Facebook, like so many other social media platforms, can function as a tool and weapon. These include the “liking” or refusing to “like” something as signs of one’s approval or disapproval, the need to be liked that comes as a result, blocking/befriending/beholding people who we may not otherwise connect with in the material and screaming quietly at others in passive aggressive ways.
I am participating in the very practice I am critiquing (even as I write this) precisely because it functions as a sort of “straw man argument,” in order to make a particular point regarding the ways that we utilize social media to do what we wish we had the strength to do in real life. We use it to confront people, love them, distance ourselves, praise them, hurt them, flirt with them and sometimes cuss ’em out.
I’ve used “we” purposefully because I am included in this culture of tacit aggression. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve felt that cyber “shade” tossed. Whether it has come in the form of a not-so-random and timed statement being publicly shared that had every and nothing to do with me, the shit still caused me hurt. I’ve thrown some cyber shade myself and felt foolish — because I missed the important step of executing person-to-person communication.
Yet I have discovered and built community in virtual space. I connect with my family. I learn. And so much more.
However, it is, after all, flat, one-dimensional space, which fails to articulate our lives such that we can present our complex selves. There are times when I will refuse to post something good happening because I’ve experienced folk reminding me how good they think I have it (pronouncements like “you are always doing something wonderful” followed by a swift side eye) or, times when I won’t post the bad (when I am broke as hell) because of my fear of judgment.
Indeed, my ambivalent relationship to Facebook says more about the complicated nature of human relationships than it does about the platform that is meant to facilitate connection between people. The “like” and “block” functions are not the problem. Status updates and tags are not the issue. My capacity to move beyond those technological excuses for person to person communication is problematic.
I can recall, for example, the decisive moment when I gathered enough courage to defriend and block a few Facebook friends. The momentary bliss that I experienced was incredible. I did not have to worry any longer if their status updates (which were written in a type of “you know I am talking about ya ass” manner) were targeted at me. To be fair, it may have easily been my own narcissism that had me thinking that they were. Yet if I were honest with them and with myself, erasing them from my cyber domain did nothing to correct the real issues that I failed to respond to: the particular debacle or hurt that was brewing under the surface. Likes and dislikes, friend requests and blocks only masked the deep level of pain that I failed to bring to the fore.
Why do I continue to show my face on the book?
Well, I often laugh because I’ve been critiqued for publishing so much and for being transparent by folk who think virtual spaces are problematic (for all of the reasons I’ve listed) only to remind them that their voyeurism is no less complex. If I post often, it is true that they read and engage even more so. Yeah, I said it. We can critique the culture and practices of an assumed consumerist type of self-representation, but we should also consider the consumers, namely, those folk who live to read the statuses of others even if they themselves attempt to have us believe that they exist beyond the matrix. Oh, we see you, Neo.
Nonetheless, I use FB to share information and to have fun and to give glimpses of my life (mostly good and sometimes bad) and to journal/capture, but FB uses me too. Indeed, it uses all of us because it creates a marketplace where value is afforded based on others’ invented ideas of worth based on our looks, stories and life events. This is the spirit of our times. Whether we exist and participate in the virtual world or not, we are complicit in the ways the values of worth shape our interactions. Still, there is something good about the engagement.