I haven’t yet *gasp* done the mandatory Facebook post and since I seem to be running short of inspiration – and time – these days, here are some scattered thoughts. But first, let me say that I believe Facebook is here to stay for at least a while and it has changed the way we communicate and, basically, are. So let’s not dismiss it even if we dislike it. Noone is obliged to be on Facebook but you are not morally superior (or inferior) if you are not. It has become almost as ubiquitous as television, though, so you can’t be entirely divorced from its influence even if you aren’t on the platform itself.
And now some observations:
- Farmville has died, thank God (or has it? I think I disabled updates from a few people who were on it, so maybe it’s still around) but the next phase of gah seems to be provided by people linking inspirational quotes. The sheer mediocrity of these pearls of wisdom is so overwhelming that one cannot even react to them. I find myself in a constant state of eyerolling. I need to just block these wannabe inspirers and expend my cynicism on worthier causes.
- That said, it is totally the prerogative of these people to link, post or flood their wall with whatever feel-good detritus they please. The same rule applies as it does to blogs. If you don’t like it, don’t go there. Facebook has thoughtfully provided the option of hiding updates from these people so you don’t have to take the drastic action of unfriending (or is it defriending? The terminology boggles) them. However, I have not figured out how to do this on my phone, which is what I use the most to check Facebook. Anyone?
- However, annoying as these updates are, it is also interesting to see how people present themselves on Facebook. You either get a clear picture of a person’s personality or an insight into a facet of their personality that they are not comfortable unleashing on the unsuspecting public in their “real” lives. Thus, one friend who has totally embraced the new age, yogic life, has status updates which are all about how beautiful life is, positivity etc. So also another guy, who frankly I was surprised was being so open about his, ahem, more tender side. In fact, that guy and another girl, who are forever posting such “inspirational” updates also once (separately – they do not know each other; I’m fortunate to be acquainted with my fair share of this positive species) had defensive posts responding to, I assume, people who asked them if “they were okay” or concerned for their mental stability. If you are one of those who posts uplifting quotes on FB, don’t feel obliged to explain yourself to me. You are entitled to post whatever you please; just know that silence does not equal approbation and many of your “friends” might be smirking. Another guy who I would least expect to be the kind of post such updates has recently started doing so – and I suspect this is because guys rarely get to express this side of them in “real” life. He too started off with a disclaimer that he has not lost his mind. Carry on, I say. If we don’t like it, we can always tune it out.
- Another variation on the positivity brigade is the religious enthusiast. These are more annoying than the former category, because at least the positivity nuts occasionally have something interesting to say – like tips on growing your own garlic or something you can actually use instead of “Praise God” every time someone did not move their cheese. Thank God (ha!), I seem to have just a couple of these on my feed. Unfortunately, they are family and sadly Facebook is my way of being in tune with their lives, tiresomely dominated by religion as it appears to be, so I don’t want to just block them. A word of advice – never, as V did, try to respond with a cynical rejoinder. There is just no point. Do as I do and bite your tongue…er, thumbs.
- All this made me wonder how I appear to other people in my Facebook avatar. Actually, Jas’s comment on my Mindy post prompted me to go back and browse my archives and I realised it’s been a while – frankly, I can’t remember the last time – I wrote in the chick lit style I used to. And that’s because increasingly this blog has come to serve the purpose of saying, directly, instead of in a lighthearted tongue-in-cheek way what I want to about various issues. On Facebook, I link a lot to interesting stuff I’ve read – my rule is one post a day because I don’t want to be one of those spammers – because checking out other people’s links (and then their witty status messages) is what I enjoy most about Facebook. But like the links of the positivity brigade, the stuff I link to conveys a distinct impression of who I am. I tend to link to provocative, often feminist, stuff that often even my first reaction to was to disagree with. So I probably come across as a rabble rouser, and though I try to resist, I have got into some ranty exchanges now and then. This is not necessarily who I am in my personal interactions – definitely not at work where I tend to be as diplomatic as possible since I don’t want to add to my existing foreignness by saying something too radical. To my wider social circle, I am unmistakeably argumentative.
- Friends: So Facebook and the general online world have spawned new kinds of relationships. Obviously, all the people on your FB list are not truly your friends. Many are acquaintances. Some are colleagues. Some are long-lost-friends-who-never-quite-made-it-back. Obviously, your real friends you are in touch with elsewhere (one hopes) as well. So people who keep repeating like a mantra “I don’t really want to be in touch with half those people” you are not saying something very ingenious. We all know that. The reasons we maintain contact with randomish people on FB are multitudinous: we are polite-they are harmless (a huge number of people are in this category which I am too nice to prune), they post interesting photos of their lives, who-knows-when-they-might-be-useful, they are entertaining, you were once great friends with them etc. It’s ok. A big part of Facebook is that it has institutionalised and aestheticised this kind of tenuous contact. A curious category of friends, I have noticed though, are those you get on with famously online, total banter in comments etc. but zero chemistry in person.
- Etiquette: Facebook has created a new social minefield as well. Defriending someone, of course, is the ultimate insult. What’s curious is that there are some people who are so shameless they will send you an request again. I find these persistent rejectees scary. Adding colleagues is another blurry area. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Same with older relatives or worse, aunties on the in-law side who only know you in your capacity as So-and-So’s wife. Limited profile is not fooling anyone; it can turn out to be a graver insult than defriending. Then, Facebook discussions: how long is it polite to go on with a discussion (by which you know I mean rant)? How long is it polite if the person whose view you’re opposing is not the actually friend but “friend of friend”? Should you engage with FoFs at all? Funnily enough, most of us seem to sense the boundaries and abide by them pretty well. Those that don’t are fodder for amusement.
- And of course, the laziness of the interactions, partly bred by this need to polite and concise which is at odds with the Internet’s licence to be uninhibited. Thus, the concept of “like”. The most lazy form of communication ever, but one that I have begun to resort to myself. As also, emoticons. Really, the most concise expressions of passive-aggression ever.
- People who know me on FB, what do you think? Do you think it matches or clashes with who I am in “real life”?