This holiday season I have “read” many real life stories on Facebook.
A group of girls in evening dresses with cocktails in their hands smiling at the camera in a line on the 31st. Groups of people on snow covered mountain tops with their hands spread out in a posture that says we have conquered the world on the 29th. A photograph of one of those same girls in an individual picture, more awkwardly taken perhaps right before she went out, but with the full limelight, with a heap of laundry visible in the background.
Pictures that enhance the beauty of people just a little bit. These are accompanied by status updates on significant days that mention happening places or exotic food or crazy things that people are up to. And comments. “too cute,” “awwwww,” “u guyz r too cool.”
I confess I have engaged in some of these activities myself.
All of us today are writing accounts of our lives on social media as they happen. While we do that, we have to agree that there’s often a little bit of tweaking and airbrushing of lives involved here and there and the moment is recorded in a way that involves some fiction with the facts.
For fiction is life made just a little bit better, or worse, more concentrated, with the seeming randomness of life reduced to some kind of order in a plot. Going by this definition, we’re all doing it–writing fiction on social media.
Within some constraints, of course. Lives have to be always perfect. People have to be always smiling. More comedy than any other genre here.
Yet, there are subtle differences in the way people like to project themselves on Facebook.
Represent the person within, so to speak. The person within ourselves that has to be displayed.
There is the loner who always appears by himself or herself in the pictures, writes forceful opinions about ideas or events or just cute observations about everyday matters expecting people’s reactions but rarely involving other people specifically in those updates. He is a loner but likes to exist to be viewed by other people.
By contrast, there is the person who almost never appears without others even in profile pictures. Fiances, a spouse, children or even a dog. This person’s status updates are almost never as opinionated or as cute with an individual voice but the dog or the fiance is meant to point to interesting sub-plots in the person’s life.
Then there is the self-appointed buffoon who posts pictures full of distorted perspectives with faces too close to the camera, standing in odd positions. This person loves to project a youthful, happy-go-lucky image that says I’m interesting and funny. Rarely will this person post super-personal thoughts or opinions.
There is also the dabbler. The global traveller who dabbles in multiple cultures, posts pictures of short stays or visits –foods, cathedrals, meadows, carnivals, complaints about airports–you name it. But embedded in this is a desire to be perceived as the old adventure hero, the doer, the one that has freed himself from the bounds of a specific place. This person comments with supreme confidence on both what s/he has left behind and what s/he surveys.
I read a very funny blog post yesterday written as a breakup letter to Facebook from someone called Gary who is frustrated with Facebook and had decided to delete his account. Gary’s hilarious letter begins with conciliatory words: “It’s not you. It’s me.” He alleges, in one of his super witty points about why he needs to end it with Facebook that it’s led to “complicated relationship dynamics.”
You’ve always made me feel like I needed to make my posts and stories more interesting than they really are, so there you go, I made some minor adjustments in them. It’s not that the minor adjustments are lies you know, they are after all, just minor. I just want my “friends” to like my posts, isn’t it a noble motivation to alter, and in doing so fake a post? Everyone’s doing it, so nothing’s possibly wrong with it, right?
But of course they are. They are wrong. But I’d say wrong in the sense of inaccurate, not in the sense of immoral. An important difference.
The pictures and status updates are fiction. Facebook is fiction. But then, hasn’t social life always been part fiction? Don’t we always present a side to others that’s different from what we are, than the person within? Don’t we have the buffoon in every group, the adventurer, the loner, the person who embellishes what happened during summer vacation?
Who are we really? What are we being false about? Is there really a person within, our “true” selves that we’re being untrue to by posting lies? Or do we imagine fictional selves and in doing so, become our fictions?
This relationship between us and our social selves–it’s complicated. But is there another option, another way to be?
Who would the class buffoon be if you took away the buffoonery from him, the opinionated person if you took away her opinions, the adventurer if you took away his travels and the homemaker if you took away the home?
What would be left if you took away what these people saw themselves as? The person within?
There is a vast range between absolute truths, if any exist, and absolute lies. In between is the realm of fiction.
Those are the fictions we’re writing and reading everyday on Facebook.
©bottledworder, 2013. http://bottledworder.wordpress.com
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