Facebook replaces real life
A few landmark events have consumed the headlines as of late — the health care bill passed (note: may be law by the time this is published), a second bout of flash flooding devastated the majority of the Northeast, but more importantly, I became officially Facebook single for the first time since its inception. As a note, I am not broadcasting this as a vehicle to advertise myself or criticize my ex, who happens to be a lovely fellow, but rather, more naturally, to complain. While clicking "cancel relationship" may have been the most substantial decision of my collegiate career — hovering somewhere above switching majors and declaring my party affiliation — in the online social networking sphere of dramatics, the dreaded broken pink heart so conspicuously etched next to my name gave any of my 897 virtual friends the right to pry. In fact, this news should come as no surprise to most of you, as I am sure we share a few "mutual friends" who may have felt so compelled to comment on my new-found autonomy, thereby providing you with free range to peer.
In the hours immediately following my broken pink heart's debut, I proceeded to systematically read, cringe and delete a total of 13 outrageous comments and requests from various "friends." Mind you, this is coming from a girl who is admittedly inappropriate — borderline vulgar — even at my finest moments. People I would barely refer to as an acquaintance inundated my inboxes with casual requests to divulge the details of my breakup, as well as my plans for the future. After the deletions came the audacious Facebook chat instigations, most from "friends" whom I have not bothered to "reconnect with" despite Facebook's upper right-hand corner's encouragement. I even attempted to remove my relationship status all together, but that incited further questioning. There is no way I am this important. I am sure of it.
The absurdity did not end at my wall, but instead carried over to my reality when a boy, someone I will dub "red beanie, white sneakers kid" felt it appropriate to meddle. I have spoken on or about six words to this classmate to date — "can you pass the attendance sheet." I never thought the routine politeness would prompt a friend request, let alone the green light for an online interrogation via Facebook Chat days later, later followed by note-passing in class to "check up" on me. I entertained some of his inquiries solely because it would have been more awkward to brush them off or ignore them, but I am not exactly gracious when annoyed. Then came the tepid, pity half-smiles, lips parting just enough to mouth, "Are you okay?" as though I am a four-year-old with a scraped knee from my co-workers, yet I cannot remember ever having mentioned the breakup within the walls of my workplace. And the curiosity was infectious — within minutes, my boss was forcing the details out of me. I spoke timidly, which happens close to never, as a blatant hint to drop it. Some co-workers took the hint, others waited until I got home to casually attempt to continue the conversation via Stalkbook Chat.
I was content being real-world single — the only people who bothered to pry were the handful of friends I told. But the moment I went "public" with the breakup, I felt violated, as though I did nothing to attract the unsolicited attention. An innocent bystander, just updating my profile, suddenly at the mercy of my "friends'" questions.
I understand we are headed toward a virtual existence, but did I miss something along the way? When did this erratic bombardment become second-nature to so many? Perhaps I am just maladjusted to the online world. I am, as I have mentioned before, technologically incapable at best, but still. There has to be some code of conduct that advises against these sort of things. Oh, right, that's called common sense.
I planned to let all the curiosities roll off my back until the author of "Dirty Pop," a column that ran on March 10 in The Daily Targum, spurred my fury. It forced me into an inevitable realization — we invest an absurd amount of emotion and energy into the online versions of ourselves. We sometimes let the disingenuous interest fueled by boredom dictate our behavior, and my "friends'" requests were not entirely unwarranted. I am no more private than the next college student, and to the extent that I have revealed myself in the virtual arena, I cannot expect to be. This what I signed up for. Nearly every American fresh out of puberty has registered an account with Facebook, thereby offering their personal tidings at a glance. In fact, I share some of my most intimate words on my blog, which is readily viewable to all eyes, evenly shamelessly plugged on my Facebook from time to time.
I likely sound borderline narcissistic by now, but my experience is all too common. I may be guilty of it to some extent, but probably not.
Our online profiles are supposed to supplement reality, not take the place of it. I am not arguing for more tangible human contact, but rather a general maintenance of dignity. Now I feel like a tactless Sexting Public Service Announcement, but if you would not want to discuss something in person, keep it off your page. Besides, it's Spring: Stop creeping and go outside.
Lauren Caruso is a Cook College senior majoring in journalism and media studies with a minor in environmental policy, institute and behavior.