Becoming the Living Poet

What I Learned From My First Month On Facebook

Posted on: May 11, 2009

1. Your past is still out there.

Those people that you like to pretend no longer exist because they decided they hated your guts and you decided that the only sensible thing to do was to pretend you hated them back. They’re still out there. Those people you got bored with or who got bored with you when your lives started to diverge and you could no longer find common ground. They’re still out there too. In fact they’re on Facebook. You can live with that. E-hug.

2. You won’t necessarily get hurt if you share stuff with people.

If they know I like that movie they’ll instantly unfriend me and never speak to me again. My thoughts are either crazy, lame, or boring. Everyone else’s thoughts are more interesting and if I post anything everyone will make fun of me or ignore me.

They might ignore you, particularly if you’re only an acquaintance, but if someone is mean to you on Facebook you can just unfriend them. In theory you friended them for a reason, i.e. because you’re fond of them in some capacity, so it’s highly unlikely they’ll suddenly decide that their true purpose for being on Facebook is to ridicule you. And being ignored might be good for you. It will teach you that your thoughts are your own and don’t need to be constantly validated by other people.

3. Different people have different ideas of what level of sharing is appropriate.

If it’s not a non-sequitur ask before you post it. People are usually pretty indifferent to how much you share about yourself online (admittedly I haven’t tested this very extensively), but some people have very idiosyncratic notions of what is appropriate to share about them. Something as simple as – “how’s that non-stigmatized health condition going, are you feeling any better?” – might not feel safe to them. Don’t assume you can guess another person’s boundaries simply by glancing at their wall history.

4. Over-analyzing the motivation behind small gestures is the road to crazy.

I said I liked their comment and then they deleted it. Did they delete it because I liked it and they think if I liked it, it must have been lame? No one comments on my status. Why does everyone hate me? Maybe everything I say is really boring.

Taking a deep breath and refusing to follow this line of crazy-making anti-reasoning is really the only solution.

5. Everyone has good days and bad days.

Those people that you think are so brilliant and wonderful and perfect. Those people that you think are happy and successful all the time. They’re still brilliant and wonderful, but they’re not perfect. They have bad days too. They get stressed and grouchy and sad just like you do.

6. Having 24-hour access to people’s thought processes can feel weirdly lonely sometimes.

This goes back to the earlier point about being OK with being ignored online. Many of the people I’ve friended on Facebook are out-of-town friends or friend’s of friends I met once and wanted to get to know better. These people are out in the world living lives that have nothing to do with me. They’re doing fun things that I’m not a part of and talking to interesting people I don’t know. When my life is going great I can just enjoy hearing about their experiences. When I’m feeling lonely and isolated it can make me feel like the only one at the party who hasn’t yet been asked to dance.

I’m still mulling over and sitting with this feeling of being apart from other people. I guess what I learned from this is that the feeling I get of being alone in a crowd that makes me avoid large gatherings and get-togethers made up largely of acquaintances is part of the nature of human existence. Often I avoid people because I avoid the pain of being apart from them and the feeling that I have somehow failed because connecting with other people is so hard for me sometimes. Maybe there’s no shame in being alone and in letting other people see that you are alone. Maybe it isn’t necessary to hide at all costs the fact that you do not know how to allow yourself to be a part of their lives, that you are waiting to be invited inside, and are not even confident that you’d recognize an invitation if you were given one.

Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is.Jean-Paul Sartre.

Perhaps to properly process this experience I need to go get myself a copy of Being and Nothingness. I’ve only ever read Sartre in excerpts in course readers and philosophy textbooks, but every word I’ve ever read of his resonated somewhere deep inside of me.

I joined Facebook on April 26th, so I technically have another 15 days to learn exciting Facebook lessons, but I’m going to post this now anyway. If I learn anything else that seems worth recounting I’ll update this post.

Anybody else learn anything from time spent on Facebook? I send this question out into the void.


2 Responses to "What I Learned From My First Month On Facebook"

Hi! I recently joined Facebook too and I would agree with everything you said. I hardly ever post anything because my life seems so boring (or I just don’t feel like letting the whole world in on my life!) But alot of other peoples’ seem pretty boring as well, and they’re fine with it, so maybe I just shouldn’t judge myself so harshly…

People really are people. They have ups and downs, days when they are busy everyday and others where they get down and feel boring and others where the loneliness is gripping. Learning that people aren’t really channeling devices for your worst fears but fucked up broken people just like you is a good lesson to learn in the long term in dealing with overcritical inner voices.

It’s also a good reminder that friends really aren’t waiting for an excuse to hurt you. And if they for some reason decide to do that, it’s all to easy to sever a now toxic connection. A very good life lesson for those who have a hard time escaping that “but how can I change for you” mentality.

But good luck on Facebook.

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