I miss having my Facebook to myself. I miss being a disaffected, moody adolescent who would write extensive blog entries for those few who read them and then angst over it. Well, not quite. But I do miss the innocence. Along with a lot of other things, it’s gone.
I remember when the Internet used to be this place where you could be anonymous, where you could say your thoughts and your feelings, engage in potentially scandalous behavior with little fear of repercussion, explore new horizons and act with relative impunity. These days, the Internet seems to define you. Each word, each photo, each moment in your life; it’s all framed up in a web page somewhere, pinned down by code on a server in an unknown location.
In order to protect the not-so-innocent, I’m not going to use names – so let’s just call him A. A was gorgeous. He had the kind of looks that would make most women weak in the knees. He was also fun, sociable and apparently single, so I pursued him – but I didn’t believe him about being single. A month and a half into the alleged ‘courtship’, I decided to snoop around a little. A single, stray comment on a photo amidst hundreds led me to a woman’s page… and there he was, on vacation with her, smiling happily. She was, apparently, in a relationship. With him. Except, it wasn’t tied to an account I was familiar with. It was linked to another one, one with another variation of his name.
Obviously, I confronted him about it. We talked. He told me his alibi. I nodded and dropped the subject. The whole incident left an unpleasant taste in my mouth, but at least it makes for one hell of a funny story.
Facebook is evil.
But that’s not what makes me sad. It’s part and parcel of adding people to your social network. It’s something I’ve come to terms with. What I miss, however, is the ability to engage in all of this melodrama without risking your career. As we all know, employers now trawl through social networks in search of debilitating secrets. Times have changed indeed.
These days, almost a third of my Facebook consists of people I’ve met through the industry. Developers, publishers, fellow journalists, game design students, fans – it’s a little bit of everything. I have my teachers from my dance schools, fellow pupils from the studio and people who know them by association. It’s exciting to be able to see what their lives are like. I’m not ashamed to admit that it feels a little like brushing up to the stars. As malevolent as Facebook can be, it’s also deliciously voyueristic, a way to look into the hearts and minds of people you admire.
At the same time, however, it’s the reason I don’t talk much anymore. Each status I make is one I make with a certain amount of thought. No names are ever shared, no details ever too vivid. Passive-aggressive statements have been retired to the shelf along with goth make-up. I study each link I feel inclined towards sharing, each photo, each video that strikes me as humorous or noteworthy. I ponder the implications they might bring, the image that they portray.
In a sense, I’ve stopped utilizing Facebook as a medium for keeping touch with my friends and family and have started seeing it as a means of an end. I must remain the professional even when office hours have ended. I will not be the metaphorical drunk that dances on her boss’s table after a wild night, completely oblivious to how ridiculous it looks like in the morning. I must have my masks, my persona, my identity held in tight reins at all times.
Friends have commented that self-censorship isn’t a bad thing. After all, it could be worse. I could be the idiot that rages about her employer, forgetting that I added her to Facebook a week ago during a joyous karaoke session. At the same time, however, it’s also oppressive. Where once the Internet was this place to go be yourself, it’s become that place where you can be anything but yourself because hey, even the best of us have our naysayers.
Did we pay for technological advancement and dream careers with our freedom? It feels like it, sometimes. These days, I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel safe enough to be myself. I know what some of you have to be thinking. It’s easy. Just do it. I would but I’m paranoid. I’ve painted myself into a corner so here I’m going to sit, giving up my personal voice in favor of my dreams.
But you know, I still miss having Facebook to myself.