Recently, a long-time family friend got engaged. We have the kind of relationship that, despite the lack of genetic obligation, has held strong enough through the years to feel more like family. We all have friends like this — you might have grown up together, you might have parents who are friends, you might have simply met and bonded very young. In any case, their life and developments are important to you.
And so, when I heard their good news, I was naturally overjoyed for them. But the joy of the event was somewhat tempered by the fact that I had discovered such an important event, along with the rest of their other 764 friends, via Facebook. The announcement, put up a mere 30 minutes after the popping of the question, made it so that even their own siblings were not privy to that initial breathless announcement made just amongst the closest people who count. When they called family and friends to talk about the good news, they had already been scooped. The surprise — and the intimacy — had been blown.
A few short days later, I was once again browsing my news feed when my eyes were unexpectedly assaulted with no fewer than 10 individual photographs of the actual moment of someone’s proposal. I barely knew these people and yet, there they were — the man on bended knee, the woman looking overwhelmed in some beach restaurant, the inexplicable person behind the camera who must have felt incredibly out of place photographic such an intimate moment. It was all out there for everyone to see. And while I have never found images of the naked body or sex acts to be particularly explicit or worthy of judgment, that felt vulgar. That felt like I was looking at something that was not meant for me, taking a peek into someone’s most private moment with little more of a reaction than, “They could have used a better Instagram filter, their faces are looking kind of jaundiced with that yellow wash.”
Whether it is the urgency with which we are now inclined to put our most personal news on social media, or the degree to which we deem our private moments to be fodder for likes, all of this just seems plain unhealthy. While there is nothing wrong with making an announcement — hell, I fully intend to say something on my social networks when I have good news to spread and the essential parties have all been privately informed — there are certain things that people just don’t need to know about. If you are running to your Facebook a mere 20 minutes after being asked to spend your life with someone, if you are writing matching statuses with your future spouse and tagging one another while still putting the ring on so that you will be sure to not miss a single opportunity to let people know immediately about your good fortune, we need to take a look at these choices.
Marriage is, after all, a bringing together of families and communities. And if the people most important to you — the families directly involved in the union — aren’t deserving of a private acknowledgement, what is the point? It feels good to be complimented on things from acquaintances you went to seventh grade with, no doubt, but do they really need to see a picture of someone bending on one knee and asking your hand in marriage? Is that something all 1,000 of the people you barely know need to be privy to? Is there nothing intimate about it?
I won’t even begrudge the (let’s be honest, kind of strange) impulse to have someone there to discreetly film your engagement moment, but shouldn’t that be a sacred morsel of your most personal life to be reserved for, being generous, a couple dozen of your closest people? Maybe just the people who made the cut to actually be invited to the wedding? Because think about it, if someone’s not important enough to be involved in the ceremony, what purpose does it serve to give them 40 different Quentin Tarantino angles of the moment where you got engaged?
Is that not part of the fun, after all? Having this awesome piece of information, and this very particular part of your life, that you get to share with only the people you choose? You get to surprise them with it and see the natural joy that they get from being a part of your life in such a way? The cultural premium we’ve been putting on displaying every aspect of our personal lives (don’t even get me started on people who make Facebook pages for their ultrasounds) seems to serve only to detract from the full force of its importance. When I see people I barely know acting out their engagement in real time, I feel profoundly undeserving of such perspective. I feel like I should excuse myself, because it’s not the kind of thing that I was meant to see as a vague internet acquaintance. When I find out family members are having children or getting married via Facebook post, all I can think of is how, in the world of social media milestones, I am just one of a faceless crowd — there to provide them with a “like” or “congrats” on a computer screen, instead of hugging them or crying over the phone like I should.
There is a time and a place for everything on the internet, and there is nothing wrong with telling your larger networks your good news. But not everyone needs to see everything, and the ones who do deserve to find out in a better way than via news feed. After all, there are certain people who are going to be expected to shill out 100 bucks for a set of cutlery off of your wedding registry. If those people don’t even get a phone call or a special set of photos, they might as well be giving you plastic sporks.