I didn’t always feel this way. For someone who keeps a public blog I tend to be more private. I try not to overshare. It takes me a long time to feel comfortable with another person. And it’s not just that. I am a vault: a secret shared with me goes nowhere. Over the years, I have learned of and quietly kept the secrets of many.
So when I first met Facebook I was wary. Anything that shared that much with that many people, in one lazy scroll, simply could not be trusted. I gave it just enough information to keep things friendly, but not enough to fully commit. I started out slowly perusing everyone else’s pages while I stayed anonymous. There I was: no birthdate, no hometown, no education.
Truthfully, I am a hermit. Well, not really, but if it were more socially acceptable I would like that very much. More often than not I’d rather stay home and watch movies (see this post) and eat bad food. Or read. And write. And Facebook was so undeniably social.
Not long after I started on it we had a baby, and you know what? You get excited and want to tell people. Anyone really. Total strangers, you bet you are going to want to see our cute new baby. All of those images of friends together and families together started to look really good. That might have been a turning point for me.
Like with anything new and scary, familiarity settled in. I think the first thing I did was replace the generic blue silhouette with a picture of my dog. I gave myself a hometown, an education…a history. One day I got a little wild and liked something. Being on Facebook became less about fear and more about wanting to be present. To reach out and, in as modern a way as possible, say hello. I see you. I like what you’re doing. I also went through a period where I wouldn’t post anything that wasn’t witty or meaningful. This was a long period of my staring at the screen because, hey, it’s not easy to be witty and meaningful. And those people who are witty and meaningful are not the norm. I’m not sure I like those people.
Sometimes going on Facebook made me feel. Not. So. Great. I would scroll through all the party photos and think here’s me at home. In my pajamas. Eating chocolate. With a screaming baby. Doing a whole lot of nothing. To which my husband replied: All those people are home doing nothing too. They just don’t post those photos.
Sadly, that was a light bulb moment for me.
But here’s what I really love about Facebook. I can watch a friend’s son play a blistering rendition of a Beatles song. And see that same friend become an accomplished guitarist and singer mid-life. I can view stunning Instagram photos shared with poetic hashtags. I can follow along as a former workmate takes her family and moves them all to France, seemingly for the dream of it. I’ve watched baby sea turtles hatch. And I’ve stood by watching a friend try night after night, to catch a stray dog. In a cemetery. In subzero Chicago winter. And then there are all of those images of new parents with their fresh babies. These just get me.
I can’t help but scroll through and see people. Laughing. Drinking. Playing. I peruse endless selfies and random photos. And it all makes me happy, lonely, sad, fortunate. Even when I’m not contributing with a post (because I’m shy) Facebook gives me ideas. It makes me want to take my kids on a new adventure. Reach out to someone I haven’t spoken to in a dog’s year. Write a snail mail. Make a date night.
Facebook and I have become quite close. I post occasionally and I comment too. I try not to spend too much time thinking up clever things to say and I just go with what my gut tells me. Sometimes that’s me posting: great photo. Or sometimes, like countless others, I’m secretly perusing. And that’s nice too.