A couple of years ago my extended family and I all discovered facebook more-or-less simultaneously. For me it was a natural extension of my online existence. I’d already had a blog for years. For most of them it was a somewhat scary adventure into the wilds of the internet. I quickly found ways to be comfortable and was updating my facebook status regularly.
Then I got an email from my sister. “Are you doing okay?” she asked “You seem stressed.” Well, I was stressed. I was also pretty happy with my life. The trouble was that all my complaints were facebook sized and all my happy things were blog sized. My sister didn’t read my blog, so she got a rather narrow slice of what my life was really like and I looked rather unhappy.
I set out to fix the imbalance. I decided that I would deliberately use facebook as a place for small happy things. That worked pretty well, and life felt a little more balanced. Enter twitter, with it’s immediacy and propensity for clever conversations. My family stayed firmly entrenched in facebook. They were comfortable. I linked my twitter feed to my facebook feed so I could post in a single place. My family was confused. The dialect of twitter is different from that of facebook. They didn’t get half of what I was saying. I unlinked the feeds so that I could participate in the communities differently. (Actually a technological glitch unlinked them for me, but I decided it was best to leave them that way.)
Then came the day when I wanted to rant about my broken lawnmower. I was furious, unreasonably so. I wrote a blog entry, which I didn’t post because I knew it made me look unreasonable. I composed a facebook note, which I deleted for the same reason. I did not tweet it either. I was trying to not annoy people with my whining on the internet. The feelings pounded around inside my head until I finally went to a writer’s forum to which I belong and posted in the “venting” thread. The whole point of the thread is to provide a place for people to be grouchy or upset over random life things. Within an hour, two people had posted sympathetic responses. I felt validated, and my angry feelings dissipated almost entirely. I was able to move along in finding rational solutions.
Only later did I think that, maybe, I should have given my family the opportunity to share in my lawnmower frustrations. Keeping facebook cheerful is over all a good thing, but if it is unremittingly cheerful, then it is just as false as when it was the repository of all things whiny. Somehow, I need to find a balance between letting people share in both the downs and ups, without being all-whiny or all-chipper. This social media thing is not so easy as it looks even when one manages to avoid the major faux pas. (so far. fingers crossed. Do not want the internet to fall on my head ever.)