If your life isn’t on Facebook, then you probably don’t have a life
“Mum, are you really proud of me?” quipped my 9-year-old daughter, Vishakha.
“Of course, sweetheart,” I responded. “Why do you ask?”
“You never post any of my awards or achievements on Facebook like other parents do,” she replied. “So everyone thinks that I don’t get any awards. You don’t even wish me ‘Happy Birthday’ on Facebook.”
Being a person who likes to keep my personal life personal, I have never been able to make public my feelings and emotions. But with social media, I constantly feel the pressure to conform. Running a dance school, I was coerced into starting a Facebook page that displays the activities and photos of the school. Students and their parents were feeling that their performances were not being sufficiently exposed compared to other dance schools. They may not have been performing as much, but had very visible and dominant Facebook presence. I had to oblige, and now try to keep the page as active as possible.
Imagine this scenario: a chance meeting between two friends, Priya and Jyoti, at a restaurant. Both individuals have come out to lunch with a group of their own circle of friends. Introductions are made and they decide to sit together to have a quick chat. Priya begins, “I went on this exotic holiday, a cruise on the river Nile…” Jyoti then choruses, “Of course, and you fell sick with food poisoning and were miserable for two days.”
“How do you know?” puzzles Priya.
“I read your Facebook post,” responds Jyoti, sheepishly. “Even liked it, didn’t you see?”
“Must have missed it,” says Priya. “I had close to 600 likes on that one.”
Why would anyone ‘like’ a status that says a friend is down in the dumps and feeling miserable? I would rather be able to post a ‘dislike’ to sympathise with them! At least now, Facebook has launched some better ‘reactions’. But you have nothing to talk about when you meet with friends – all your conversations have been concluded on social media.
An avid Facebook follower who I recently met a concert told me, “You must have been busy today. You even forgot to wish your best friend a ‘Happy Birthday’ on FB.”
Hey, come on, I took the trouble of calling her at 6am this morning, and even made the effort to meet her in the evening to drop off a present before I came to the concert. Why should I feel like it didn’t count unless I sent her a wish online?!
My main concern is the role and responsibility of social media sites. Any public, mass media outlet such as newspapers, TV and radio have rules and responsibilities to adhere to as outlined in Australian media laws. On Facebook, we have a new medium that reaches a large group of people with no concrete accountability for their expression. People post comments criticising individuals and groups that are predominantly personal opinions with no factual or logical backing. This can then reach out to a trillion friends. Somewhere along the way, opinion becomes fact, and the hazy shadows of grey turn startlingly black and white.
If used responsibly, there are great things being achieved through this medium, such as the fundraising and relief work that was instigated through Facebook during the Chennai floods and Fiji cyclone.
This is not to condemn those that are active on Facebook, as it is an individual’s preference. This is merely an expression of my frustration as yet another thing to conform to in society as we wade through life. The need to display my daughter’s awards on Facebook, lest she thinks me a mother not proud of her achievements ; the need to wish my friend who lives two streets away a ‘Happy Birthday’ on Facebook, lest others label me as indifferent ; and the pressure to ‘like’ a post that I definitely don’t like!
The irony of the situation is, of course, if these ramblings of mine are ever published, I will definitely post it on Facebook for all to see.