In the past week, three of my Facebook friends have posed the question Does Facebook enhance or reduce your quality of life? via their status updates. "It enhances it of course!" was my first reaction. I didn't even think twice about it. I love reconnecting with people who I haven't been in touch with in years! People like childhood BFFs (minus the last F for the obvious reason that we haven't been in touch for years) and the kids of family friends who I somewhat remember vacationing with at one point or another. There's something refreshing about looking up the "Info" of the little annoying kid who used to play with crickets and constantly untie the laces of my tennis shoes and find that he's en route to becoming an orthopedic surgeon. And who needs Jerry Springer's "You made fun of me in grade school, but look at me now!" episodes when Facebook allows us to literally watch karma take her course and witness the most amazing transformations ever. The chubby tomboy from middle school who is now a stunning professional body builder. The beautiful, blond mean-girl from high school who traded her killer bod and trendy fashion accessories in for a couple of kids and an old pick-up truck. My favorite story though was seeing what happened to the girl that was dumped by her jock boyfriend once they got to college together (a college that he convinced her to attend because he had a football scholarship). Two weeks into freshman year he told her he was going to focus on his "studies" so they couldn't be together anymore but he really just wanted to study all of the girls in his dorm. She's gorgeous, just passed the Bar and is newly engaged. He, on the other hand, lives with his parents and often posts unflattering pictures of himself double-fisting beer mugs at the bar down the street. C'est la vie.
Yesterday, while grabbing a cup of coffee at Starbucks with my dad I overheard a similar Facebook discussion at the table next us. A visibly upset high school-aged girl, wearing over sized sunglasses and a tee that said "I was with stupid and now I'm with you" was picking at a muffin. She anxiously squished little pieces of it in between her fingers before popping them into her mouth and by the time her latte-toting mom joined her at the table, the young Nicole Richie lookalike just about exploded. She went on and on about how, because of Facebook, her best friend had become completely insane. Her mom stared back at her blankly and nodded. Little Richie continued to explain to her that her friend had become a "picture maniac freak" and that she could never sit still because she constantly needed new material for her status updates. I giggled a bit to myself as she flailed her arms and flicked her muffin pieces angrily and then suddenly she calmed down and her tone took a more solemn tone. "It's like she uses me now." She said sadly. "For photo albums and status updates." I immediately frowned for her. How sad I thought to myself. She seemed to hold back tears as she continued to somberly explain how her supposed BFF had become an EX-BF, and she blamed it all on Facebook. I suddenly thought back to all of the photo albums and status updates that I've posted through the years. I couldn't help but wonder if I'd ever made anyone feel the way she did. Had I ever made anyone feel used? Had anyone ever used me? All in the name of Facebook?
I began thinking about the Facebook and the quality of life question a bit differently. Sure I loved keeping up with my friends and keeping in touch, but I began to wonder if there is a point when the networking tool actually becomes intrusive? Intrusive into the lives of those who share too much personal info with others unwittingly, or even intrusive into our own lives in an unfortunate way.
It made me think back to the trip that Danny and I took to Europe last year. The trip on which he not-so-affectionately nicknamed me the "camera terrorist." I admittedly cringed a bit when I thought back to how I spent a good chunk of our vacation saying, "Smile!" and "Point to that!" and "Hold this!" and "Now pretend like you're having fun!" and "Now take one of me doing that too!" Could I have been anymore obnoxious? Pretend like you're having fun?
I remember being in the Notre Dame Cathedrale in Paris, and watching Danny light a votive candle and say a prayer. I don't remember wondering what he was praying for in that moment and I don't remember being thankful for having a spiritual and loving better half either. I don't remember if he looked at me and smiled when he was done and I don't remember how the experience of being in such a magical place made me feel. All I can remember is cursing my camera for having such a dim flash. I think I even asked him to light another one because the picture I'd gotten was blurry. As a live in the moment kind of guy, he didn't. After thinking back to a few other intimate moments that I'm sure I ruined with my trustee Canon, I couldn't help but actually feel ahsamed.
I know that I've consciously posed for pictures and taken pictures either hoping that they will or won't end up on Facebook, and I also know that I miss the good old days when taking pictures wasn't so complicated. Photographing a moment used to be a way of documenting a memory or capturing a special second in existence and I can't help but feel that so much has changed since then.
So maybe it's both. Maybe Facebook does enhance my life in certain ways but also detract from it in others. Maybe people call it their guilty pleasure rather than just their pleasure because everyone knows there is something about it that's just wrong. Maybe the rolling eyes of our husbands and boyfriends (generally after the millionth picture that we make them take, alone, by a monument, and usually in front a huge crowd of people) are actually speaking a thousand words. Words that remind us that they want to spend moments with us rather than on the other side of a pestering lense.
I may not be deleting my account anytime soon, and I can pretty much guarantee that I'll continue to update my status and post pictures every once in a while, I just don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I've come to the conclusion that as long as I don't live to post or post to live, I can continue to indulge in the little guilty pleasure that I've come to enjoy now and again. The book of our true faces as well as the faces that we choose to decorate and put on display.