Facebook vs Truth
My life on Facebook is an airbrushed and Instagrammed image of my real life”
Sarah Emily Tuttle-Singer
After my “raw” post about death, a friend pointed me to this post on Kevller.com (a parenting blog): We Need to Quit Telling Lies on Facebook. In it, Sarah Emily Tuttle-Singer, retells the her weekend story as it ‘really’ happened. She opposes the instagramifying of life on Facebook by writing the nitty-gritty of her weekend, including zit squeezing and impertinent tampon questions from her son, including the inevitable reference to penises and vaginas. Which according to the books she read, it is a device one must employ when trying to communicate the ‘truth’ of life to our children.
I agree with her. We do try to appear smarter, prettier, and more interesting than we really are on Facebook. I often edit out the sad and boring parts of my life and try to glorify the small mundane moments such as the few sunny days we get in Seattle. I frequently check to see what got likes and comments and every time I conclude that when statuses are happy, uplifting and have a dash of Zen people like them. I also know that photos of my children tend to get the most likes, so obviously, I post more of them. I succumb to the positive biased system that Facebook has built in.
But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and nor should we try to change it. The minute you are publishing anything anywhere you are never going to be 100% truthful. It’s the innate property of mediated communication. Allow me to explain:
Facebook is a communication medium. You transmit a message in a particular way using photos, videos, text, etc. and the other person gets the message through that platform which has its own properties, like the bias towards positive engagement (i.e. there is no thumbs-down option). To communicate on Facebook, you are going through a creative process of composing, editing and getting feedback. That process in itself will always result in a version of the truth that is a bit ‘prettier’. And that is true for any medium. When we watch TV shows, apartments are larger, hairs are always done, clothes are new, people are more interesting and consistent that in real life. Of course, the desire to get more ‘real’ content is not new. In TV we have created aberrations like reality TV to satisfy that desire. But it turns out that we can’t really watch reality, so after taping something like 18 hours a team goes and edits it down to 45 minutes… so reality gets pretty much edited out in order to produce a palatable show.
The truth is that our true lives are too long, uneventful, chaotic and plain inexplicable to communicate to others in ANY medium. Only we can experience it directly and in its whole truth. So by all means, please continue to be the smarter, prettier, happier version of yourself on Facebook. I am way more likely to ‘like’ you.