Almost everyone I know is on Facebook. And thank God for that. Facebook, for me, is the easiest way to connect with the people I love, especially now that I live in Seattle and 95% of my friends and family are back home in the greater Toronto area.
Thanks to Facebook, I regularly get to see pictures of my friends’ vacations, their kids’ birthday parties, and their home renovations. Thanks to status updates, I know who can’t sleep, who’s tired from their workout, and who’s had too much to drink. I can poke you and be poked back. I can make a funny comment about somewhere you’ve been even though I wasn’t there.
Anytime I feel like it, I can poke my head into your life and find out what you’re up to… without even having to ask.
In other words, it’s not natural. Because what we choose to show people on Facebook isn’t exactly real. Instead, it’s the best, most airbrushed, most edited version of ourselves. YOU, my Facebook friend, will never let me see how bloated you were today, how messy your house is, and how your fine lines are finally turning into wrinkles. In turn, I’d rather die than show you my double chin, how frizzy my hair gets on a humid day, and what I look like without mascara. Not happening.
And, like I said, not natural.
As a fiction writer, being on Facebook is sort of like writing a novel… I’m only ever going to show you what I want to you see. There are no candid photos. Everything about my story is carefully orchestrated in advance, even though things may appear to be spontaneous and authentic.
On Facebook, I have just over two hundred “friends” (a very modest number in the world of online social networking), and because of this, I’m hyper aware of everything I post. I write bubbly wall messages that are way more enthusiastic than I really feel. I post status updates that are funny, melodramatic, ponderous, or vague, depending on how I want you to react. And if I write something and there’s a typo, I go back and edit it, because God forbid you think I can’t spell.
It’s not much different when I write. As a novelist, I take what I know and I twist it to fit the story. I alter reality. Then I re-write the story as many times as it takes to get it perfect. Same as I do on Facebook.
But do you know what fiction writing is? Webster’s defines fiction as something invented by the imagination or feigned.
Feigned. Yes. That’s the perfect word.
So I ask you this: Is your Facebook account an accurate depiction of your life?
I know mine isn’t. But I also know that I don’t it want it be. Because the edited version you get to see of me there is just so much prettier… and in the end, don’t we all just want to look pretty?