Last year, I remember reading a Catholic writer's take on facebook. She laments both the self-promotion and voyeuristic qualities of social-networking, saying that we only present the side of ourselves we find flattering in our profiles. She claims that we can draw ourselves as witty, clever, interesting and become our own little celebrities with the power of status updates. She warns against falling victim to the belief that people actually care that we dropped by Walgreens to pick up ibuprofen, or that we are suffering from road rage at a red light. She makes a good point about the danger of developing online relationships where we only reveal one side of our personalities....the best side.
As a big fan and devotee of facebook, I did a bit of eye-rolling when I first read the article. Maybe because it hit close to home? Maybe because I am guilty of only posting when I feel witty, upbeat, clever and personable. Any negative or self deprecating comments I feel like posting are humorous and will hopefully garner a little companion-sympathy and a few "I've been there" comments. However, when I am in a dark place, and I am handling whatever difficult time life is throwing at me in a not-so-flattering way, my facebook page tends to go pretty quiet. Guilty. I'm freely admitting to building an online persona that will look like a rose garden to any high school nemesis that I inadvertently friended. You won't find me updating my status to say, "drinking my second glass of wine, crying over old emails and feeling like a total loser." I swear.
So what's the harm in this? We've all been in the uncomfortable position of reading miles of status updates from people who can't quite seem to keep their personal stuff personal. My favorite thing to say about these emotional cyber-sluts is that "she/he has NO business being on facebook." Ok, yes. That sounds bitchy, but bear with me. I do have a point.
There are some parts of us that we want the world to see, and some we, obviously, don't. I don't think it's unreasonable to want to keep the not-so-attractive side of our personalities private. And by private, I don't mean lock yourself in your house when you aren't at your best. I mean, instead of sharing them with 576 facebook "friends" you actually share those things with real friends. The ones who you have on your cell phone speed dial. The ones who love you enough to love your worst side.
It's a pretty human phenomenon. Don't we all have a face that we show to the world, or attempt to, and a deeper, maybe more truthful side as well? Maybe the trick to integrating our own little angels and devils is to trust them to the people who we know love the whole...the dark and the light...the status-worthy and the cringe-worthy parts of who we are.
I think I could never truly love someone who was always at their best...a person I felt was always wanting me to see their pulled together, polished side. More accurately, the side they want me to see.
I'm thinking now of my three very best friends....and the moments when I have felt the most closeness with them. All three times I'm thinking of were when they were either broken in some way or vulnerable, and they chose ME to see it. They came to me with the gritty, the ugly, the unattractive. They let me in and trusted me with their worst selves, knowing that I would love them anyway. That is, in a somewhat convoluted way, when we are at our best. When we are human enough to show who we really are to another human being, and be re-affirmed that we are like-able...even love-able when we give in to our weaknesses, fears, and shortcomings. It's not an easy thing to do, and it's easier for some than for others.
So who is the real person? Which of these is the authentic self? It's not who we portray to the world. It's not us broken and blubbering on a friend's shoulder when we just can't hold it together any longer. It's not the hermit that pulls the shades and hides in the quiet comfort of the mind.
It's all of it. All of it together. We are a sum of our parts, our personas, our strengths and our weaknesses. And we are, as I see it, searching for someone who can see it all, and love us anyway.