Saturday, March 13, 2010

Facebook: The Closest We Are Gonna Get to Virtual Reality

So I am about to have my very first blind date on Facebook. (I know *they* spell it as facebook, trying to be all cool and nonthreatening, but that's just a silly marketing ploy so I'm going with Facebook.)

As in, someone who knows me is trying to set me up as Facebook friends with someone who doesn't know me. Not based on the fact that we need anything from each other-- a friendly face in a new city, or help with a job interview, or anything tangible like that-- just based on the hunch that this person and I would enjoy each other's company. Virtual company.

And this pulled into focus for me how absurd our social lives have become as a result of the Facebook phenomenon. By virtue of this person accepting my third-party-orchestrated friend request (fingers crossed! butterflies in stomach!), I will instantly be granted access to a complete stranger's life story. Where she lives, who she's married to, photographs of her great-grandmother's 90th birthday party. I will be able to read about her favorite tv shows, the kind of music she listens to, and what animals she has in her imaginary farm or whatever. This seems... strange. Feels like I'm a cyberstalker. Am hoping she's not 13. (Then again, unless she posts the year of her birth in her profile, how could I possibly know that.)

But maybe she and I will hit it off, become avid pen pals, and one glorious day, even meet in real life. This is not a wholly far-fetched possibility: I "met" the wife of a college friend via Facebook a few months back, and now not only is she someone I exchange very frequent messages with, but she is also one of my most dedicated commenters here on this blog, thank you, I love you, hk! (And yet, if I passed her on the street, I would have no freaking idea who she was.) (Don't blame me, her profile pic isn't a super close-up.) This is an example of the good things that can come of Facebook and its insistence that the whole world become one big happy file share.

There is, of course, a dark underbelly to Facebook. Very dark. You know, that dark underbelly which is presently being cited in 20% of all divorce petitions these days. (You think I'm kidding.)

Yes, friends, we're talking about the old flames.

Once upon a time, when a romantic relationship ended, it ended. You licked your wounds; you made an inventory of the mistakes you made; you moved on. Maybe once in a while that person's name crossed your mind and you thought to yourself, "I wonder what ever happened to X?" But that was about it.

Well obviously those days are over.

Now, out of your 300+ Facebook friends, 5 of them are people you slept with, 2 of them are people you still dream of one day sleeping with, and 1 of them is the person who facilitated your introduction to Zoloft. In other words, as a result of Facebook, every single one of us is now in some stage of arrested development.

I log onto Facebook as a 35-year-old (it's not as old as it sounds, really). I see a status update from my college boyfriend and I morph into my 19-year-old self. I see a new photo album from my high school boyfriend and I morph into my 16-year-old self. I notice a change in status by the guy who broke my heart into a million zillion pieces ("Single" has become "In a Relationship"?!?!) and my whole freaking day is ruined. Trust me, this is not productive behavior, NOR is it what God intended when on the 8th day he created the internet.

Relationships end for a reason, and most often, someone comes out of that relationship hurt. It is not beneficial for said hurt person, therefore, to be able to go online and scrutinize, in excruciating detail, every picture ever taken of an ex's current love interest. She's not even pretty! I hate her big boobs! See how she's clutching his arm here? She's so possessive, I never would have done that! Kinda works against the whole "moving on" aspect of life.

In fact, I am no stranger to full-on Facebook delusions. I once friended an ex innocently enough, but when I saw that he was still unmarried, my fantasies instantly took on a psychotic life of their own. Does he think about me? Should I call him? Does he need closure from me before he can begin a new relationship? (Never mind that the relationship itself only lasted a few years, and it ended more than 15 years ago. I am just that unforgettable.) (it's the delusion talking, see?) Is it possible that he is... STILL WAITING for me? IS MY WHOLE LIFE A BIG MISTAKE, AND I SHOULD DITCH THE HUBBY AND THE KIDS AND START A NEW LIFE-- the life I am SUPPOSED to be leading!-- WITH *HIM*???

So you get how this is unhealthy. By not allowing past relationships to exist IN THE PAST anymore-- now EVERY FRIENDSHIP, RELATIONSHIP, ASSOCIATION YOU'VE EVER HAD HAS BEEN MADE *PRESENT* AGAIN, thanks to Facebook-- it forces us to hold up everything in our REAL lives to the virtual mirror of the Facebook world. Sure, I *could* go out to lunch with that actual human being who lives around the block... but no, I'd rather sit on my sofa and exchange email witticisms with my bestie from junior high (she's funnier). And yes I *see* that my real life husband is sitting at the kitchen table, having a coffee and reading the paper and probably wondering if I'm coming over to join him... but I *can't*, I'm in the middle of composing a right-up-t0-the-line-of-appropriateness flirty email in response to a message from that GORGEOUS one-night-stand from '94. I mean, HOW F*CKED UP IS THAT?

There is no grand moral to this story, I'm only calling us out on this insanity that we've all bought into. (Correction: All of us except my husband, who thinks that a Facebook account would represent to the world that he has FREE TIME, which he does not.) (Though as a result of this post, I would not be surprised if any minute now he becomes Facebook's three-millionth-and-first user.) And I will leave you with this clip, which is so impossibly awesome that it makes me feel less bad about allowing my 21-year-old-self's broken heart to be broken all over again every time I check the ex's status only to see that he's still in a relationship with someone else,
that thoughtless bastard.


  1. Whoa! Very good...I heard that 20% number cited on the radio. Came home, put it in my status. Immediately got quite a few comments on my status. Then a few private messages on FB from people wanting to either relieve themselves of the burden of engaging in bad Facebook behavior...or from people who know their spouse is engaging in bad Facebook behavior. Then I promptly disabled Facebook and decided it was a good time to take a Facebook break. I really don't want to know about this stuff! And this is one of the few times I can say I'm glad I'm not married and don't have THIS to worry about!

    As far as ex's go - there are two I'm still very hung up on. Neither is married. Both are gorgeous. I employed a FB "block" to remove the temptation b/c you're right - those relationships need to exist IN THE PAST.

  2. Purge 'em, sister; purge. No good can come of having ex-whatevers lurking in your virtual world.

  3. Is it worse if you stalk your ex's wife??? The ex doesn't have a facebook account and said wife is so stupid as to not understand how to make her photos of their baby/vacation/new house private. Clearly he dumped me because I was way too smart for him. Or maybe she's very clever and knows she's tormenting me with all those cutesy photos? Nah, she looks dumb.

    Real question, though -- why do I look?!?!? I have no desire to be with him, but I just can't help myself...

  4. I am guilty of not only having the odd glance at ex's profiles/pics (and being kinda glad I'm where I am now as they have not aged well!) but also having an FB email flirt fest with one of the, '2 people i still dream of sleeping with'!!! Its all very bad but yet like a bad car accident I just can't seem to look away. Its worse that I am now also 'friends' with his g/f so I cyber stalk her too.... Bad, bad, bad! Refresh, refresh, refresh.. I need a life lol! For the sake of my marriage ill sign this 'S/N' Facebook me!;)lol

  5. That's what I'm worried about & make it a strict policy - no ex's on fb. I won't even search for them (what if they used that little tool and found out???!!!) They can only mean wasted, unproductive thoughts. Unfriend them.