I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I like the idea of it, generally speaking, and I must admit that I've been contacted by friends I've not seen in ages. The concept of sending and receiving short, instant thoughts is fun, and in practice it's sometimes entertaining. But what constantly amazes me is how those one or two sentences can really reveal a lot.
Now, maybe this says more about me than about the status-updaters. I'll admit that I'm having my own quiet mid-life crisis here, working on adjusting to a teenage daughter and homeschooling and remembering who I am when I'm not a mom, that sort of thing. And I've been working on my own little Happiness Project, loosely inspired by Gretchen Rubin's daily musings about how finding happiness is up to each of us. I've been paying close attention to the people and things in my life that are positive, and I'm working on minimizing my exposure to the negative, draining stuff.
And with that in mind, what strikes me almost every time I log on to Facebook is how many people use it to say negative things. (By the way, you are a friend of mine and you use Facebook, believe me when I say I'm not writing this about you. Really, I'm not.)
Here's an example. I am Facebook friends with a woman in my community who is, in my real life, more of an acquaintance than friend. Her daughter used to be in school with my daughter. We were on school committees together. My daughter always used to tell me that her daughter -- who seemed like a perfectly nice preteen girl -- was one of the "mean girls" in school who could smile and look sweet but was actually pretty nasty to and about other girls when a teacher wasn't around. And here's the thing: from seeing the mom's Facebook updates scroll past on my home page, I see her making snarky comments about everyone and every thing. How there was a heavy lady at the grocery store who shouldn't have left the house wearing those jeans. How the girls on the other team looked trampy. That sort of thing. Seeing her updates, I keep thinking a) I don't know this woman much but I sure don't want to know her better; and b) if this is the sort of talk the daughter hears around the house, then no wonder she acts like a "mean girl" at school.
It has made me think. I get that Facebook is a way for some people to let off steam and get empathy when they're having a bad day, or something dumb happens. But the flow of those little blurbs has made me see that there are some people whose comments have a consistent negative energy to them, even while they are full of "LOLs" and "just kiddings." And it's the ones targeted at other people ("Could that guy have picked an UGLIER shirt to wear?") that especially bother me. I've realized that I don't want to be Facebook friends with people who use Facebook to make fun of others.
I'm learning to use the "hide" button a bit more liberally than I used to. And I have to say that this realization made me go back through my own Facebook comments, to see what sort of tone I found there and whether I was using it to spread snark in the guise of humor too.
Not surprisingly, there are some folks whose Facebook blurbs are genuinely entertaining. Some people manage to let you know they're having an off day without sounding whiny, and some just have a sense of humor that carries through every time. Some folks use Facebook so well to make a thoughtful or funny observation. It is those friends whose comments keep me logging in to Facebook.
Maybe it's part of the attraction and genius of Facebook that these comments can be so revealing. There's a true sense of personality that comes through these short comments. I guess the thing for each of us to pay atttention to is what we are revealing about ourselves.