The other day, I was talking on the phone with a friend I hadn’t spoken to for a while and she said, you are always so positive on Facebook. She meant it as a compliment, because she was telling me about another of her friends is negative on Facebook and she finds it demoralizing. I told her that my Facebook persona is not an accurate reflection of my life. I share the positive things because I realize that people don’t go on Facebook to hear other people complain. On Facebook or in the rest of life, people don’t generally like to hear other people complain.
But that is only part of it. The other part is that I don’t want to show people the negative parts of my life because, well, don’t we all want to appear better than we are to others? Don’t we all want to put on a good show? Don’t we all want to appear that we have it all together?
Over the past month, three of my friends told me about terrible problems they are enduring. To look at their Facebook pages or their Twitter feeds, you would never know their lives were not perfect. They all seem to have things together. All happily married, apparently. All with successful and impressive careers. All with beautiful, intelligent and talented children. And all living with pain I can only imagine.
The problems these three friends are dealing with are all different. They are male and female, different ages, living in different regions of the country. But they are alike in that they keep their struggles private. Keep the circle of those who know small. I do the same thing with my problems.
I did the same thing during the final months of my marriage. I never mentioned anything about my impending divorce to most of the people I knew, and certainly never mentioned it on Facebook. After the divorce was final, I did not change my relationship status on Facebook; I just removed that section from my page entirely. Because I did not change my name back to my maiden name, a lot of people didn’t know for months that I had gotten divorced. I remember the first time one of my status posts contained something that people could read between the lines and figure it out; I got emails and texts from old friends I had not spoken with in a while who had seen it and realized only then.
Maskbook. That is what Facebook is. You read about your friends’ exotic vacations and gourmet meals and the cute things their kids do. You think their lives are wonderful. Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t. I do not write this to hint that there is some great tragedy in my life. I have problems, but they are not fodder for Greek tragedy. I write it because I do not want those of you do have some terrible tragedy in your life, one that you are hiding from the rest of the world, to feel as though you are the only one. To feel as though everyone else has it together and you’re the only one doesn’t.
They don’t. We don’t. I don’t.
We put on our masks update our status posts to suggest that we do. We tell ourselves that we do it because we want to be upbeat and positive and not bum our friends and family out by complaining on Facebook. And that’s true. But we also don’t want to show people what lies behind our masks.
Recently, a friend send me a link to a blog post about the masks we wear, and seeing behind them. The blogger shares my first name, but with the D everyone keeps putting in mine despite the fact it doesn’t belong there. I’ve read a number of her other posts, and I admire her for being able to be real and honest about her feelings in a way I can’t. Reading her blog reminded me how much I miss reading blogs, how I used to follow links from one to another, discovering hidden treasures and random pearls of wisdom. I miss reading other people’s blogs, and miss writing my own. So here’s my first post in 10 months.