My goal here is not to insult my friends. I’ve refrained from writing private letters of direct criticism because giving unsolicited advice is for pretentious douchecanoes. I am not intending to create an anonymized naughty list for you to find your name in. I will remix attributes from several friends so that what you will see is an amalgamation, and if you find yourself in any of these descriptions it is only because these behaviors are universal — they sprout out of primal social needs.
But really, sometimes my friends piss me off.
Isolated from complex human subtlety by the frame of the screen, my Facebook friends become tiny caricatures of themselves, or a blown up facet or two of their personalities that, in real life, is much less clumsy. Because of this, it is quite possible to love — and I mean really love — a friend in real life, but hate what they become in my news feed.
A buddy might be good company over a Lagunitas IPA… But, contextualized by an endless stream of Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and Jezebel posts, they become a loathsome stereotype. Their photo is a square sticker signature slapped onto readily-available asshole personalities. Facebook posters generally expect their friends to be kind and understanding. They do not realize that when they like some sexist meme or other, I don’t see someone who has a complicated appreciation for both feminism and its seedy counterpart, in an ironic sort of way. Bah! Humbug! There is nothing festive about misogyny! I am not amused.
There’s the trope of the gay guy who calls women bitches and thinks vaginas are gross.¹ It’s supposed to be cute because he’s non-threatening and mince-y. In my newsfeed, I have seen a good friend use the c-word. “Um,” I want to say, “just because you’re ostensibly lower on the privilege totem pole than straight women doesn’t mean you get to call them cunts.” I should assume this person is adopting the stereotype for the sake of humor, but on the sterile screen, the words echo hatred like an angry red zit.
If I don’t know the person too well, such breaches have me reaching for the “hide” or even “unfriend” buttons. Facebook only lets me see you in one-dimension, and the one you’re giving me is ugly.
In real life, they are clever and strong. They match self-deprecation with wit and laughter. They feel terribly about themselves, but muster up bravery to face the night. We commiserate about our human weaknesses, and wash the bitter taste away with fun and alcohol.
On Facebook they are whiny children. “Help me” sad post follows help-me-sad-post and they cry into the little box that asks: “What’s on your mind?” I see selfies described with words like “ugly,” “awful,” “not cute.” A flurry of comments reject the insecurities. Fine, I won’t disparage fishing-for-compliments if it’s effective for you, but I’m still always turned off by delusional postings. As in, your selfie is hot, please don’t lie and say it’s not.
And, of course, the over-sharers, in both senses of the word.
I won’t delve too much into the TMI tribe, because I’m probably just the asshole here for not giving a feel when your boyfriend is borderline abusive (and you think it’s more appropriate to cyber-whine than dump him). But I will just say if “some people” did something and they “know who they are” I am pissed at you for not giving me the whole story.
The other over-sharers seem think if they create a trail of links to “funny” or “amazing” internet “articles,” we’ll be gobbling them up like James Woods a la Family Guy. I’m sorry, but your fluffy internet photoblogs about 18 Little Whatsits that Insert-Anthropomorphic-Verb-Here or yet another slapdash rant on how Celebrity Epitomizes Insert-Hyperbolic-Adjective-or-Trendy-Social-Activism-Phenomenon-Here don’t have me bending over exclaiming “Oooh! Piece of candy.” Go play show-and-tell in Reddit where you can at least learn from your downvotes.
I feel like the Facebook Grinch.
Every Who down in Whoville liked Bitstrips a lot
But the Grinch who lived just North of Whoville did not!
The Grinch hated HuffPost! The whole Facebook feed!
What’s the point of this insatiable, selfish human need?
It could be that Upworthy talks down to us, like we’re kids
Or that when I’m in a public place, I’m not trying to watch vids…
The crux of it all is that I’m guilty. I am at once in-narcissistic-love with my Facebook persona and sick with the shame of self-promotion. If I am cringing when my friends post pictures of their lunches, how annoying is my stream of blog links, proud-of-myself check-ins, and hungover affirmations that I have so much party in my life?
We are not professional content finders and writers. Our news feeds are not as carefully curated as The Electric Typewriter. Our editing tools are too basic and imprecise. Facebook filters out 90% of babies-doing-baby-things for me (thank you!), but still shows Upworthy posts on the mobile browser. I blocked it! I totally blocked it already!
We’re scrap-booking together living, breathing yearbooks of human experience, as best we can.
As sappy as it sounds, there is something beautiful about that. What, perhaps, is insane, is that we’re expected to create and consume in this way every day. I’ve always felt squicky about nostalgia. Perhaps I’d be more comfortable if Facebook news feed browsing was relegated to an annual tradition, like an actual yearbook. We could submit content year-long, but it would disappear into the void until it unlocked like a time-capsule. Hmmm….yes…
Fantasies aside, this Grinch’s heart grows three sizes when she thinks about what Facebook represents despite its limitations. Yes, it’s a little bit of amateur-hour. But this mixture of the anxious, the banal, uplifting hope beside crushing failures, daily life and life events — this mixture is as raw and snotty-nosed and breathing and shitting, laughing, sighing as “the real world.” We’re creating human records and they are exactly that, human.
So, please acknowledge my posts when I please you and I’ll do the same for you. If I come across something I don’t “like,” I guess I’ll just keep on scrolling.
¹To be fair, there is a trope of the lesbian who hates men and says dicks are gross, and while I’m not that way, I’ve heard such sentiment out of the mouth of babes, and I didn’t put my clothes back on and drive away.