A couple of months ago, I created a Facebook Page. You can find it here or click Like on the widget in the right-hand column (gotcha!). Initially, I was hesitant to start a Facebook Page because I have strong but mixed feelings about Facebook in general. I managed to avoid Facebook until a few years ago when I discovered that one of my nieces had started posting all her children’s pictures there. I opened an account immediately. Seeing pictures of adorable baby boys as they grow up was a huge incentive. At that time, Facebook was fairly easy to navigate; that was before it started to emulate Twitter.
Over the years since then, I’ve accrued a fair number of “friends.” A large majority of my friends are actually family (I have a lot of cousins). The rest are former classmates, coworkers, former coworkers, and a few are friends. Now, making these distinctions, especially between friends and coworkers, is not to suggest that I don’t consider my coworkers or former coworkers to be friends; many of them are. In fact, I actually like everyone I’m “friends” with on Facebook; in many cases, I love them. What makes my personal Facebook account awkward for me is the degree (or lack thereof) to which I can be fully myself. The thing is: my Facebook friends represent a vast spectrum of likes and dislikes, political and otherwise. I don’t hide the fact that I am a “bleeding heart liberal.” (In reality, I’m more moderate, but compared to some people, yup, I’m a bleeding heart.) Yet, I still feel uneasy when I express my political views, when I express myself. I don’t separate the political from my personal life. I don’t because I live the political everyday. I have a government job so I know first-hand how political winds will affect whether or not I can accomplish my agency’s mission. I’ve been a social worker, counseling victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, so I know first-hand how legislation can help or hinder a victim’s recovery. I’ve taught college-level courses in composition and social work, so I know first-hand how university politics can ultimately shortchange a student’s education by not teaching him writing or critical thinking skills. So, for me, politics is personal.
But I know that my views are not shared by every one of my Facebook friends, so I censor myself, at least I try. I’m sure there are some friends/family members/coworkers who would like me to try harder. And there are some friends whose views I totally disagree with. I don’t ask them to censor themselves; instead, I simply hide their posts. The downside of that is I then miss the occasional good news, latest baby picture, etc., unless I go directly to their Facebook page, which is not something I always remember to do. There have been many times when I thought about just deleting my account altogether. If any one of my Facebook friends really want to stay in touch with me, they have my email address or they can call my mom and get my phone number. I’ve lived at the same street address for almost 22 years. I’m not hard to find.
But those pictures of the little ones get me every time. I have five grandnephews and one grandniece. They live in different states so to see them grow up, I need to keep my Facebook account.
But I still think of closing my account and here’s another reason why. Now that I have a Facebook Page, I feel lonelier than ever on my personal account. My birthday last week came and went with only one person from my personal account wishing me a happy birthday and that was done through a direct message, not on my Timeline. Yet, I blogged about my birthday and when the post showed up on my Facebook Page, it went “viral.” According to Facebook, it got the most Likes and was viewed by more people than anything I’ve written to date. Now, I usually don’t broadcast my birthday. I tend to keep it under the radar, but this year was special to me and I wanted to celebrate. That so many in my blogging community celebrated with me was a wonderful experience. That there wasn’t a peep on my personal Facebook account brought me up short. [Caveat: three friends from my personal account did Like my blog post on my Facebook Page and left messages.]
The difference is that on my Facebook Page, I am a writer and everyone I Like through that page is a writer. That’s my focus. On this blog and through my Facebook Page and Twitter account, I stay pretty focused on writing. I have nothing to censor and I can be totally myself. It’s ironic to me that, through my blog, I feel more myself than through any other media. And I don’t feel lonely. Yet, I do, at times, on my personal Facebook account.
There’s been many discussions about loneliness and Facebook, studies done, reports published (like this one from the Atlantic Monthly). My husband cites these studies as one reason why he doesn’t and will never have a Facebook account. Being a shy, sensitive introvert, I do become easily paranoid (“Nobody likes me!,” “I’m persona non grata and I don’t know why!”). Thus, I have to remind myself that this problem with Facebook is of my own making. I should know better than to think that “silence” on my personal account indicates anything. The dark side of social media is that your expectations get raised beyond reasonable levels. Before Facebook, I was tickled by every birthday card I got, and I didn’t think about the ones I didn’t get. A bit more effort goes into selecting and sending a card whereas with Facebook all you have to do is point and click. And so we (at least I) have a tendency to expect more from people now then I did pre-Facebook days. And that’s simply not a fair expectation.
I started off this post thinking I had every reason to feel unhappy with my personal Facebook account. But now I realize it was my own unreasonable expectations that have caused my unhappiness. I’ll keep that personal account because it’s a great way to see the kids in my family grow, see my mom with her great-grandchildren, occasionally exchange political views with like-minded comrades, and keep track of my wealth of family and friends. My Facebook Page is for the writer that I am now and the author that I hope to be.