Like Me: How Facebook is Shaping My Ability to Love

Warning: Pityparty alert, bear with me, it’s just an example.  Recently, I saw a picture on Facebook of some of my favorite people from various parts of the country, all gathered not two hours from where I live.  They were all laughing and smiling and clearly having a great time.  Not only did it hurt my feelings that I was not invited, but it started to weave some disparate threads together in my mind about the nature of social media.

I am seldom in a social situation that doesn’t involve a selfie that is instantly delivered to fb.  As I go through my day and consider my thoughts, I find less and less of them belong to me, rather, they are immediately, mentally posted to Facebook and my imagination doles out my friends and family’s individual responses.  It was bad enough pre-Facebook as a young woman to be acutely aware of my own social reflection; now it is concrete, magnified, supercharged.

Facebook has changed my relationships.  It has changed my thinking.  I don’t even have alot of your email addresses or phone numbers because we do all our correspondence on Facebook.

We all complain about it as a first world problem that cannot be avoided if we want to maintain with our friends, old school buddies, distant family.  I have connected to a person on the other side of the planet that is now indispensable to me.  We all have these visual and verbal records of ourselves extending back several years. Every memorable meal, every movie worth mentioning, all our politics and professional interests are there in a timeline.  And there is something beautiful and phenomenal about it, no question.

So why do I feel robbed?

Because Facebook has preyed on my greatest strength as a human: my ability to love people and appreciate every good thing they generate.  It is a tractor beam for my best and worst moments and the sum total of my experience or my work is quantified by how many likes my reported experience receives.  It has exploited our natural need to share.  Even the word “share” feels lessened.  I realize my responsibility in all this.

And I won’t even delve into the topic of privacy, how closely Facebook works with government, and the soul eroding, invasive ads.  We are all being stalked for our purchasing power and our votes.

I know lots of people who have accounts that visit every so often.  They don’t comment, they see it as light entertainment.  I, on the other hand, am completely sucked in.

I have to tighten the circle; I will redouble my efforts to send more pictures via email, I will text and call and for God’s sake visit with you IN PERSON.  I want the real human connection back, not this simulacrum.  I want my thoughts back.  I cannot quite bring myself to leave Facebook at the moment, not when I am about to launch my book.  I acknowledge the hypocrisy of this.  But I also feel the need to express my discomfort with it.  The construct at once breeds inclusion and exclusion.  It amplifies the feeling of “I am not there” and it maximizes bad manners and misunderstanding.  I am challenging myself to recalibrate my sense of what it means to love people. And yes, this blog post will end up on Facebook.

I say this with no reservation: I love all 453 of you.  I want a genuine connection with you.  Let’s have coffee.  Even if it’s on Skype.

~M

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