So, here I am, giving in to Facebook as a rather inappropriate thought-pouring (and, probably, even less thought-provoking) platform…
Why? Why do I give in to it, despite my detestation of the medium?
Why do I, as so many of us, give in to this vague form of exhibitionism?
I have realised that this is because we (or at least I & my immediate circle) have managed to kill the medium I loved most: yes, you know it, the letters.
Sharing thoughts via Facebook has nothing to do with the intimacy of a letter. Even though I tend to cave in to ‘sharing’ a thought having someone in mind each time, Facebook & social media in general have created the fiction of the ‘collective confidant’. Frustratingly, I can’t help but conclude that this collective confidant is a damaging and impoverishing convention (at least to me).
This situation is particularly disturbing via Facebook.
When I tweet, I know (even if we at times would like to forget) that I am posting to the great outdoors… My ‘followers’ are not necessarily my friends, and anyone may join in the ride.
When I ‘link in’ I connect with my straight-faced ‘colleagues’ and potential ‘business partners’ with their trickling (and often misleading) CVs.
In Facebook, however, I am supposedly amongst friends… Only, are they? (I have managed to keep the number down to around 60 and still, I am confused as to why I ‘accepted’ many of them… I think I’d rather stick down to ten)
When I glimpse over my ‘news feed’ (terrible name! Why should friends share ‘news’ rather than, simply, life bits, no matter how old or repetitive?) I rarely see anything I would choose as a fun or meaningful chat starter…
At times I do but then, oh no, it gets buried under the meaningless weight of the ‘collective’…
The problem is both the superficial and random mix of both the moods ‘shared’ and the personalities originating them.
I can have lots of silly laughs with my sister, or an absolutely stupid joke with a cousin, play the ‘how clever’ game with a colleague and compete over wittinesses with friends, but it’s simply ridiculous to mix it all up indiscriminately
We all feel this at some point, I’m sure, yet we dismiss the feeling
(Who has time to separate, categorise, label up? Come on, It’s so 1990s!!!)
So we go on, trying to ignore the detestable pic of yet another jam smeared baby on holiday (where is the cool stuff?) or the unbearably pretentious quote (where are the babies & cute pets, please???)
In the meantime, we accumulate things we’d like to express… and we suppress the possibility of passing them on to that one specific person who could get what we really mean (or react to it in a meaningful way at least).
We fear no one has the time, or that we may pass this on at the wrong time (what if our chosen recipient is in a smeared-baby-face mood??) because, of course, we cannot conceive of any sharing that is not ‘immediate’ (my feeling is NOW, so whoever reads it must get it NOW)
Prisoners to the immediacy trap, it feels easier to throw the feeling out into the collective void, and see who may be sharing our mood at that very instant, rather than risk dedicating such feeling to someone who may choose to ignore us
And so, we pass on our most intimate feelings in search of a reader, like if we were net fishing… No longer targeting specific individuals, we learn to lower our capacity for embarrassment, our need to believe that we could actually share things in private (we forget that sharing with one person is not necessarily equivalent to sharing with the world) . We learn to become exhibitionists. We exhibit. Our baby births. Our meals with siblings. Our drinking parties. Our late night mind games.
I detested the idea. And yet, I have ended up doing it myself. Falling for the very same cliches as everyone else. Baby pic today (really intended for my family) compulsory holiday pic tomorrow (intended for such & such relative) supposedly arty pic the other day (for this friend and those colleagues), contained notes or short quotes (a memento for myself, really) and then, some outbursts, some rants, some half cooked thoughts that… simply end up in Facebook out of frustration… Out of not knowing what else to do with them… Out of feeling they don’t belong to the ‘write & forget’ diary or the ‘note down & use’ folder… The varied thoughts that I would have preferred to develop into a letter to someone, but have no longer an entourage that can make this possible.
I feel (and I think I’m not alone) confusion over the acceptable means (pen and paper, really?? Can’t an email do?); the acceptable recipient (who is in the mood? Come on, the youngest amongst us are getting on to 40…); or the acceptable time (when to send and when to receive? If we are giving up on the post then how do we set the rules regarding acceptable delays for response? How do we establish the rules for meaningful personal correspondence in the age of the ‘hit send’ = ‘received’ > ‘opened’?)
Can we really find an alternative to the (let’s call it) unashamed exhibitionism in front of a collective (& mostly unattentive) recipient we have grown used to via Facebook & co?
An alternative to the ‘better be brief’, ‘better be simple’, ‘better limit it to a pic’ formula to maximise you ‘likes’ count ? (Though, in my case, with only 40 ‘friends’, of which 30 are redundant, one ‘like’ or two at a time is of course the top (& best expected) record.
Well, I leave it there. 8am in Buenos Aires. Time for breakfast
Sorry for the exhibitionism. Sorry for yet another rant full of brackets and impossible footnotes. (Really intended for : ??????)
(Note: despite everything, I’m having some fun with this. And, the horror, it’s written on a smartphone 😉