the mythology of facebook (and why it’s ok)


Alternate title: Facebook, where the real truth isn’t the whole picture.

Those lines from Portlandia made me laugh out loud and stayed with me, which is handy when I’m having a case of Facebook envy. Because through the FB window, your life looks a little shinier than my life. I’m mature that way. I envy that you can wear fabulous statement necklaces (they look like bedazzled neckwarmers on me), you run everyday (for fun!), bake beautiful desserts, and  have an adorable grandbaby. You read smarter books than I do, and seem to be able to go out on weeknights on a regular basis. Plus, you’re always in Hawaii, or Paris, or Italy.

I love Facebook and spend way too much time online. I try to play nice and share, but not over share (not always successfully). My FB friends include my mom, daughters, close and distant relatives, childhood friends, college friends, work friends, friend-friends, clients, friends of my two daughters, neighbors, and blogging friends–some whom I have met in real life–some whom I only know online. I try to be honest, open, kind and fun (also, a little funny). I pay attention so I don’t offend–again, not always successful. I appreciate the opportunity to connect, even if it’s passive. My criteria for Facebook friends has always been, “Would I be delighted if you showed up on my doorstep?”  And pretty much, yes I would, but I’d like to have the house picked up, just a little.

Steve calls it our cocktail party behavior. We don’t share the shit, because not everyone needs to know. When I show up at a party, and on Facebook, I am attempting to show up as my happy, healthy, curious, fun-loving self. Which is only part of my picture.

Yes, I have a healthy marriage, and a strong family unit. I know I am lucky that way. Yes, we take some good trips. Yes, we have fun (because, ukuleles).

It’s not a lie, but without the rest, it’s a myth. Most of us have an internal editor, and don’t share everything. That’s the delight and the dishonesty of Facebook.

The real Kim is kind of a mess, and that’s what I don’t post. I don’t post about my problems, and I try to stay away from politics, except for a few issues where I just can’t be silent. I don’t post about very personal struggles, either mine or when people I love are struggling. I try not to post about the moments when I feel like I am sucking at life. Sure, I will share when I am sick or overwhelmed, but that’s not this. This is about the icky, tricky part of being a human, the part we really aren’t keen on sharing with others.

I’m not exposing my whole messy picture. And I’ll bet you are hiding a little bit too…or I hope you are. Because I don’t need to know everything about you either, my friend.

On Facebook, we’re a mutual mythology society.

I’ve been shocked when friends told me they thought my life/family/relationships/vacations/work were perfect. When I share some of our drama (wine required for the real story) they laugh and say, “Wow, that’s not what I got from Facebook!”

I’m embarrassed about that.

A good friend from high school, whom I connect with almost daily on FB wrote, “I hope you’re as happy as you seem to be.” My response was that I was happy-ish, and then I told her about the “ish” part.

If you want to know about the crappy corners of my life, just ask. Face to face, especially over a drink, I’ll tell you everything.  And I trust you’ll tell me the whole  truth about your life. That’s where it should happen, when we have committed the time to be together, to hear each other. Just the two of us, not two hundred of us.

I appreciate that Facebook lets me share my family, my writing, my life, and how it lets me have a peek into your world. But online, we can’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s real, but it’s not reality. I will continue to crop my photos (and especially the ones with my chin), keep a few secrets, and shine a light on my joys, my loves and my successes.

And in return, I will try to not feel bad when you and your partner have fancier dates than we do, and when you see your kids and your parents more often than I do, your home is bigger, your meals are more extravagant, and your life is shinier than mine. Because I will presume you also have the cropping tool, and understand that some myths work better when the edges have been edited. The connecting is more important than the cropping, as long as we both remember our own truths.