The Guilt of Facebook


I dare promote another social medium…the ever-persistent in-your-face Facebook, but the guilt is just riding me too much! In the attempt at keeping this topic somewhat related to English, I will proffer the argument that while social media have made me a better writer, FB has exercised my guilt-metre.

I hear Russia has consumed what pre-existed FB, and that was ICQ. I was introduced to that platform a decade ago. I doubt very much I could remember my username and password anymore, and with all my computer upgrades through the years, I don’t even have it installed anymore. Then the next wave hit –MS Messenger. I do use that occasionally, and it was really via that form that I adopted, and quickly, all the anagrams and alphabetisms that could possibly delight my then newbie fancy. It’s not those mediums that made me a better writer; I’m all for longhand anyway, but it was in the quantity of my writing, what proliferated among these various text enablers. I had them pop up when I turned on my machine; I got to the point, admittedly, where I didn’t even want to turn on any of them on. The irony was that the socially connected e-world I became accustomed to became bothersome; I felt I was losing a bit of my privacy. Then the equally simple-to-use Skype appeared on scene with cheap and free call features. I graduated to that eventually. As  my world continued to expand, my steps into Facebook finally took hold.

Back to English and how all this relates to the guilt, for which I’m not sure I’ll find a great segue, but I’ll try. Around the time I started to launch into FB, and starting to do regular updates, mostly after the big facelift happened, was around the time my friends count started expanding. To date, I have less than 100, which in part determines my newness to the form; I’d rather people think that than about the few people I know in the world. The latter seems utmost depressing, even at my resistence to compiling as many ‘friends’ to my list. If you have 3500 friends, would you invite them all to your birthday? Do you think all 3500 really, truly care that you find the smell of rain refreshing? Or whatever minor daily event moves you that you wish to share? Any comment is at least some kind of written contribution, something creative; it keeps the writer’s mind active. It does mine. I try to write something humourous, insightful, or something fairly generic. After all, friends of friends may see whatever it is I’m putting out onto the Net. It is another writing medium, at least for me, with a larger audience, more public, even though they are all called ‘friends’.

In adding more friends, of course, FB makes friends suggestions, based on the friends of your friends. When I first saw my half-page of profile pics and names, I blinked my eyes and thought, I know these people somehow? Even if they are three times removed like some distant cousin on the family tree, I couldn’t click on the ‘x’ to delete them. I couldn’t do it. Potential audience, yes, few, if any, my friends. My pointer hovered over those faces; how could I delete them? It seemed so ironically impersonal to do so. A couple of months passed before I realized that if I did hit those little x’s, a replacement of someone else appeared, that it wouldn’t have made much difference. Had I had paid more than 3 minutes attention to the management of my FB pages in a month, I would’ve realized sooner. Now, OMG, I have to manage this behemoth, nearly daily, ASAP. Besides, won’t those suggested friends be insulted if I clicked them away (even in my weird way, I still knew that they wouldn’t find out, but the mind plays tricks)?. The guilt, the guilt!!  I left them there. Stranded. Me –frozen, too timid to delete them. It’s a contradiction thing. I mean, those profile pics call to you. They called to me saying, “Rachel, click on me, let me be your friend. It’ll be cool. You’ll add to your friends count. You want a bigger friends count, don’t you?” like some insidious collection of friends disease. It was invasive. I was invaded, my mind having dialogue with an electronic addiction. Yes. I said the a-word. Addiction. Addiction with an Audience. I was a member of AA. (shrugs). Still am.

I still feel like one of those Survivor show players eating a disgusting slimy insect or something to win the round. The mission of deleting potential friends would certainly be easier than being a contestant chowing down on spiders’ legs.  I clicked with courage the x’s of everyone whom I didn’t recognize by name, and that even if we had a couple of friends in common, if I didn’t know the person directly meant I put up my shy shield. Gone. Deleted them all. At last! I felt a sense of relief; my inner Queen of Administration ruled. …Ack!! Within a few days, as many more suggestions appeared. I knew that lot even less than the first. I braved deleting them all, again, save but two, I recall. So it goes. There is still a tad of guilt that plagues me every time I need to shoo away friend suggestions; it’s akin to sorting stuff around the house, tossing most of what’s sorted, then the very next day saying “Oh, <bleep>, I should’ve kept that thing.”. So far, I’ve been lucky that I haven’t said the same for a FB suggestion, but you never know.


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