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The lonely world of Facebook

Connie Schultz

Connie Schultz

After reading Stephen Marche’s cover story about Facebook in the latest issue of The Atlantic, I went online to find the link so that I could — what else? — share it on Facebook.

The print edition, however, isn’t immediately available online. Thank you, Atlantic, for rewarding us loyal subscribers.

Interestingly, Googling the story’s title — “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” — generated more than 7 million hits. Apparently, some of us have been fretting about our Facebook addiction for some time now.

Marche’s piece is a riveting read, exploring whether Facebook is building or undermining a sense of genuine community. He writes: “The question of the future is this: Is Facebook part of the separating or part of the congregating; is it a huddling-together for warmth or a shuffling-away in pain?”

The answer: Yes, yes, yes and yes.

Marche’s discussion of real versus false intimacy has the potential to push Facebook friends to a whole new level of anxiety. Could it be we’re a bunch of phonies?

“The price of this smooth sociability is a constant compulsion to assert one’s own happiness, one’s own fulfillment,” he writes. “Not only must we contend with the social bounty of others; we must foster the appearance of our own social bounty. Being happy all the time, pretending to be happy, actually attempting to be happy, it’s exhausting.”

Anyone who’s regularly on Facebook knows exactly what he’s talking about. A lot of people are so relentlessly happy it’s annoying. People like me, I’m suddenly realizing.

I use Facebook primarily to spark discussions, but I also post personal updates. I never have admitted to having a really bad day. I was raised to be sunny no matter how dark the skyline. In a land of Eeyores, I’m Tigger.

So, I wonder: Have I become one of those annoying round-the-clock fakers chirping that life is beautiful all the time and I’ll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they’re coming to take me away, ha-ha, ho-ho, hee-hee.

Sorry. Maybe it’s only me getting anxious.

I’m frequently annoyed and sometimes aghast to read other people’s posts that flame on friends and loved ones and vent about life’s many disappointments. I’ve often winced and wished they’d kept their sour moods to themselves. Now, though, I’m wondering whether maybe they’re the healthier ones. It takes courage to be honest about less-than-perfect lives in a forum that rewards us for pretending otherwise.

It’s funny. Before Facebook, I used to tell myself it was OK not to be perfect, because a) it’s an unattainable goal and b) no one likes a flawless human being. Now Facebook makes it easy to hide our mistakes and missteps — and even our double chins — as long as we limit the relationships to online. That’s the scary part. One of the reasons I post recent photos is to avoid meeting Facebook friends whose faces fall at the sight of real-life me.

My mind spins endless loops of worry. So Marche’s story about Facebook’s power to isolate almost immediately reminded me of an old episode of HBO’s “Six Feet Under.”

Fans of the show will remember that every episode began with a death. This one, titled “The Invisible Woman,” starts with the all-too-familiar life of Emily Previn, a middle-aged everywoman of the working world.

Emily comes through the door carrying a shopping bag and a tote purse bulging with papers. She kicks off her pumps and sighs.

Moments later, she pads toward the kitchen dressed in comfy sweats. Her microwave dings. She settles down at the kitchen table, pulls off the plastic wrap on her instant dinner and takes a bite. She smiles as she conquers the first clue on the newspaper’s daily crossword puzzle. She takes another bite.

And then she’s choking. Slowly at first. Quickly, she panics. She reaches for her glass of water, knocks it over. She pushes away from the table and staggers across the room. Off camera, she collapses to the floor.

She’s found days later, her body lying on fake-brick linoleum that looks exactly like the dining room floor of my childhood home. Ants swarm over her hand.

As I type, I’m reminding myself to breathe and renewing my vow to cut every meal alone into teeny-tiny pieces. I also am wondering whether I can train our 7-month-old puppy to hurl me to the floor and jump up and down on my chest if I clutch my throat and mouth his name.

Status update: It’s better to keep real friends in your life — and on speed dial, too.

Email Connie Schultz at con.schultz@yahoo.com

Comments

agirl_25 2 years, 4 months ago

Real vs fake...let me tell you what my friend used Facebook for...she went to a chatroom and was room chatting with some people who seemed perfectly normal (but then what is normal) and this one woman told a story of living in a small town in Kansas, running an antique shop in one end of her home which was a converted warehouse. The woman went on and on about how good her business was doing, day after day, week after week. She wanted everyone to friend her on Facebook so my friend did just that, got her name, then looked her up on White Pages then tracked her down on Google Earth and was shocked to find the street view showed her antique shop to be nothing more than an old run down shanty type building with old tires in the front yard she used as planters. She chirped away on Facebook about how lovely things were, about how the shop was thriving, about how things were going so well.....so yes, I guess she is one of those round-the-clock fakers chirping that life is beautiful all the time. She seems to be very lonely. I felt sorry for the lady when I was told her story and my friend would never have exposed her. Yes, I suppose real friends are the best thing in your life, but I limit the number.

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