He Went to Facebook
I was recently in La Paz, Bolivia, a sky-high city that abounds with exotic sights: women in colorful Andean costumes, quaint street markets, 16th-century Spanish architecture. Yet the first photo I shared with friends and family was of a sandwich. A sandwich. Yes, it was a bizarre creation—a fried egg on top of a hamburger topped with some sort of gelatinous goo—that I bought on the street. Why did I share a photo of this sandwich? Because I could. And in so doing I had become the very person I once loathed: the Social Media Oversharer.
Like so many, I haphazardly acquired a LinkedIn account, an Instagram account, a Twitter account, a Pinterest account, and of course became a citizen of the People’s Republic of Facebook. I have been tagged, hashtagged, tweeted, retweeted, followed, friended, liked, shared, pinned, and for all I know unfollowed, unliked, detweeted, and defriended. In spite of that, I congratulated myself for being in social media, but not of it.
I groaned when my screen filled with friends’ iPhone shots of meals they were about to consume, of twee designs of a heart or a leaf some clever barista sketched on top of their cappuccinos, of their feet in new shoes (“What do you think?”), of many, many, many mirror self-portraits, of their kittens napping, of their kids staring blankly into the camera, of unknown people doing wacky things at wacky parties, of quirky signs—of just about anything worthy of a two-second attention span.
I wasted hours reading pointless Twitter feeds like, “It’s so very late. Why am I awake?” or vapid Facebook postings such as “My hair feels really bouncy today.” And I wondered why do other-wise intelligent, sensitive, caring people bludgeon each other with such banality. I yearned for a screen button that went beyond Like, or Unlike, to Even Your Mother Doesn’t Care.
If that isn’t obnoxious enough, these share-a-thons have turned social media into the Olympics of one-upmanship where the subtext is: my life is more interesting than yours, unless you post something more fascinating in the next seven minutes.
I was the outsider looking in. My sharings were as rare as an honest politician. My feet went unphotographed, my meals unrecorded. I could not come up with anything Tweetworthy that happened in the last month, much less the last ten minutes. But the screen beckoned. I realized that living an unexamined life and having nothing to say was no obstacle to putting something out there. It began innocently with a comment on a Facebook posting. Then I uploaded a snapshot of a hike in the Canadian Rockies. I agonized over 140-character quips on Twitter and how to hashtag my Instagram snaps. I can stop any time I want, I told myself. But I didn’t. Then on the day of the Bolivian sandwich, I knew I had become part of the problem.
For all that, it has been a humbling experience. I discovered I don’t have a life that sparkles on social media. Nothing remotely shareworthy has happened in the last six months, unless you count the purchase of a new pair of shoelaces. Things are so bleak I’m thinking of going on eBay and buying events from someone else’s life.
But still I log in. I am genuinely interested how an old friend is adjusting to a happy grandparenthood. I stay in touch with former classmates, with family out West. I keep up with my daughter and her family, who do not live close enough. I cherish the 20-second videos and the Instagram snapshots of my granddaughter. And I continue to hope.
I’m going to France. I hear they have pretty good looking sandwiches there.