Friday, May 28, 2010

Our Modern Day Confessional

I have publicly admitted in the past to being a shameless Facebook junkie. Although the shiny-ness has worn off a bit for me, I still rest easier at night knowing that your laundry is finally finished (“Whew!”) and that your harvest in Farmville was a rousing success. Many nights I find that stalking your photo albums and friend lists is far more entertaining than anything I might find on television. (Note: If you are over thirty and still posting drunken, bleary-eyed party pictures, you may want to re-think the path you’ve chosen…but please know from the bottom of my heart that I thoroughly enjoy every beer bottle-filled photo that you vaguely remember uploading from your cell phone before you dropped it in the toilet.)

It is also no secret that I have a robust (umm…unhealthy?) fear of Other People In General, so it should come as no surprise that I have taken a keen interest in the new privacy guidelines that Facebook has announced, but not for the reasons you might think. What has me so riveted in this whole “how-dare-you-share-my-personal-info” debate is that many of the users who are up in arms over what other people can glean from their Facebook profiles are some of the very same people who are sharing way, way (and I do mean WAY) too much personal information on purpose.

I know the argument is that these Facebookers (Facebook-ees?) are at ease with sharing these deeply private woes and triumphs because only their “friends” can see their profile. Apparently, Facebook has redefined what it means to be a “friend”. I’m guessing that my definition is a little different, a little more restrictive in nature. Maybe the wall around my personal life is a little higher than average, but I do not now and will not ever believe that anyone has a close, intimate relationship with seven hundred people. Don’t even try to convince me.

When it comes to sharing life experiences on Facebook, I look at it this way: If you were friends with someone twenty-five years ago in high school and had not seen their face or heard their voice since the day you walked off the stage with your diploma, would you feel comfortable bumping in to them at Wal-Mart and announcing that you are recovering from a three day bout with diarrhea? If you happen to see your child’s teacher at a PTO meeting, would you, without hesitation, scream (you know, in all caps) that your ex-husband is an ass who isn’t paying child support and is sleeping with some skank who works at Food Lion? If you would never declare - face to face - to a long lost acquaintance that you are crabby because you are deep in the throes of a visit from Aunt Flow, then why would you think it’s just fine to post it in cyberspace?

Even though I am “friends” with folks I literally haven’t had contact with since junior high, that doesn’t mean I trust them with my personal information. I’m convinced there is probably an ax murderer in the crowd. (Again, unhealthy, I know.) When you announce that you’re “On the way to the beach!” everyone now knows the one place you aren’t – at home. You may leave your lights on a timer to fool the crooks, but you just issued a personal invitation via the internet to come right in and help yourself to the electronics and good silver. There is even a website dedicated to monitoring Twitter accounts and other social networks that encourage you to give your current location to the universe – www.pleaserobme.com – and yet folks can’t help but declare, “I’m in Italy for ten days!”

I am frequently amazed, appalled and absolutely delighted (in a guilty way, of course) by some of the nuggets that are shared daily on Facebook. I have one “friend” who felt compelled to let us all know that she was “heading off to the Ob/Gyn for a pelvic exam and mammogram”. (It took a good week after reading that one before the compulsion to jam a fork in my eye faded.) I have another middle-aged “friend” who changes her relationship status as often as most people change their underwear, which, of course, solicits a long thread of comments like, “Hang in there”, “Be strong! Call me!”, and “You are too good for him!” Personally, now that I’m in my forties, I wouldn’t want my wanton fickleness to be broadcast on what is essentially an internet neon sign. And, seriously? I just don’t want to know that Mexican food gives you cramps and makes you bloated.

I’m guilty as charged when it comes to reveling in the juicy and sometimes sticky status updates on my news feed every day. Compared to the life events of my “friends”, the life I’m leading is down right boring. I guess it just comes down to this: I hope that I shall never again see the status update on a cervix dilated to the size of a tree.

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