Friday, 16 March 2012

What your Facebook says about you

Facebook is (weirdly, given it’s a public forum) quite a private part of my life. I don’t really want random people knowing what my kids look like or hearing that I’ve had a bad day. But Facebook is dangerous. It seems to have the biggest capacity for oversharing, over and above all other mediums. Most of us are occasional Facebook over sharers; from the gross “Check out my birthing pix, here’s Fleur crowning!!!”, boring child related info: “Agamemnon put on his own socks for the first time today, they grow up so fast” through to the downright too personal: “Period from hell L

So, given my penchant for the occasional overshare I am really, really strict about who I add to my Facebook friends list. But I have let a few slip under the net in recent weeks so it was time to do a bit of housekeeping; update my job title to make it seem more corporate, untag hideous pictures of myself etc. It’s the virtual equivalent of tidying your house before someone new comes round for the first time. You really don’t want new friends to know that you have a stack of used toilet rolls in your bathroom and that you rarely change your bed sheets.

But should I really be editing my life like this? A new disorder called Facebook Depression, caused by the overwhelming envy felt when witnessing the glamour and excitement of other people’s lives as portrayed over Facebook, has surfaced. And I can see why. There is always an element of jealousy when someone posts pictures from their once in a lifetime holiday to the Maldives whilst you are cutting your toenails in front of Take Me Out. Every “ding” of a clipping in that ashtray represents another tanned, smiling photo popping up to remind you that your life just isn’t as fabulous.

But the beauty of Facebook is that we all have the option to make our lives seem as brilliant as we like. Sometimes a well meaning friend might post a less than flattering photograph, in which case the untagging button comes in handy. I’ll hold my hand up and admit that I untag myself from pictures where my burger head (to clarify: that’s when your head looks as wide as it is tall) or ham arms (to clarify: that’s when the tops of your arms look like those big bits of ham hanging in Spanish supermarkets) seem like the focus of the picture.

But if I am untagging photos of my burger head I can’t be so naive as to think that these people who are showing off their tropical tans, looking stunning in their drunken photos and constantly “checking in” at brilliant bars are not also doing a little bit of censorship of their own. I mean come on, we all have some skeletons in our cupboards.

Facebook has become both a blessing and a curse. As if we really need anything else to sap the few hours in every day, we now spend half our time trawling through pictures of other peoples new babies, finding out (whether you like it or not) that your friend has reached the dizzying heights of level 263 on Diamond Dash and there’s yet another competition from that random company that you only clicked like to because you mistakenly believed you might get some free stuff. And yes, I want to see who last looked at my profile, oh whoops that’s spam, now everyone can see that I wanted to know who was looking at me. Busted. But now it’s getting serious, we are paying for it with our mental health.

And now we’ve got the timeline (which I hated at first but now I kind of like), we all have even more of an opportunity to customise our page and make it our own. We can change the design of it and generally make our Facebook profile seem a little more special. But the reality is that the timeline feature is nothing more than a school uniform, everyone has to wear it so we all try to make it our own by hitching up our skirts, grafittiing our ties or wearing our jumpers round our waists but whatever we do with it, it’s still a school uniform.

We all want our Facebook page to seem like the cool place to hang out, and therefore there has to be an element of control over what people see. We want people to think our lives naturally fell into this pattern of uber coolness, with no censorship or life butchery on our parts.

But if the truth be known, Facebook tells very little about the real person behind it, because it’s all edited, highlighted and created about the you you want to show the world. They say never believe everything you read, and Facebook is no exception. So don’t fall prey to Facebook Depression. The truth is everyone has toenail clippings, and whether the ashtray you are putting them in is in Thailand or Telford, they all smell like cheese.


  1. Beth, THIS IS SOOOOOOOOO TRUE! Another piece of pure brillance. Facebook is fab for keeping in contact but I totally agree, its best taken with a pinch of salt. Love always, Harry P.S. I cannot stopping laughing at 'ham arms'!!!!!