Awesome and Awful, Facebook Rocks My World

Awesome and Awful, Facebook Rocks My World





Picture this: It’s 9:00 PM on a quiet Thursday night. Guy Fieri is on TV, groaning in ecstasy over a New Mexico steak restaurant serenely tucked away behind a liquor store. The doorbell rings. Surprised, you head over to the door and peek through the hole. Standing there, with a curious look on his face, is your tenth grade boyfriend. This is the guy who, after a painful breakup 20+ years ago, you'd hoped had somehow managed to fall off the face of the Earth.

Feeling stuck – I mean he’s right there outside your home – you tentatively open the door. With barely a nod and glance your way, he barrels into your living room and plops down on your couch. Opening up your photo albums, he learns more about where you live, your husband, kid, career, college years (with the Freshman 15), Peace Corps (an extra 18 lbs – you couldn’t help it) and other 20’s and 30’s adventures. Still probing, he learns – by rifling through your personal messages – about your high cholesterol, your daughter’s impromptu after-school play date, the family reunion, and the fact that construction workers outside your window saw you in your nightgown last week.

On his way out, and again, without uttering a word directly to you, he takes a can of spray paint and, on the wall of your home, writes in plain view for the 440 mostly strangers milling around your place to see, “Wow, you look a lot better now than you did back in high school!”

Welcome to my Facebook experience.

I know, I know. I’m supposed to love Facebook. It brings the world together and has transformed communication.  It’s great for business. It’s a springboard to revolutions and a breezy road to comfort and companionship, easing us out of our lonely chambers. It builds awareness around social issues, raises money for people in need, and in some cases even saves lives. And if there are people you don’t want to see, fiddle around in Facebook’s ever-changing privacy section and poof!, away they go. I get it. So why do I still have a love/hate relationship with this website?

A Quick Hop from Facebook to Fakebook

The main reason I dislike Facebook is because of how fake we are on it. Here’s a typical example: a friend recently went on vacation. Over the course of a week, picture after picture was posted, each more beautiful than the next. The kids wore ear-to-ear smiles, and the parents gazed passionately into each other’s eyes. The reality? The mom yelled so much that she lost her voice. And the passion? Let me put it this way: the last time these two parents enjoyed sex was probably around the time a bunch of us were chanting “Yes We Can.”

The Past as Present

I’m a bridge burner. Not literally, of course, but in the figurative sense. If our relationship didn’t work out, whether romantic or not, I’m perfectly content with us going our separate ways – forever. With Facebook, there is no fading into black, no amicable parting of ways, no wondering but not really caring about what happened to the other person 10 years down the line. Thanks to Facebook, that old roommate you were constantly at odds with, the guy who tossed you to the curb, or even the boss who took credit for your work – there they are, their perfectly photo-shopped faces staring at you in the recommended friends section. Or posting some love on your friends’ walls for you to flinch at each time you see it in your newsfeed. The past is ever present.

I can get into my other beefs with Facebook. The way we feel like losers if no one comments on a status update, or if a person doesn’t accept a friend request, or if we have fewer than a few HUNDRED people in our network. Or how it’s contributing to a world where communication, even with close friends, is quickly becoming a slick sound bite. Or how we check our Facebook newsfeeds before we read the real news (sorry, friends, I love you, but the pics of your new shoes or your Dave Matthews concert experience are not quite as important as crumbling, decades-old dictatorships in the Middle East/Northern Africa).

A Convert, Sort of

This may come as a bit of a shock after all of my gripes, but guess what: I’m grateful for Facebook. When a new friend's husband was shipped off to Afghanistan, the quick posts she got from friends and family really seemed to help her through it. When a very dear friend passed away a few years ago, Facebook was a welcome outlet for our grief and pain. And as a mom with a growing business? Nothing has been more helpful. Yes, there are a handful of people I never wanted to see again, but that doesn’t compare to the ocean of old friends and family I couldn’t wait to welcome back into my life.

So, here I am, a reluctant convert. Like any relationship, it’s complicated and imperfect. But at least now I have someplace to vent when times get tough…  which makes me think of a new, cute status update I want to post this very second… maybe along with a photo...

~By Wendy Widom, Partner, Families in the Loop

(Here's where we got the image...

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