We need to quit telling lies on Facebook

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Photo by Sarah Tuttle-Singer.
How much time do you spend each week, carefully crafting the tales you’ll spin about your family online? For some of us, it’s way more than we’d like… which makes Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s recent article about Facebook all the more compelling:

So, according to Facebook, this is how I spent my Saturday with the kids:

My children and I woke up with the sun, smiling and ready to kick ass and “make it a great day.” My hair was shiny. My smile, too. We drank our morning drinks in latte cups — frothy foam mustaches lacing our lips. We played backgammon, our skin mottled by drops of shade in the morning light. We went for a walk in the orchards, and we danced between emerald leaves like fairies. We rocked out to Red Hot Chili Peppers. ‘Cuz that’s how we roll: Just another day being totally awesome.

And while all of this is basically true, I’m also full of shit. Here’s how it really went down:

We ate leftover schnitzel and chocolate cake. Breakfast of champions, people. And I took several “spontaneous” pictures of all of us smiling — with a camera timer.

The kids went back to the TV and I hit up Facebook to see what everyone else was doing. Most of my Facebook friends with kids were telling their Saturday stories for the world to “like.” Homegirl posted a picture of her and her brood frolicking in a field of red poppies. (And I felt a twinge of envy.)

I clicked “like.”

And not to be outdone, I uploaded our new pictures. “Sunny Saturday!” I wrote in the status. I’m not a total liar. I’m just good at PR. Time passed — five minutes? An hour? When you’re blissfully ignoring your kids, the seconds slip by far too quickly.

You can read the rest at Kveller!

Comments on We need to quit telling lies on Facebook

  1. Reading that status update had me rolling my eyes, because while it sounded like a cool day with a fun family, it also sounded super fake topped with a heaping of glitter. I often wonder how much time people are putting into crafting a status update simply for cool points and to get the most likes, the most comments.

    Very few people in my circle of friends have babies or kids, so I’m always aware of trying to find a balance in posting about my daughter. People like to know what’s going on, so there’s that, and photos are always fun, but I don’t want to bombard the internet with pictures, nor do I want to end up on STFU Parents. It’s hard to find the right mix of fun and playful while at the same time being honest without doing a gross overshare. Do I take a warts-and-all approach, or go for the unicorns and rainbows and hipness perspective? I aim for the middle, and try to keep it short. I think long status updates can be another way of keeping up with the Joneses, and I don’t need that in my life, online or otherwise.

    • Ha, I’m not a parent, but I use STFU Parents as a baseline for all my Facebook posts. It’s “If I saw someone post about (my dogs, complaining, etc), or post this frequently, could it be the topic on something like STFU Parents?”

      If the answer is yes, I don’t post it.

  2. Once you post the date and time your child passes away there is no post than can seem sugnificant enough to make. I don’t post much, and I never post anything that is about my day-to-day crap.

    People who compain all the time are hidden on my page. I don’t read the feed all that much. But I do have a private group with 4 of my very best friends in all the world where we can talk, and gossip, and carry on conversations as though we are all in the same room. That is the only reason why I still love facebook.

  3. Advice from an English teacher: in all writing situations, consider your audience. Is your carefully crafted, glorious morning post going to charm your audience or make them roll their eyes? Ditto for the “warts-and-all” potential over-shares. Who is reading your posts and why? Writing isn’t about you; it’s about the reader.

    • That’s the problem with Facebook, though, isn’t it? I’m writing for my best friends from college, who’ve seen me at complete meltdown and want to know what’s really going on; my aunt who I see every couple of years and who just wants to see cute pictures of my kid and know that everything is going well; acquaintances from school who maybe only read my feed for schadenfreude or, conversely, for evidence that their lives suck; my colleagues who read my feed for when I post science news articles; and on and on. Yeah, you can do filters, but that’s tedious. So I (and, I think, most people) make an effort not to stray very far from a fairly bland, lowest-common-denominator tone.

      • That is definitely a problem. Obviously you can’t make all those people happy all the time. I was pretty resistant to Facebook until I ran a podcast for a while. Since my first forays into social networking were to promote a project, I went into it thinking about these things a lot. I think it applies to personal stuff too. When I say “consider your audience,” I’m thinking about purpose. What will someone else get out of reading this? What am I trying to give someone else by posting this? Do I want to make them laugh, get a conversation started, or share a special moment? Those things are worthwhile because they’re sharing; they’re about an exchange, not just about me. If it’s all about me venting, bragging, or expressing boredom, then it probably doesn’t need to be public. I think that principle can make for better posts no matter who’s reading.

      • You can set custom settings on Facebook for each post you make so that only certain people (or groups of people) see the post. Just remember that those setting stay in place until you change them, so remember to check your settings before posting.

        • Yeah, that’s the “tedious” process I was thinking of. I’ve tried it, but it always seems to require more curation than I’m willing to do. Also, call me paranoid, but I don’t trust facebook at all to keep things compartmentalized. So in the end I don’t want to post anything I’m not okay with everyone seeing, and at that point I may as well just post it to everyone.

  4. What a fun read for my first cuppa this morning.

    I realize this isn’t a question post looking for tips, but one thing I have found super helpful in the world of Family Shares on Facebook is creating a “Fan Page.” A girlfriend of mine who was pregnant at the same time I was started a fan page for posting about her son during his first year, our kids will be turning 6 this year and I can definitely say that having the option to gloss over or dive deeper into JJ related posts has been a great option. We’ve talked about why she did it and her reasons make a lot of sense, at least to me: by creating the fan page she was able to reach only her target audience, subscribers to her page are only the interested family and close friends that get to be called auntie (yay for that role!) and because of that she is allowed a little more room to go nuts with her posts. If she wants to turn into a photo journalist and post 50 pics in an hour she can, if she needs to gripe about a crap day with the little man she can, if she wants to get all gooey and gush about her boy and how much she loves him she can do that too and it’s all done within the confines of her “Virtual Village” so there’s no sense of competing for likes or trying to outshine the neighbors.

  5. Outside the witty stance in this post it is actually pointing out something that is becoming very real. In 2011, psychologists started to coin the term “Facebook Depression” linking depression in young adults to the obsession with social networking. People have access to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, etc constantly and the perceived sunny demeanor of other people’s lives is contributing to others’ depression by them thinking that their lives are worthless and lackluster. So post that truthful, raw status not just to be honest but for the positive mental health of your friends!

    More articles on “Facebook Depression” if this intrigues you:

    • It’s funny, though, because Facebook has allowed me to see, for example, that even though one of my friends is the same age as me and making five times as much as I do (which is basically all I’d know about him without Facebook), he’s also had some serious struggles with mental illness; or that none of my friends’ relationships are perfectly happy all the time; or that smart, considerate people sometimes get into stupid fights over stupid things. I guess part of that is my group of friends, because I only have one friend who *only* posts Instagram-glossy images of half-contrived joy, but whatever the reason, I feel like Facebook has given me a more well-rounded view of most of my friends’ lives.

  6. I think this was a very awesome point in the full article:

    “And yes, we are happy. Most of the time. But there are times when we aren’t. And by only sharing the cute and cuddly moments, I ignore the importance of the raw and the real hours that are spent in the trenches making mistakes and learning from them.”

    It’s true that, most of the time, we’re not putting the meltdowns, the tantrums, the I-want-to-totally-give-up-and-drink-a-full-bottle-of-wine-right-now, moments. And, not that I think we need to all of the time, but that, by only posting the positive, beautiful moments, facebook is not a full picture of our own, or other people’s happiness.

  7. I stay far, far away from any and all things facebook. I only use it to post occasional pictures of my son for our immediate family to see. I don`t know why sometimes, when I look at my sister`s full facebook page I feel a tiny bit jealous that her life seems more full than ours. Probably because our family comments on how cute her pictures are, but not my (non existent) ones. But I know it`s pure illusion. We`re as fulfilled, our life is as busy. Plus I like to brag that we take the time to LIVE, just enjoy the small things instead of running around all the time.

    • I only use facebook to about this extent too. Last time I used facebook was to post a few of our professional wedding photos for long-distance family to see. I totally compare my page to other peoples and feel that they are more loved because they have photos of their husband buying them stuff while they are on a tropical holiday, and they seem to go on these holidays every few weeks. My way of coping is to avoid comparison all togther by not posting any status updates or any more photos. Ditto to being present in the real world!

  8. I don’t really post too many super personal things on Facebook… mostly it’s links to things I find interesting, info about projects I’m working on, and photos. I totally pull some Facebook PR to make it look like I’m more productive than I actually am, though. 😉

    • I’ve started seriously pulling back on how much personal stuff I share on FB now too. Most of the time its links to interesting articles as well, along with the odd minor status update (todays one celebrating that this time next week I’ll be able to sleep a LOT more since I wont be at work).
      And I’m aiming to keep things that way when our bubs arrives at the end of the month too. I dont want its life to be lived out on Facebook… now to persuade my MIL of that.

  9. Oh judgey judgey judge judge. Sorry, but the mom vs. mom too crunchy/not crunchy enough, too real/not real, “Real Moms do XYZ” stuff is so OVER.

    Post whatever you want. Your double chin, your Yoga Booty, your clean house, your molding dishes in the dirty sink. Post your kid’s straight A’s or his self-given haircut. Do whatever. Allow others to judge you. Its incredibly freeing.

    Seriously, in the grand scheme of life, it matters naught. Its all just BLAH BLAH BLAH.

  10. Thank you for this! I’ve thought about this before, but more in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kinda way. People who only post the sunshiney moments will get scoffs and eyerolls, but so will people who post a bunch of drama. I tend to err on the sunshiney side, but in a way I am grateful to my Facebook friends that let it all hang out. They remind me that I’m not the only one that struggles at times. That should be common knowledge, but since most of my friends are “sunshiney Facebookers” as well, it is easy to forget.

    One tangentially related thing that irks me – these posts about abused, malnourished dogs at the animal shelter! I get that my friends are trying to get these sweet puppies adopted, and I admire their altruistic use of social networking. I have, however, checked the little box so that I stopped seeing these sad posts on my newsfeed. I don’t wanna see that depressing Celine Dion commercial when I’m just trying to see what friends are up to!

  11. “Keeping up with the status messages is exhausting. And it turns friends into frenemies.”

    Just read the article, and the above thought resonated with me. Maybe that’s why I can appreciate a little oversharing online. It takes guts wear your heart on your cyber-sleeve.

  12. This article was so irritating on so many levels.

    I have no idea what spawned the whole “keeping it real” trend in blogging/social media circles these days. It’s like a handful of people who didn’t think critically before they hopped on their keyboards and started commenting that what was being shared wasn’t a real piece of life.

    The thing is, on any forum, when you’re transferring a lived moment to some sort of static medium, that’s all your capturing – a moment, a slice, a nanosecond. It’s an instant in your life that you thought was memorable, that you thought was worth celebrating, memoralizing, laughing or crying about.

    In a 140 or so characters, you capture what was less that 1% of your day, but that has a lifespan of much longer. Anyone who thinks that a status update is more than that hasn’t given it much thought. I mean, why would you ever compare yourself to that?

    Or even, have you ever thought that those status updates aren’t intended for you? That they’re something the person wrote and shared but were more for their own personal reference 10 years down the road (you know, something that actually works quite well with the timeline format in facebook).

    This just feels like a whole new level in the Mommy wars. “You’re not being real enough!” “Or, your real isn’t real enough!” Really? Now you want me to think about my supposed authenticity in the status update that I squeeze in between emptying the potty, putting dinner on table and listening to the teenage woes of love in crisis which is really my feeble attempt at staying socially connected because if I can’t see my best friend more than a few times a year, I certainly don’t have time to email or call all of my friends and acquaintances that I keep keep updated with my trite (but maybe too happy or not happy enough) updates on via facebook.

    Sheeh, I just think this is so silly.

    And, if you’re irked that your friends are so plastic and fake, why are they your friends in the first place?

    • i agree with this comment so much.

      the entire time i was reading this article, i was thinking of ariel’s term “one-lowmanship”. it reads to me like the author of the blog is trying to put an end to the competition and judginess of “the mommy wars”, but instead she just comes across as saying ‘hey – i can’t compete with being the best, so let me tell you the ways i pretend to be the best mom but am actually a terrible mom’. (i would like to make it clear that i am not, in fact, judging her as being a terrible mom from this one single snapshot of a day in her life as told through a very specific lense.)

      i post things on facebook that i think my audience would be interested in (my audience being primarily grandparents and old friends that are far away) or that i am proud of and want to share. i fully expect that if somebody hates reading my few and far between updates about my son’s accomplishments or what awesome bread i just baked, that they will unsubscribe to my updates. same as i unsubscribe to those people whose daily musings i’m not interested in. it would never cross my mind to post something to facebook with the intention of making others feel “less”.

      i think what it comes down to is – it’s not a competition! parenting is just really not a competition.

    • THANK YOU!

      I was reading everyone’s comments, scratching my head. Sure facebook gets annoying, and I probably spend too much time on there, but I’m never jealous of anybody’s photos or status updates or xyz. I think it’s fun. I post cheesy happy photos and photos of my disaster house with a sometimes-witty comment. I think of it as a way of sharing of myself and I love when others share with me, too. It’s like in college, when you live in a dorm and you just start talking mid thought to your roomate/random person in your hall and it’s not weird because you’re around that person so much.

      I don’t like all the comparisons of who’s being real and who’s being fake. I think we’re all just doing the best we can.

      • I think how annoyed one gets with other people’s status updates is directly correlated with how secure or unsecure they are in their own lives.

        If you’re OK with yourself, other people’s sunshine isn’t so irritating, likely because you recognize that their lives aren’t perfect either. If you’re OK with yourself, there’s no need to compete with anyone else.

        I generally only post positive stuff because I figure it’s a drag to read a slew of complaints. Frankly, when I focus on the positive, my life is better for it.

  13. I recently deleted my Facebook profile because it was giving me this false illusion that I had all these close friends. I knew things about people’s lives and who they were dating… and in all reality, I didn’t know these people that well. I never hung out with them and I didn’t even have their phone number to call them up.

    When I deleted Facebook, I found out who my real friends were. They were the people I still talk to on a weekly basis and never noticed that I deleted my profile. No more feeling depressed that my friend’s are more crafty that I am, or mad because my ex is seeing a girl he told me he thought was ugly… I did not need the extra “stress”

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