Unfortunately, I only get to see most of my co-workers once per week. Once. One day. Usually Wednesdays. I wish I saw my colleagues a lot more often so I could build stronger relationships with them, really get to know them and let them really get to know me. Luckily, we now live in the era of MeowMeowBeenz… er, I’m sorry, the era of Facebook. We are “friends” there, we “like” each others photos and status updates, and “laugh” (or LOL) at each others jokes. It’s a nice way to attempt to bridge that gap of 60 miles between me and the home office. But are they getting to know me, the real me? Today I was reminded, in a rather shockingly embarrassing way, just how our social media activity defines us to those we rarely see in person.
This afternoon a colleague and friend I respect greatly essentially called me a party girl. I was puzzled. Me? Boring old teen-mothering, dog-walking, grocery-shopping, coffee-guzzling, recycle bin-tamping, workaholic me? Huh?
Then it became clear that my own personal social media policy was backfiring and I was creating a persona that was very one-dimensional. I try really hard to only share things on FB that are whimsical, funny, insightful, or are marking times I’m having fun — perhaps to record for myself that, yes, I do get to have fun sometimes (I often need to remind myself of this). Sometimes the fun(ny) is just a scene that was captured. There are also a few people I may have running jokes with or who I mock mercilessly (like my husband). Often I mock myself. I sometimes “check in” to places when I’m with friends because there is that one question that always gets asked: “Did anyone check us in yet?” as if not checking in means we weren’t really there at all (I’m not sure why I do that one). When I post something commonplace or banal, I do it because I’ve seen some sort of humor in it myself; I usually go back and delete those later. Come to think of it, I go back and delete a LOT of what I post, especially when there was TOO much fun being had (you know, what happens in Vegas…).
Last weekend was a really fun weekend for us with a number of different great friends, which may or may not have included dinner and/or wine tasting and/or watching RuPaul’s Drag Race with BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon on the night Ben won the Snatch Game episode (“I do think it would be rather amusing if there were libations flavored with citrus”). I may or may not have been checked in at various places, and I may or may not have shared a few choice photos that I thought were hilarious and worth sharing. Through the lens of social media, though, my colleague told me it seemed I was going out partying every night. Whoops! Boy, I wish that were true.
The only person responsible for this problem of representation is me. But then if I started sharing the boring bits to balance out my “persona” — oh geez, who wants to read that?
Why do we do this at all? Especially those of us in the, ahem, higher age brackets? Don’t we remember what life was like before MeowMeowBeenz and how wonderful/wonderfully simple it was? But I notice that all social invitations come through MeowMeowBeenz. I had to abandon email invites to our annual Christmas party because no one was getting the information suddenly in 2013 (“Aren’t you guys having your Boxing Day party? Why didn’t you invite me? I never saw the event info in Facebook…”). Now friends post their latest news (Kid got into college! I got a new job! I finally left that bastard!) and assume I saw it on FB… no, they EXPECT I saw it on FB. I’m not seeing at parties and events those very, very few friends who have refused to maintain FB accounts — I don’t think they’re getting invited, as if no FB means you don’t really exist. Besides, FB is the one place where I can maintain contact with all of my former colleagues from my last career that are spread around the country, and it allowed me to reconnect with old school friends that I didn’t think I would ever see again… at least back before MeowMeowBeenz existed. It is a tool that can be used for good.
What are your thoughts? Fantastic tool? Necessary evil? Has it become so ingrained in your life that you don’t even think about it? And more importantly, do you really think I’m a lush who goes out bar hopping every night? If yes, can you also make me 15 years younger and 30 pounds lighter in your fantasy representation of me?
I definitely must make lunch dates with my colleagues, though, so we can really connect face to face instead of through the filtered lens of social media. I need to make lunch, coffee, or happy hour dates with all of my FB connections … just so we can touch each other and remember that we are real flesh and blood.
Rich, lunch next week?
Watch the full episode of MeowMeowBeenz taking over Greendale Community College here.
P.S. More next time about the role of FB/MeowMeowBeenz to help a group of friends and family members grieve the loss of a loved one, especially a loved one who embraced social media to the fullest. Another night.