Rebekah lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four boys. You can read more of her musings at The Virtual Wife.
I have a friend, who as a teacher, had the summer off with her kids. At the beginning of the summer she posted, on Facebook, a picture of her kids on the beach and labeled it, “Day 1 @ Salisbury Beach!” in her photo album titled “69 Days of Summer 2010.” As the summer progressed she posted pictures of fun activities such as Water Country (twice), bowling, Chuck E. Cheese, parades, snow cones, fireworks on a boat, Storyland, and well, you get the picture. All the while, I was doing my best just to get through the hot summer days without major incidents. This isn’t the first time that a friend’s post on Facebook has made me feel less than adequate. Much like I used to feel when I was growing up and I would read Cosmopolitan with all those perfect girls who had great hair, gorgeous skin and skinny legs, I was feeling imperfect all over again. Except now it was bigger and worse somehow. When it was just me, the only one I had let down by not being skinny was myself. But now, I had a whole family to let down. Not to mention what all the other moms would think if they knew that I wasn’t as perfect as they were. There were pictures of fun family vacations, while mine turned out to be a disaster. Of course I would still try to get one or two “perfect” pictures to post on my own page so everyone could see just how great my family was too. But still I didn’t get it.
Then, one day, I told my teacher friend how great of a mom she was and terrible I was to not have done such great things with my kids. She laughed out loud and said that they were only a handful of days and all the other crap that happened over the summer didn’t make her profile. And so I laughed too. What I slowly started realizing is that most people try to paint the rosy picture of their lives that they show you on Facebook. No one wants you to know that their life is crap 90 percent of the time. Every now and then you will see a post of a mom complaining that she is serious need of a glass of wine. But you will almost never see one that talks about the terrible fight she had with her husband last night and how she almost threw him out. Instead, you will see her post her wedding picture and thank the most wonderful man in the world for ten years of wedded bliss.
I am pretty sure I am not the only mom out there who has faced Facebook depression. The problem with this type of social site is, although it is public (for the most part), most people treat it as a private little scrapbook. People talk about how great their girls’ night out was, while others see that and realize they weren’t invited. It’s worse than high school when you only knew about the snubs and ‘perfect’ people for a couple hours a day. Now, 24 hours a day, you can log on and feel inferior.
And then there is the creepy, Facebook stalker syndrome. Okay, I know you have been there. This is where someone (maybe you) feels like they know you simply because they are a friend of your friend. I have seen it happen personally when with a friend at the mall, I ran into another friend and introduced the two only to have one of them make a comment about how she knows who she is because she sees her picture all the time on Facebook. Another time a friend of mine made an update that she was headed to the Post Office to get her passport. I happened to be there the same day and crazy enough, I knew exactly why she was there when I ran into her. I know when people are hung over, when they are on vacation and when their kids win a basketball game.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff. I am definitely addicted. I have it on my iPhone and uploads pictures of nothing to share every chance I get. They have helped me stay in touch with friends and cousins that I might otherwise have lost touch with long ago. Sometimes life is so busy that I don’t talk to my local friends for days, but I still know what they are up to. I wouldn’t give it up, but maybe I need to read it with more of a disclaimer in my head like, “The events depicted in this site are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental.” Then I will realize that Facebook is like looking at a snapshot, a frozen moment in time that doesn’t usually tell the whole story. It’s a guilty pleasure much like magazines at the grocery store checkout.