Are You Your Facebook Profile?

Posted: September 16, 2014 in Life Lessons
Tags: , ,
C'mon, how old is that selfie, really?

C’mon, how old is that selfie, really?

Welcome to my Facebook profile. Do you want to see cute photos of my kids? Or my pets? Do you want to read funny little anecdotes about all the cute and interesting things my family/friends/animals do? Do you want to hear about that super frustrating thing that happened that actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise/hilarious/a teaching moment?

Of course you do! Because on Facebook, we get to frame our lives however we choose. There’s mood lighting, product placement, and stand up comedy. It’s like a mini movie trailer for the life we are living.

Or, is it the life we wish we were living?

Oh, sure, there’s plenty of brave souls who lay it all out there on Facebook, all those imperfect moments, and hard times. But that’s not really how we want people to view our lives, right? So we make sure those moments are far outweighed by the good and the cute in life, complete with inspirational quote photos to match. (Except for that one friend. You know, the one who posts a status update every hour, on the hour, griping about her boss and her coworkers, the waiter who messed up her lunch order, having to get up early, having to stay up late, the weather, her kids’ rotten behavior, her husband’s rotten behavior . . . and then a quote about wine, which I assume she must drink to dull the panic of facing another day full of everything going wrong. Admit it, you have a friend like the one I’m talking about).

But I’m as guilty as the rest of the several billion people who can’t resist Facebook’s siren call. I love me some Facebook. There’s something nice about getting on there and seeing what the rest of the world is up to. Not the nameless, faceless Internet, but the people I grew up with, worked with, shared memories with. I like posting photos for people both near and far. I like sharing a funny story, or posting a link to something interesting I found. For an Introvert like me, who has trouble getting out there in the physical world and connecting a lot of the time, Facebook is a way to still get myself out there and be social, but on my terms and on my schedule.

The voyeur in me, that same little kid who loved riding in the car at dusk so I could peek into other peoples houses when the lights were on to see what they were doing and what their homes looked like, loves Facebook because it gives me permission to peek at other people’s lives. Where did she go on vacation? Who is starting a new business? What is life like for that person I knew as a kid, who’s all grown up now with kids of her own?8468995025_717949350a

The problem is, we all wonder . . . how much of this is real? We hear a lot about how people have their real lives and then their Facebook or online lives, and never the two shall meet. Oh, c’mon, they say, everyone knows that what you see on Facebook is basically a snapshot with a pretty photo filter on it!

Well, according to her Facebook profile...

Well, according to her Facebook profile…

Facebook user: Oh, hi! What am I doing? Just going through these selfies I took to find the one that is from the best angle, and highlights the sparkle in my eyes but downplays that wrinkle I see every time I look in the mirror. I think I’ll put it in Instagram with a photo filter that will smooth that shit out. Ah! That’s better. Now, let me write and edit a status update to illustrate how a heated fight with my teenager actually turned out to be a comedy goldmine . . .

Friend of Facebook user: Uhh, okay. Are you preparing for a career in fiction writing?

There seem to be a few types of FB’ers: There’s your Gloss It Over Gurus, the Let It All Hang Outers, and the occasional Oh I Forgot I Had This Account But Let Me Post a Summary of the Last 7 1/2 Months Users. If I had to be completely honest, I would say I definitely fall into the Gloss it Over category.

I’ve shared some annoyances, and posted about some sad times when things weren’t going so well. But I also am very careful to keep certain things off my page. If I wouldn’t want it up on stage in real life, then it probably won’t be on Facebook, either. I never post job grievances. I don’t write cryptic anonymous rants when I am mad at someone. The ones I scroll by are usually just frustrating — you took the time to write this and post it, and I’m sure the person you’re mad at knows it’s them anyway, so just tell me who! I don’t think I send annoying game requests, and I never accept them.

But if I’m being totally honest, is my Facebook page an accurate representation of my real life? And more importantly, would I really want it to be? We are getting more used to seeing the ugly side of life with reality TV, 24 hour news, and insta-share online. Arguments, arrests, bullying, murders, racial slurs, protests, domestic violence, riots, and every other horrible thing humans can do to each other are practically broadcast in real time. But still . . .

Did you ever stop to notice how hard most people work to cover all that stuff up in their own lives? I am human, I get frustrated, fight with my significant other, act selfish, eat ice cream out of the container with the freezer door open, yell at the dog, yell at the kids, have a breakdown, and cry in the bathroom when everyone else is asleep. It’s normal, it’s forgivable, and I don’t ever put those things out there online for the world to gawk at, or feel sorry for, or whatever reaction those events would get. (Uhh, except for right now, I am.)

I know there are people, people I know and people I don’t know, who struggle with depression, are fighting a disease, struggle with self-image, or live in broken relationships that, according to their Facebook profiles, are living in a movie-star fantasy life with romantic dates, well-behaved and photographic children, fun vacations, and an endless stream of positive affirmations. Why do we do this? Why is is so easy to lie?

In some cases, it may just be easier to pretend the lies are true. In others, fear must be a factor, with the intense pressure that comes with wondering what would happen if the world actually knew? Still more people must live by the philosophy that it’s never in good taste to let your friends, and especially your enemies, see you down or vulnerable. And some would be embarrassed – mortified, even – if the people they saw on a daily basis knew the shambles their lives were in.

I did that, too! I can go back several years now on my Facebook timeline and see the photos shared, the cute little status updates I posted, and know that behind every one of those was a person who was depressed, struggling, feeling weighed down by life, and trying desperately to cover it all up. That must have been why the news of my separation and impending divorce came as such a shock to those who thought they knew me. But Jaime, they would say, you guys seemed so happy . . .

Of course we did. That was the point! Because that’s the picture I painted.

Here’s an actual status I posted from that time:

Jaime Leigh Hebert
November 30, 2009
“We decorated our tree Saturday night. It looks awesome. After, we sat and admired it while drinking hot cocoa with big marshmallows. Sunday morning, none of us got out of bed until 10am!! Great way to finish a vacation! Not really ready for work, but here I go anyway…”

 

Sounds great doesn’t it? Upbeat, enviable, even! I’d want to hang with her! (If she existed, that is.)

I went back and read many of the posts from October-December of that year, and the truth is, I can hardly recognize the person who wrote them. Who was this Pollyanna writing these updates, and where was I? Because in real life, I was watching my entire world fall to pieces, knowing desperately there was nothing I could do to stop it. Yet, there I was posting about Christmas shopping (we were broke), hanging out with my daughter (because we were always alone), and cheering on my soon-to-be-ex with “he rocks!” style posts when in truth we were completely broken.

So I guess the answer to that first question, “Are You Your Facebook Profile?” if asked of me, would be a resounding “No!” The me on my profile is a little happier, has better hair, handles stress better, and is much jokier than the Real World Me.

I guess you would say the Facebook Me is who I wish I was, all the time. I see flashes of her, glimpses throughout the day . . . but more often I hang out with Eeyore Me, Forgetful Me, Stressed Me, and Tired Me. I’m sure there’s a few other of the Seven Dwarfs in there, too.

So, if you happen to be looking through my Facebook profile, or any other person’s Facebook profile, and feel that twinge of envy, just remember: chances are, that person is doing the exact same thing.

So, are you your Facebook (or online) profile? And do you think we should “let it all hang out” online, or is there an unspoken agreement that there’s a politeness code many people stick to that dictates what to share/what not to share? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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