Facebook, My New Lover

So now I get it.  It's that electric jolt I get when my views top 75 (OK, only once, but come on, people, tell your friends about this blog!).  Facebook is our high.

An op-ed in The Sunday Review put it the best:  we love the instant approval we get when we post something and our friends immediately respond.  

The essay was mostly about the bad things Facebook encourages us to do, like pose in a thong, when  mommy panties make more sense, or post how much you hate your boss, or, to me, the worst, deface places like the Grand Canyon or saguaros in the desert just so you can post it online.  But as Jenna Wortham puts it, "That feedback loop of positive reinforcement is the most addictive element of social media."

Whether you're a mom posting your son's championship baseball win, or your latest cedar-planked salmon, let's face it.  It feels good when friends come back with praise and accolades.

“For people who get a lot of motivation out of knowing that other people will respond to what they are doing, knowing that thousands or millions could see it can be very powerful,” Coye Cheshire, a professor of information sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies how we interact online, told Wortham.

I don't post often on Facebook (though I must confess, I loved putting up my son's baby picture when he turned 12 last week -- even if he didn't), but I can see how it's so seductive.  As a writer, I never know who reads my stuff, or who it touches, but with Facebook, you can see in a flash.

While I must admit I'm surprised at some things people put up, I can also see from the comments how Facebook can comfort or reassure or even just pat on the back when you've had a rough day.

I liked to think I was immune to the feedback until I recently won a writing award and a friend posted it on my wall.  (Almost better than winning the award.)

And it's sometimes the only way to find out (OK, I admit it, it hurts), all the parties you weren't invited to.

But it's not all good.  Tim Kreider writes, also in The Sunday Review, about the time a friend inadvertently included him in an email that was making fun of him.  That's the flip side of people knowing what you're doing.  In his case, he'd bought some goats and his friends thought he was crazy.  He says that, on social media, we're seen "in all our naked silliness and stupidity."

Let's face it, while most of us use it to brag ("The rainbow in Stamford was just like the one in South Africa"), and part of the reason I don't is that my life is pretty much ordinary, it feels good to connect with people we haven't heard from in a while, or, even better, to know that they seem to care what we're doing.

Though I'll end with Kreider, who, despite all the likes and instant feedback on our posts, says remember this one thing:  even when people write wounding things, they will forget it in the next second.

"There’s something existentially alarming about finding out how little room we occupy, and how little allegiance we command, in other people’s heads," he writes.

And, in the end, that's all it is, people.  A bubble that's beautiful for a millisecond, until it pops, and is gone forever.


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