Wednesday, December 4, 2013

You Weren't There

Like most people, I have an on-again, off-again relationship with Facebook.  Right now, it's feeling pretty "off."  Why?  Well, how can I tell you?  You weren't there.

You weren't there at the event that I attended that I attended because I was invited and it really wasn't a big deal, maybe no more than a piece of pie or the moral equivalent, and yet I was there for it and you weren't and I thought the whole thing was innocent and it was, except that the host(s) took pictures and posted them and now it looks like I was really there big time, spent my whole evening there like it was some big deal because there is a photo of a large group of people and they are all smiling as if it was the most meaningful of moments because now it is captured forever.  That moment is captured while your whole meaningless evening sailed past you.

Isn't that so much of Facebook?  You weren't there with my team, for my son's accomplishment, for my daughter's cuteness, for the game we all went to, for the reunion we had that you didn't make (or weren't invited to).  I wasn't there for your trip to ________, the romantic dinner you had with your wife.  In fact, I have no way to verify that on your husband's birthday it was confirmed that he is indeed the perfect mate for you, perhaps even the greatest husband of all time.

And it has even reached the point, mentioned above, where you or I attended something that we didn't necessarily want to publicize our presence at, not because we wanted to even keep it a secret, but maybe something as mundane as the picture you posted made us look fat or drunk or stupid or, worst of all, not how we see ourselves?

Our society is becoming increasingly aware that we are losing our privacy.  The mistake in our thinking, perhaps, is that we are blaming governments and corporations for that circumstance when the reality is that there is probably nothing, no fact, statistic, or bank account password that matters much to them at all.

We flatter ourselves, don't we, if we think that  any great entity wants all of our personal information, as if it were the equivalent of insider-trading stock tips or something?

No, instead, we are taking each other's privacy away.  We assume that because you were there and I was there that we both have an equal desire to share the experience with everyone else whom we know (on Facebook).  Or which hardly needs to be said, that anyone else even wants to know about the event in the first place.  Sure, they'll "like" it in the same way you cruise through all of those Facebook posts late at night, returning all those click favors.

We are taking each other's privacy away because we have accepted so many "friends" that we don't really remember who can see our Facebook posts or what impact that might have on them.  Some of us, let's be honest, have such a strong need to be legitimized on Facebook that we wouldn't give that circumstance a second thought, even if we had a self-reflective moment about how we are spreading the details of our lives too thin.

And we are taking each other's privacy away because someone with no interest in our lives, save a profit, has convince us that it is somehow requisite in this modern life that we share mundanity with each other.  Of course, it isn't mundane to us, I'm not suggesting that, but if we really thought about what we think we want other people to know, we probably tell them.

Or we are taking each other's privacy because maybe this is the new commerce.  There is now a huge swatch of our society where a few dollars more or less don't really make that much of a difference in our lot, our station, but to know and to be known, now that is something we can cash and spend.  To be in the know and in the flow, well, isn't that the source of all prestige and adulation, the reason for derision and scorn, particularly for those sorry saps who missed that ubiquitous Facebook post or just what's going on with you or me?  

"It was on Facebook," we say dismissively to those who aren't.  Who weren't there.


G. B. Miller said...

I don't post a lot on FB to begin with. While I have a modest sized circle of friends (138), the majority of them are professionals in the field of writing, which makes my newsfeed that more interesting.

I use what I experience as cannon fodder for my blog and topical conversation at work.

Billy said...

Communication is all about which medium for which purpose. "War of the Worlds" wouldn't have bamboozled as many people on TV, and besties shouldn't use Facebook as the primary medium through which to care about and keep up with one another's lives.

The people I know and regularly see or care about in daily life are the last people I'm worried about on FB. If they're annoyed that I'm somewhere having fun without them -- or if they're worried that I might be bothered that they're out having fun without me -- then that's a whole bunch of melodramatic hooey I ain't got time for.

But my friends who are far away, or my sorta-friends and sorta-acquaintances, it's convenient to have such a simple way to keep a tiny bead on their lives. Further, thanks to Facebook, I've met up with four friends on out-of-town trips in the last year or two where they saw my picture and asked about having lunch or something. Moments like that make Facebook (mostly) worth all the negative stuff, at least for me.