So here’s the truth… I don’t like Facebook. In fact, I’ve never even had an account of my own. While I recognize its importance in business and establishing certain connections, I am not a fan of its use as a personal billboard. Facebook itself is rather voyeuristic in nature. It’s a way for people to peek into the world of other people who are very often strangers. I think one of the things that makes me uneasy about it is the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon through which anyone and everyone can get a glimpse at your life. Sure, you’re “friends” with people you know, but in just a few clicks your friend’s cousin’s neighbor’s barber’s landscaper is looking at you in a bikini on last summer’s vacation.
Since my profession is a confidential one in which boundaries are important, I also never felt comfortable putting all my personal photos and children’s info on display…especially since the majority of my clients have always been adolescents who are addicted to Facebook. It just never felt appropriate to me to have them trying to “friend” me online.
But do I want to look up old classmates who I haven’t seen in twenty years to spy on their lives and catch up on gossip?
So recently, and at the encouragement of my best friend Steph who is a professional Facebook stalker, that’s what I did. (“Everyone else on Facebook spies on each other too,” she assures me.) I spent about a few hours looking up all the random people I could think of from my past, and following the clicks toward other old familiar names in their friend sections. And man, what an eye-opening experience it was! I laughed, I cried, it was like watching a good movie. And at the end of the movie, I realized there were several valuable life lessons represented by what you see on people’s Facebook pages.
Here’s what my Facebook stalking experience taught me about life:
- Families, and in some people’s cases children, are the most important thing in people’s lives. There is nothing more telling about a person’s priorities than hundreds of family pictures or regularly updated cover photos of someone’s growing child. Family and kids are what matters most to everyone, and something everyone on Facebook (and in life) seems to have in common.
- There’s somebody out there for everyone. You know that weird kid you went to grammar school with who couldn’t maintain a human conversation but quietly recited the lines from every superhero comic book under his breath? Well, he’s married now. To a young lady who is such a perfect match that they can be seen in every photo dressed up in their best costumes attending ComicCon together. Now that’s true love. And good for him for finding it!
- Your ex girlfriend/boyfriend was not that somebody for you. When you look at pictures of your ex with his or her spouse and kids and it doesn’t drum up any envy or regret, you realize the many reasons this person is your ex. And you feel right at home wherever you are in your life. Especially if you have kids who came out cuter.
- Sexual orientation is biological, no matter who tries to convince a kid otherwise. Every person I found on Facebook who has come out since the last time I saw them was a kid who was clearly leaning in that direction in adolescence. They’re on the right track baby, they were born that way.
- Some people grow up, some people don’t. My life is made up of diaper changes and 8:00 bedtimes. This past Friday night, we played music videos on our TV so we could have a dance party with our toddler, since my husband declared, “This is the closest thing we’re getting to a club.” Honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way, and at my age it feels normal to me. But did you know there really are men pushing 40 whose entire Facebook pages are about what club they’re hitting this weekend or what frat boy party they’re throwing next? I was fascinated to learn that on Facebook! But there are also people who were loose and wild as teenagers who have pleasantly grown up to have six kids and seem like wonderful parents. It’s clear that marriage and family forces most of us into maturity, which is kind of nice to see.
- It’s a small world, after all. Ok, now that you have the most redundant Disney World song stuck in your head… my Facebook stalking led me to so many mutual acquaintances on random people’s pages. It amazed me that so-and-so knew so-and-so and that I am a mutual acquaintance of both. It’s like my Dad has always said, “Be nice to everyone because you don’t know who they might know!”
- If you’re important enough to me, we’ll stay in touch without Facebook. I get it that Facebook has reconnected lots of people and even found some people the loves of their lives and even missing relatives. And that’s wonderful. But as far as old friends go, I still feel texting, calling, or even emailing individuals with whom I’ve chosen to stay in contact is a real testimonial of our friendship. If someone is important to me, I want us to share our lives on a personal basis rather than just through updates online as the rest of the world learns it. So show your true friends some love, people, and make an effort to stay in touch the good old-fashioned direct way. And no weird Facebook spies like me will know what you say.