feel that you are, only if you post.
But, you haven’t been able to come up with an interesting or clever status update for hours. And, everyone knows that a successful status update lies not in the amount of information divulged, but in the number of “likes” it receives. That’s why nobody posts about the boring or unappealing things that happen in their life.
Tamara West: Ugh. Second urinary tract infection in the last two days! :/
Cora Kitchen: hang in there, hun!
Janice Wilson: have you tried Canesten? Lacey Wilson had an infection last month and it worked for her. They must be going around! Praying for you.
Sometimes, you wish you were ignorant, or perhaps just blissfully unaware, of the subtle and not-so-subtle indicators of status exhibited in the social network. Now that you’ve been exposed, your awareness feels like a burden: there’s the terrible feeling you get when you see someone else’s life and feel embarrassed about your inferiority, and the terrible feeling you get when you see someone else’s life and feel embarrassed for their inferiority. Which is worse? The latter, as your initial embarrassment on behalf of another is then compounded by feelings of guilt and shame over your arrogant feelings of embarrassment on behalf of another. Pity is the opposite of compassion.
Aaron Katz: Check out this article. How is it that everyone in America, except for me, and a few select others, is stupid, ignorant and unbelievably intolerant??!
Dan Markham: I just read the same article and had the exact same thought.
Lara Chisholm: Ugh. So violently angry about the rampant, fanatical hate speech in this country.
Jennifer Rothschild: I am always shocked at how ignorant people can be. I guess it just goes to show you that small minds think alike.
Dan Markham: I couldn’t agree more.
Then again, this is your network and these are your friends. Right? Aren’t they? Are they?
Take the REAL friendship quiz to find out!
1. You would feel comfortable dropping by (insert friend’s name) place if you were in the neighborhood. i.e. Writing an annual, “happy birthday” note on their wall.
2. (Insert friend’s name) is someone who is there for you when you need them. i.e. Available on chat.
3. (Insert friend’s name) is someone who understands that reciprocation is necessary in a relationship. They not only invite you to brunch, they Poke back.
I mean, you watch your home page more than you watch the news… so, you are up-to-date on what your friends are up to—even the ones you haven’t actually sighted or spoken to in years. But, you don’t necessarily comment on or like their posts, as that would be weird or creepy.
You and Jacqueline Wilson are not actually friends. You are what the world long ago, and Facebook only recently has created an appropriate sub-category for, called, “acquaintances.”
You don’t have 1330 friends. 10? Again, Maybe?
The truth has set you free from accepting friend requests from your friends’ moms, but it still hurts. Weary of the façade of interaction and the inexplicable pressure to maintain appearances, you begin to wonder if your life would be better if you just deactivated yourself. But it would be an inconvenience; you don’t know anyone’s phone number or mailing address. And what about your family? How would they cope? How would they know where you were without a Places update?
Joe Crossman decided not to head to the 2nd Street Bridge and is @Second Cup. He’s sitting in the third chair from the right of the doorway on the first floor. He’s wearing a blue shirt with a small, embroidered insignia on the left breast pocket and sipping coffee from a non-biodegradable off-white cup. Ouch! (He forgot to get a thermo sleeve.)
To remove your self from Facebook would be to commit the unthinkable: social suicide. You don’t want to deactivate yourself forever, you just want to go Invisible for awhile – so that you might still receive notification of—and read all—the nice posthumous things people might say about you when/if someone notices you’re gone; but, unfortunately, that feature is only available on Gchat.
In the only act of self-destruction, that you realistically feel destructive enough to carry out, you remove your profile pic. You don’t want to try or to be or to try-to-be anything. You don’t want to be perceived as something that you’re not, or anything that you are.
As you peruse your photos, contemplating the removal of all albums, you can’t help but feel a certain sense of nostalgia for the olden days. Those days when Facebook albums had caché… the days when you had a reason and a purpose: to dress up, take pictures, and post your photos by the next afternoon. Remember?
What happened? When did everything change? Why did everything change?
There are numerous reasons, but, according to your timeline, everything took a turn for the nostalgic after that song “Please Remember Me” by Tim McGraw was shared on your newsfeed. No, wait, wrong year… It’s the advent of the mobile upload that’s to blame.
Instagrammer: Insert Instagram and …voila!
Everyone likes this.
Purportedly to allow for greater sharing, in actuality, the mobile upload resulted in the breakdown of traditional sharing modalities. When everyone: instagrammers, foodies and partyers, are uploading immediately, instantaneously and spontaneously, your album of 60 photos, complete with memorable and witty captions, looks like you actually care about your Facebook account. It says: I made an effort. And that’s not cool.
Foodie: Insert picture of food on a plate and a description of ingredients.
Fan Friend: Yum!
Friendly one-upper: Is that today’s Times?
Philistine: … are those brown things mushrooms?
Foodie: No. Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy.
Friendly one-upper: Sweet, man. Couldn’t tell. Quality of the pic isn’t as good as the shots I’m used to on my 7D.
Foodie: Let’s do lunch Friday and we can discuss aperture settings and Aristotelian ethics over chicken rosemary Salmon Rushdie curry salad sprinkled with mini-bake-oven roasted pine nuts.
What’s cool is mobile uploading. Oh. Hey. Just happened to have my phone out. Took a snapshot. No big deal. Here it is. Check it. It’s instantly gratifying in a casual, I’m-only-disinterestedly-interested kind of way. It’s like when you pretend that you are interested in a poster in a store window so that you can unabashedly gaze at your own reflection in passing.
The Partier: Insert picture of girl wearing a bustier and holding a red plastic cup
Friend Partier: Ridiculouuusss.
Partier: average Tuesday night: aka totalll sh** show.
Partier: apparently, I threw my cup on the floor, and laughed like a hysterical hyena. #becausethatswhatyoudowhenyourlifeisaridiculousrealitytvshow.
Partier: I don’t even remember taking this pic I was so outrageously out of crazy-trashy-fantastically-sexy-hand. Let’s keep talking about how ridiculous I am.
The reality is that Facebook is less like a network of friends and more like a neighborhood watch. Best-case scenario: everyone is watching you; worst-case scenario: everyone is watching you. But, the most-likely scenario is that no one is watching you as closely as you are watching yourself.
In your efforts to “sell yourself” to others, you have deluded and diluted yourself; you have come to believe that you are, or should be, a finished product. Why are you trying so hard? Who are you hiding your celebrity birthday quiz from, anyway?
Kendra Robinson: Be who you are meant to be, even if it means dressing up as a sexy-nymph-princess-child-witch-cop-bo-peep-school-girl-seductress-she-devil on days other than Halloween. Am I right? Truth. Love!
Post. Comment. Share. Everything. All The Time. Even incomplete sentences. Like that. Like this. Like everything.
Like the ad on the right hand side of your home page that depicts a baby the size of a dinky car wearing a furry blue hat and lying in the palm of a hand with the tagline: “be a social worker in NY”, one’s timeline here on this networking planet doesn’t make sense: it’s hectic, barely comprehensible, arguably user-unfriendly but ultimately, inevitably, change is imposed when the Programmer Almighty sees fit.
Then again, maybe it’s not meant to be understood—just enjoyed—in the moment—for what it is: (absurd).
I don’t know…. Maybe it’s not You. But it can’t be just me…
About the author
Clare Halpine is a dynamic individual with a BFA from Mount Allison University as well as a few certificates of participation from various leadership seminars and motivational speaking events. Clare holds the "Whole World" organization in her hands. In her free time, she enjoys exploring alternative pedagogy and subverting the usual glamorous or sensational depictions of self on Vimeo.