I’ve oft bemoaned the damage that Facebook and other social media tools available today have done to the self esteem and self awareness of our generation. My gripe is that the generation I am a part of (Generation X) already has enough hurdles in front of us…from being the first generation to earn less than our parents, to being the lucky group that were the primary recipients of the genius of the banking industry called the “interest only loan,” to being the victims of the greatest scam in American automotive industry – the new car lease. The last thing we really need is a place to post all of the greatest things in our lives and make each other feel worthless because our lives aren’t even remotely as rich, fun, happy, full, or exciting as all of our ‘friends’ on Facebook.
But there is hope, because here is the reality – for most people, Facebook is ONLY the highlight reel of our lives, and no one who really cares about us only wants to see only the highlight reel, they want to see the full season because that is the only way you really understand what is going on. Like any good highlight reel, many of our Facebook lives leave out the bloopers, the blunders, the stupid mistakes, and the missed opportunities. All of our family bickering, money problems, marital stress, gossiping about friends, complaining about work, and generally mundane and unhealthy parts of our lives end up on the cutting room floor. This begs the question: Are the lives we live on social media our real lives, are our friends there our real friends, and is it mentally and emotionally healthy to be friends with people whom we are only wiling to share our highlight reels with each day?
So, what to do? I love Facebook! It allows me to stay connected and updated on the lives of people I truly care about but don’t get the opportunity to see or talk to as much as I’d like (the guys above, for instance). But I want to have REAL Facebook friends. Here’s what I’ve decided to do about it. I went through my Facebook friends list and thoughtfully considered whether or not I would actually be friends with them if we lived in the same town and had the opportunity to have a more connected personal relationship? Would I invite them over for an impromtu Saturday bbq, would I call them for support if a member of my family died, would we have coffee together once a month just to catch up, would we meet at church and want to be in a small group together, would we get together as couples and have a quiet dinner, would our kids play together so we’d get to know each other, would we call each other for Friday Happy Hour at the corner tap, or would we be running buddies? Wherever the answer to any of those questions was YES, I kept them as a Facebook friend, where it was NO, I unfriended them. I am sure that I unfriended a lot of good people – it isn’t personal. I just have decided that I am not going to have any friends on Facebook that I don’t consider REAL.
I’m sure I’ll still post lots of pics and posts about all of the cool stuff that our family experiences. I probably won’t post any pictures of my kids throwing a temper tantrum right before church as I scream at them to GET IN THE CAR SO WE CAN GO WORSHIP JESUS! But that happens. I will probably continue to flaunt all of the fun places I get to visit and go for runs in as I travel for work. I may not post pictures of what I look like when I stumble off a red eye flight home after a long week. But that happens. I will continue to post pictures of the rare and special nights when my beautiful wife and I get to go out to eat alone with no kids. I probably won’t post pictures of the stand off at the dinner table that I have at least once a week with my seven year old when he doesn’t want to eat vegetables. But that happens. And I’m sure I’ll post pictures of fantastic vacations and getaways like the one above. I may not post any details of our conversations about whether or not we’re putting enough money away for retirement or our kid’s education because there just doesn’t ever seem to be the surplus we’d hoped for at the end of each month. But that happens. Life happens to all of us. If we’re going to be Facebook friends, let’s be REAL friends and encourage one another, listen to one another, share tough times with one another, and share honestly with one another.