Is Facebook My Happy Place?

GeekMom Technology
Do you keep your Facebook timeline real? Or do you keep it happy? I've been exploring my Facebook alter ego recently. Image: Patricia Vollmer.
Look at those smiles on my Facebook page. Do you keep your Facebook timeline happy? Or do you keep it real? I’ve been exploring my Facebook persona recently and I think I do quite a bit of manipulation. Image: Patricia Vollmer.

Please allow me to say upfront that I’m not judging Facebook personae. This is merely an exploration of my own social media livelihood and my thoughts on whether others do the same thing. I would also like to point out that this discussion could apply to any social media, not just Facebook.

A Facebook friend recently said to me in a private message, “I’ve never seen anyone as busy as you seem to be!” She and I have spent time together (in real life) in person in the past, but currently we don’t live near each other geographically. So her knowledge about my recent life is mostly what’s seen on my Facebook timeline.

Another friend — who also doesn’t live near me — once commented that she wished her life could be as happy as mine.

Those statements really got me thinking. I don’t feel super busy these days, although I don’t sit around watching TV all day long either. I’m also not necessarily happy all the time. Just ask my sons how I get when they’re running late for school.

Facebook (along with other social media such as Twitter or Instagram) is a great place to keep friends and family apprised of what’s going on in your life. Every social media user has the choice to post what he/she chooses to post. You can turn your online life into anything you want. Apparently I only post the happier stuff. Why worry people?

Does that make me a fraud? Am I manipulating my posts into a happier presence than I really experience? Am I living a lie in this little online slice of my life? Do I really want several hundred people knowing when things aren’t hunky-dorey? Am I better off posting nothing at all, or should I be doing the Vaguebook thing to indicate that things aren’t perfect?

I can’t tell you what’s going on but it isn’t good.

I honestly never gave it much thought until very recently. I routinely put up photos of the crafts I’ve done, my GeekMom posts, the travels and activities that my family have done, and I share the occasional newsworthy item. In addition, I have several apps that automatically feed items into my Timeline, such as my MapMyFitness workouts. Some folks think I’m on Facebook all the time. To be honest, I’m not directly on Facebook as much as some people might think. I have a “Share This” button on my Bookmarks Bar for links, I post my photos directly from my iPhone, I reply to post comments via email, and several of my apps take care of the rest. But when I actually am on Facebook reading up on my friends, I post occasional status updates about general things going on in my life, such as:

Another happy status. I don’t want to worry or offend anyone…. Image: Patricia Vollmer.

The “Incline” mentioned in the caption above is the Manitou Springs incline, a 2000′ high set of stairs that people climb for fun. I posted a picture from the top later that day.

I thought about the “negative” posts I’ve put up recently. They aren’t earth-shatteringly negative. It turns out most of the information about the bad things in my life don’t go up on Facebook until I’ve had a chance to smile, laugh, or come up with a silver lining about it. I will paint the post into something that should make you laugh, smile, or look on the bright side along with me.

I don’t post super-deep negative emotions. Typically, by the time I decide to write about it, I’m already laughing at myself, so it reads more lightheartedly than if I posted immediately after the fact. Image: Patricia Vollmer.

A bit of a caveat is in order. Since Facebook came along, my life hasn’t been so horrible. I haven’t been diagnosed with cancer, my husband hasn’t been fired from his job, nor has anyone close to me died since Facebook became mainstream. My family is in pretty good health, and my marriage isn’t falling apart. I haven’t had any big social-media fallings-out either. I’ve been thinking about how — or whether — I would present such sad news to my online circle of friends. As of this writing, I wouldn’t know what to do. Perhaps I would fall off the radar altogether.

Do you get this way too? Are you shy about posting the bad news in your life? Do you worry that your mother — who might be a Facebook friend — will get concerned and call you? Do you worry that your boss or another work colleague — who might also be Facebook friends? — will use the information against you? Or do you just not want to worry anyone?

Perhaps you want to run for office in the future. Can you imagine how social media histories will be used in the near future for those running for Congress or President?

It turns out there’s been quite a lot of study done on the psychology of social media. Sherry Turkle, a clinical psychologist and the director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self, has addressed the issue of keeping up with an e-personality. GeekMom Kay recommended her book, Alone Together:Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, to me and even suggested her TED Talk about it for a great summary of the main points of the book.

I have no plans to really change what I put on social media. I’m certainly not going to try to find sad news in my life to share. I am usually careful to convey a professional image for the sake of my Air Force Reserve leadership position, but I don’t see the harm in keeping positive either.

What are your thoughts on the image you convey in social media? Do you keep it real? Or do you keep things happy and lighthearted? 

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4 thoughts on “Is Facebook My Happy Place?

  1. When I actually used Facebook I’d keep everything on it positive, but then when I was having a hard time I wondered why nobody seemed to care – (it’s because they didn’t know!) I found that after deleting my Facebook my real friends kept in touch with me directly, not just an online persona I could manipulate. In turn, I told them what was really going on and I’ve never been better. You definitely find out quick who are the real friends. I am 26 and find no need for a Facebook page; however, I still use Twitter to write/read funny things or contact my favorite musical artists and actually get replies back. That never happens on Facebook. I don’t put anything personal on there, because I figure since most of my followers don’t know me in real life they probably don’t care to know anyway.

    1. Jami, I have nothing personal on Twitter at all. It’s too public (I understand you can set Twitter to be more private but that’s not how I use it). At least with FB I have some control over my privacy and can be a little more personal if I had to be.

  2. Personally, I think facebook is for sharing things that you would want to tell/show your friends and family. Pictures of adventures and things that make you laugh for example. When something gets you really hot under the collar and its something that you would want to make sure your friends were aware of, or something that you need to vent about – if you’d say it in real life, I think its fair game for facebook. That being said, I am obviously not “the norm” that has become facebook posting of every plate of food or cup of starbucks consumed. If my friends need to vent, I get that and I’ll try and be supportive. But if all they ever post about is negative things or flat out whining/complaining, they get defriended pretty quick because I don’t need their negativity in my life. I’m all for being real, but if in person you wouldnt tell everyone every time you were stressed or stubbed your toe, I dont think it should be the facebook focus either.

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