Facebook is a place where nothing bad happens.
It's an alternative universe where beautiful people have great times, good food, and share inspiring quotes and like everyone and everything. I should really enjoy this place, but, instead, I'm starting to find it depressing. Perhaps, it's because I feel like an outsider. My life really isn't all that. And I don't want to compete in the rat-race of "My life's bigger than yours".
I didn't always feel this way. When I first joined, I thought it was a remedy for all the terrible things that are part of real life. Here was a place full of happiness and light. People didn't criticise one another. If you did, there'd be a terrible backlash, as if you had shat in the punch bowl, and you'd be reprimanded.
After awhile, I started to resent my so-called "friends". They were always having a better time than me. They went on expensive vacations to wonderful places. They dined at fancy restaurants. Their updates were always up-beat and positive. They tried to out-do one another with proof that their lives were so much richer than everybody else's.
Now, I shouldn't have resented that, should I? We should be happy when our friends are doing well. But, there's something about Facebook that rang hollow. Could there lives really be that gorgeous? I was suspicious.
I found myself wishing that there was a "bad news" filter that would just give me something real, even if for shock-horror value. I mean, where were the damage posts, like "I'm a recovering crack-addict and I relapsed last night, what should I do?", or "My husband of twenty years dumped me for a younger model and I feel like crap", or "I just lost a limb, help me"?
Occasionally, someone would post a bummer, such as they knew some poor kid who was fighting leukaemia, but they'd dress it up in some positive action such as a fund raise to help them get to Disneyland. That way, people wouldn't dwell on the negative, but had something positive they could do to help. Also, what do you do when somebody posts something awful? If you don't feel like really engaging them, all you can do is "like" what they've written. How does it feel when people "like" something awful that's happened to you? "My friend died in a car accident and I really feel like I need some support". If I "like" that, I'll come across as a sociopath, but that's what many people do - because there's nothing else they can do... And they don't really feel like picking up the phone and talking to them about it.
It's as if Facebook has hard-coded a response that avoids actual, messy and meaningful dialogue between damaged souls. It reminds me of the reductionist language in 1984. "Like" is the new, "Double-plus Good".
I'll admit, though, that I'm a voyeur. I enjoy probing deeper into people's lives on Facebook. The older generation are mindful to be coy. You don't find juicy stuff in their profiles. But, the younger ones are far less reserved. They'll tell you everything you need to know without you having to ask. Like an armchair traveller, I'll voyage to profiles of people in far away places and get a glimpse of their lives through posted videos and streamasterbating.
Why do I do this? Is my life just that much less interesting? I think it's because I'm searching for a real connection.
If you hunt deep enough, you'll eventually find some cracks in the linoleum. For example, there's a DJ that I "friended". I've never met her, but we've corresponded. She's a hottie and I won't deny that's what prompted me to hit that request button. She has beautiful friends, too. She goes to exotic gigs in glamorous places. She selfie's herself with famous people. Her stream is a life-camera. But, there are times when even she can't keep up the facade twenty-four-seven. In a moment of un-Facebook-like behaviour, she'll post something from a hotel room, probably the ten-thousandth in a punishing tour of cookie-cutter spaces, relentless shmoozing with vacuous hipsters. In those moments, I'll see some of the depth of despair. She's lonely, like the rest of us. Her stream is window-dressing: "This is how I want the world to know me." Truth be told, I live for those moments of vulnerability, for they remind me that she's human and that we are all alone at times.
We were born alone and we'll die alone, even if we pick up a few friends along the way.
For some reason it's comforting when people actually confront this reality. It means that they're open to a real exchange of knowledge, insight and information. They want to have a connection and that makes them more interesting and alive.
And that's why I like to be a voyeur. I enjoy those moments of intimate human connection, because so much of what we come in contact with these days is just a facade. And I find a real connection - even if ethereal and fleeting - quite nourishing.