Thursday, May 2, 2013

Facebook Friends

So, I know I usually rail against all things inauthentic, but I'm becoming aware of a weird phenomenon. The Facebook friend. I'm not talking about those people that you already have an in-person relationship with, but those that are pretty much only your friend on Facebook and would only be considered an acquaintance in real life. I find myself constantly liking their comments, sharing in threads, and find them being the first people to "like" something that I write or share. I didn't really find it odd, until I noticed that these interactions take place more frequently than my interactions with my "physical world" friends. Am I nurturing "virtual relationships"? I certainly feel a kinship to those that share pictures or memes that I like. I feel like I know them in a more personal way than before I knew them as a Facebook personality.

I think that word "personality" sums up my nagging feeling. I have a hard time figuring out if this is the "real" person or the person they want to project to the internet community. Can you develop an authentic relationship with someone based on liking the same pictures, and finding the same type of jokes witty? Can you really experience a person in an already predetermined way that is set by the rules of the programmers? Then I started really thinking... (that ellipsis is trying to show the time I spent pondering) Aren't all of our interactions like this? Don't we relate to most people in a set of rules preordained by our societal norms and mores? An even deeper question is, "Who do we really know?" I assume that everyone is like me, and that the things I see on the outside correlate to the things I am feeling on the inside. I have no way of knowing that is true. I also know that I have an internal, or a first person, me that exists that no one else gets to see except in the third person. Our physical state sets up a duality with our mental state. Even if unintentional, who we think we are can often differ greatly from what others perceive us to be. Is their much difference between the body that shields us from others or the computer screen? Oddly enough, sometimes i think there are moments when people put things on Facebook that gives me much more insight into who they are, than any in-person interaction ever has. We tend to be more polite in social settings. We care more about listening to the other person's argument, because we see them as a flesh and blood person, who has feelings, and who also has the power to ruin your nice evening if provoked. In Facebookland, what's the worse that can happen, you get defriended, or someone zings you on a comment? You move on. That doesn't happen in real life. My point is, when people acquiesce to someone else's preference in order to preserve the social order, they must hide or hold back a bit of themselves. That "bit of themselves" we rarely get to see. I don't know if there's a lesson to be learned here, or if this is just an observation, but I think that there are so many interesting things that we're learning every day from watching and also participating in social media. Particularly interesting are the things we are learning about ourselves.