I just finished reading a memoir called Fakebook. Nope, I didn’t spell that wrong. And yes, I’m going to talk about yet another book. I swear, I’m not trying to compete with Oprah’s book club. I wouldn’t dare. I just find reading to be this amazing way to feel like I’m not alone. And, also, I just love it. So I won’t apologize for that.
Fakebook was fascinating to me because of its premise. It’s about this guy Dave who felt pretty disillusioned by social media. Facebook was still in its early days and he was already feeling like it was just a pubic forum where people were encouraged to be disingenuous. He felt like individuals got to showcase themselves in a very crafted way. He believed, as I often do, that social media doesn’t really connect us as it claims to do. In fact, it may even cause us to feel separated.
So he decides to pull a massive, elaborate prank which really turns into a pretty elaborate social experiment. He tells the world, via Facebook, that he’s walked away from his job, his apartment, his life and is hitting the road to see where it takes him. He starts to routinely post stories and pictures he’s manipulated with Photoshop of his road trip all while sitting at home with his computer.
Aside from being a pretty interesting story, it made me think about how I present myself. I think of myself as an open book, but am I? One of the reasons I love memoirs so much is that I feel like I’m not alone in my struggles. Other people’s honesty is refreshing and comforting to me. So, I want to try to do the same. To present myself in the most honest way I can. I figure, what better way than for me to tell you some things you might not know about me. The things that don’t end up on my Facebook profile. So here it goes…
Sometimes I feel so lonely it physically hurts – Sometimes I wish I could just get out of my own head – I’m really weary of certain aspects of my life but also terrified of change – I still think that my parents know everything there is to know in the world – I tend to have serious crushes on all the wrong people – Sometimes I cry while watching Vampire Diaries. Yes, sad things happen to vampires too – I find watching The Wonder Years far more poignant as an adult than I ever did as a kid – Complete strangers often tell me things about their lives – I still laugh at jokes about Uranus – I miss the days when people talked on the phone – I still have a voicemail on my phone from a guy I was in love with, because I’m know that once I delete it I have to face the truth that he’ll never be in my life again – I had a miscarriage years ago that makes me sad sometimes – When I got a call in the middle of the night that my closest friend had died in a car accident I threw bottles of shampoo against the wall because it’s the only thing I could find that wouldn’t leave little shards of glass everywhere. And even in my shock I knew that little shards of glass really hurt when you step on them – Every time I hear the song Big Jet Plane by Angus & Julia Stone I feel really happy – In 2009 my friend asked me to join Facebook because she was moving out of the country and said it would great way to be able to connect. I had no idea what Facebook was yet.
That felt pretty good. Maybe I should do it more often.
One of the things Dave, the author of Fakebook, discovered while posting about his fake journey was that, at the height of popularity, when lots of people were following him and commenting on his posts, was when he felt the most isolated. Although he was presenting a fabricated story of a grand adventure while actually stuck hiding at home so no one would realize that he was not actually on a grand adventure. He was surprised, though, by people’s reactions. He expected people to judge him or call him out on his outrageous tales. And while that happened some, mostly people were supportive and encouraging. They were rooting for his journey and even offering a bed and a warm meal if his travels took him near their home town. Despite everything he depicted about himself and his life he found people believing the best in him and actually wanting to connect.
When all was said and done, he concluded that social media doesn’t make us disconnected any more than being face to face makes us connected. It’s way more complex than that. It’s about how we use the mediums that surround us. He summed it up like this, “I realize what a fool’s errand it is to try to sum up the social media experience in a single, universal statement. Facebook hasn’t built walls between us; it’s built roads. Social media is driven by people, and people are complex. And that complexity grows when we cross each other’s paths.”
As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out. I’ve been both encouraged and offended, hurt and blessed by social media. What I do love is that it gives the opportunity to “cross each other’s paths” in a way we didn’t have before. With a click of a button I can reach across the world and send someone my love and support. I can tell a total stranger that they aren’t alone and that we really aren’t all that different.
Social media isn’t going anywhere. I can only hope to paint myself in the most authentic way possible. And to strive to connect rather than build walls. And maybe, every once in a while, share a really hilarious video involving an animal falling off of something.
Excerpt from Fakebook. Cicirelli, Dave. (pp. 298)