Overdosing on Facebook

After a brief honeymoon on Facebook back in 2009/2010, when I reconnected with friends I hadn’t ‘seen’ in 10+ years, I became a very infrequent visitor. But over the past few weeks, while attempting to sell household items, old toys, sports equipment etc. prior to our move, I’ve been checking in several times a day. With some dismay.

Buying and Selling on Facebook in Privilege Land

  • The number of items for sale in June/July in the Geneva area is unbelievable. You can have your pick of furniture, clothes, toys, inflatable pools, cars, bicycles, barbecues and electronics if you are buying. But no one is buying, because everyone is either on holiday or else about to relocate. By September, when the changing of the guard is complete, people new to the area will be looking for second-hand items… and there will be NONE.
  • The dialogue is straight out of Eugene Ionesco:

‘What do you mean, I need a minivan for a corner sofa? But I don’t live in a minivan.’ ‘Where is the nearest bus stop? Why can’t I take that solid pine chest of drawers on a bus?’  All waiting for you to utter the magic words: ‘Fine, I’ll bring it to you.’

‘How much did you say this was again?’ ‘Oh, you meant euros, not francs?’ “What, you live in France? Oh, no, I never come over the border…’

‘Yeah, I know I asked about the measurements before I came to pick it up. But now that I look at it, I realise it will never fit in my living room.’

Plus, of course, every appointment will need to be rescheduled at least twice. Busy, busy, busy lives we all lead, even though we seem to be trawling through Facebook very frequently.

  • I can’t believe how many people are selling unused Celine bags, unworn Prada shoes and Gucci tops. Someone has clearly been having a shopping binge or is of a vacillating disposition. Or there are too many husbands/lovers out there who still don’t get their women’s taste!
Facebook updates (anonymised)
Facebook updates (anonymised)

The Joy of Updates

I’m really happy that people are happy – don’t get me wrong. I am not one fat killjoy waiting to pounce on you. But it’s become a blast of trumpets (or vuvuzelas) rather than a conversation. Look at me, look at me!

  • Far too easy to click ‘like’ and believe that we are actually interacting. Whilst all along we are thinking how to top that story with one of our own.
  • I’m also inherently suspicious of people who are projecting too much joy – are they trying a tad too hard? A day out is no longer fun if you do not instantly upload the pictures for all to see. You cannot kiss your partner on your wedding anniversary in the quiet of your bedroom or kitchen without inviting the world along to peek.
  • My modesty feels assaulted when I see people patting themselves on the back in humblebrag mode. I am delighted that their children have achievements to share, but would rather not rub it into the faces of those who don’t.
  • The friend who’s constantly ‘too busy’ to meet up with you or invite your son over to see her son, and then you see her posting pictures of her walks and bike rides and having other friends over at her house? A cold shower, that’s for sure.
  • As for those who whine about the awful day they’ve had and how they deserve that glass of wine, the recent documentary on immigrants on BBC 2 Exodus: Our Journey to Europe shows you what a really bad day, week, month or even year looks like.

I say all this and yet I’ve been guilty of every single one of the above myself on occasion. That’s why I don’t want to play ball anymore. I can commiserate or share my small triumphs directly with my friends, the friends who I can rely on to cheer me up and save me when I am down, who are not envious about any success. Without half the world witnessing our conversation.

This is a picture I did upload recently.
This is a picture I did upload recently. Meeting with some friends to say goodbye.

The Powerlessness of Politics

Facebook is also a great place to discover that some of your friends of yore have very different political views to your own. Somehow, it never came up in face-to-face conversation… or have you been away for too long and political views can change so dramatically as they approach middle age?

It’s become an ideological battleground (although meaningful arguments cannot really be conducted via quick messages and article links). Above all, it’s become a judgemental moral high ground: ‘How DARE you not change your profile picture to a French/Belgian/Turkish or whatever flag? How dare you not express your sadness or outrage? That surely makes you against us.’

I’m reminded of the Communist dictate: ‘Those who aren’t for us are against us!’ I refuse to succumb once more to the tyranny of ‘what is prescribed behaviours’. I can mourn in my heart, alone, in a darkened room. There is no need to have a competition of who can mourn the loudest online!

Women in India mourning, from voanews.com
Women in India mourning, from voanews.com

But There Are Good Things Too…

Despite all that, I admit that I like pictures of my (real) friends’ children, to see how much they have grown. I have a soft spot for cat pictures and even dogs are adorable (especially in pictures rather than in real life). I like photographic challenges of landscapes or skyscapes, but am not so keen on selfies, food pictures and holiday snaps. It reeks too much of being invited for family dinner at our neighbours’ as a child, and being forced to sit through a hundred decks of holiday slides.  I suppose the difference is that nowadays no one is forcing you to look for the price of a dinner.

Soooo that’s exactly what I’ll be doing very soon, once all the stuff is sold or given away.  Not looking.

21 thoughts on “Overdosing on Facebook”

  1. I swear there will never be a flag on my profile picture. Neither Twitter nor FB. Please shoot me immediately if I should do so. Reminds me of a German comedian who had in one of his programms a comment after 9/11. To the statement of a German politician. ‘Now we are all Americans.’ ” Nope, I’ve already enough problems being German.”

  2. I couldn’t possibly agree with you more, Marina Sofia, about both the ups and downs of Facebook. I’ve found it to be a terrific resource for a few things (like reconnecting with people). And, quite frankly, I do like my FB author account. But there is also a great deal about Facebook that’s problematic at best. It certainly has to be taken, if you will, in measured doses.

    1. I only connect with people I really know, couldn’t imagine using it as an author etc. But I suppose people use different profiles or different privacy settings, depending what they use them for. Still, much more intrusive than Twitter, I feel!

  3. Although I technically have a facebook a/c I’ve never used it because I’m still weighing up the pros & cons. Occasionally I think it will be fun but then I think of all the competitiveness and it makes me feel a little sick…ugh! Maybe it’s ok in small doses though.

    1. It is quite handy if you have friends scattered all over the world, like I have. A quick and easy way to catch up on what’s going on (and especially pictures). Saves on those dreary Christmas Round Robin letters!

  4. Facebook helped me reconnect with people I like, and get to know better a number of acquaintances, some of which have then progressed to friends.

    Yet I have seen and been guilty of all the sins you list, except posting pictures of my children because I don’t like to do that. I also only post a new picture of myself every few years, to update hair length.

    Speaking of sins, “Whoever is not with me is against me” is a citation from the Gospel of Matthew. It’s weird to think of it being used by the Communists of your youth.

    PS Facebook is also great at news. Not general news, specific ones about my community, like who has won a prize, or gotten a new job or a new child, or (sometimes, sadly) passed away. Recently it was great to hear that a friend in Turkey and their family were indeed safe during the turmoil.

  5. I think the thing that saddens me most about Facebook these days is that it seems to be all memes and links to other things rather than about my friends actual lives, which is the reason I’m on there in the first place.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean! If I see one more invitation to play I don’t know what game or do a quiz or even an article (of course I link to articles on the Geneva Writers Group FB page, but that is different, it’s an organisation)…

  6. My favourite was after the Scottish Independence referendum when all the aggrieved Yes voters slapped a big “45” on their profile pic – that being the percentage of Yes voters. I couldn’t help but feel it was like slapping on a tagline saying “Loser”! (In the interest of full disclosure, I voted Yes… but I don’t use FB so I’m OK 😉 )

  7. I left Facebook earlier this year for many of these reasons; have neither regretted it not missed it for a moment. It started to feel like living in a cage.

  8. I have been guilty of all of the above. I like Facebook because going into situations where there will be groups of people I know terrifies me (social anxiety). Facebook gives me the comfort of at least trying to keep in touch with family and friends, of alleviating the loneliness. Mind you, I also enjoy receiving Christmas round robins. I don’t see the point in a Christmas card with just a greeting and name from someone I haven’t heard from since the last Christmas card.

    1. It depends on how the Round Robins are done: there’s a fine line between boasting and merely giving updates, and I fear too many venture over. Or perhaps I’m too modest about any of my children’s accomplishments (or my own).

  9. Facebook is one of my guilty pleasures, but when I’m stressed out I tend to overindulge. That’s like chocolate: a square is good for your mood, but the whole bar will leave you slightly sick and nauseous. I sometimes delete the app from my phone, then download it again a few months later. I might to do just that for the holidays…

  10. I’ve been contemplating doing the very same… for lots of similar reasons but most importantly to stop losing big chunks of time aimlessly procrastinating & trying to keep up… time I want to use writing.

  11. It always vaguely surprises me when people talk about how all their Facebook friends are irritating about their children, or have offensive political views. Some of my friends (the older ones) do have kids and they’re never that bad, and the political views, well, some of them are eye-rollingly privileged, but they’re in the minority. I suspect I’m lucky – Facebook is still, for me, overall a nice thing. It’s Twitter that I find a bit overwhelming, because the different algorithm means you see more stuff in a shorter span of time.

  12. there are some posts on Facebook that I loathe – they are the ones that feature pithy little sayings which are meant to be humorous/witty/insightful. Mostly they seem laboured to me

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