Ah, social media. To call it a mixed bag is like calling the Rocky Mountains a group of hills. The inconsistent feedback keeps us coming back while the disappointment pushes us away. It satisfies our need for attention the way Cheetos satiate hunger, and is about as nourishing. At times it’s an overflowing, unflushed toilet, and at other times it reconnects old friends across time zones and continents. For every new friend you make, you turn off someone else. There are typically good reasons why people grow apart and lose contact, but social media throws us back together whether we like it or not.
Facebook, the big dog, continues to be a force in our lives, particularly in what we show to the world. Very, very little gets on Facebook by accident. What you post online is hardly an accurate reflection of your true self, but rather a funhouse mirror, distorting not just your own self-image, but what others see of you. Still, Facebook doesn’t create content: you do. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five people you meet on Facebook.
- The Seller: He works for Herbalife. State Farm. Tupperware. Buckeye Jim’s Tractor and Feed. And you know it because he uses Facebook to tell you all about it to the exclusion of everything else. If Herbalife has a sale on Macrobiotic Fish Oil tablets (200 mg, 100 count), you’ll know it. The worst Sellers, however, the people who really get under your skin, are the ones I know best: book authors. You’re nothing but a potential sale to the Seller author: that’s why he friended you in the first place. You Like his stuff but he never Likes yours. The only posts he Likes are those written by popular authors because, let’s face it, he’s a suck-up. His wall is non-stop sales pitches. The universe of social media is out there to make him money. Never mind that it doesn’t work: he’ll make it work or die trying.
- The Memeing Mynah: She lives only to Share political/ideological memes, articles, cartoons, and essays written by others. At least twenty a day, obscuring your news feed into a fog of bumper sticker slogans and headlines: PROTESTERS SPOILED A TRUMP RALLY BUT YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT HAPPENED NEXT, Tweets from God, Lizzy the Lezzy posts, Richard Dawkins destroying Creationists in The Guardian. Never any original content. A profile photo reflecting the current political climate: a Gadsden flag or a grinning Bernie Sanders close-up, depending on the person. Never anything else. Perhaps she might Like your approving comment, but she says nothing herself: she just links and links and links. You imagine that talking to her in person would be like listening to a 300 baud modem screech endlessly into your ear.
- The Sad Sack: He makes Eeyore look like Sammy Davis Jr. performing The Candy Man. Everything sucks. Facebook is merely an outlet for his endless cavalcade of complaints, particularly about work. Everyone else is stupid and he has to deal with stupid people all day long and it’s a total drag. No aspect of life fails to disappoint him. He makes you tired just by knowing he exists, but he’s your cousin or co-worker or shared a lab with you in high school so you’re obligated to remain friends with him. He wears his heart on his sleeve, but it’s always broken.
- The Drama Empress: When she’s not vaguebooking she’s uttering threats of revenge on unnamed haters. A good burger becomes the best dinner ever, a surly salesperson becomes the Judge of All Her Life’s Choices. Her highs reach the troposphere, her lows the Mariana Trench, and you hear about every single one of them. The transitory, prosaic moments of daily life that better-adjusted adults automatically file away as unimportant get magnified by the Drama Empress to apocalyptic proportions. A Drama Empress gathers enemies like flies on the foist of dogs by dragging innocent people into non-events in one post, and in another post wonders why people don’t like her. She’s very nice, you know. Some people are just jealous. (Men can be Drama Empresses, too, and often are.)
- You: And then there’s you. You don’t do these things, do you? Well, except when you do. I’ve mentioned this before, but your perception of others doesn’t make you invisible. You see them and they see you. Maybe you’re the Drama Empress. The Seller. The Sad Sack. Or, or, or…maybe not. Depends on who you talk to. Or who talks about you. You’re not that negative, are you? And you only post work stuff when something new comes out. So it’s okay, right?
Your best bet is to spend as little time on Facebook as you can get away with. Don’t you just feel better when you don’t need it?