Small Talk > Facebook

Posted on October 13, 2010


I have come to the conclusion that facebook is worse than small talk.

It’s a bold claim, I know.  Small talk seems to be something that everyone engages in, yet something that simultaneously eats at everyone’s soul.  Small talk is unmerciful– it is the same whether you are heartbroken or happy.  When asked, “How are you?”, it is extremely socially important to wrangle up the turmoil inside you like some feral animal– tranquilize it, beat it with a hammer, tie it up, bury it somewhere deep and dark– and then deliver a convincing, “Fine, thank you!!”  In fact, small talk is a series of multiple choice questions.  There really are only a few options available when answering a question posed by your long lost neighbor.  It’s simply not an option to tell your nosy neighbor, “I’m actually currently questioning my entire purpose in life. You?”. The goal of small talk (besides surviving)? To have the other person convinced that you are, in fact, doing great, better than them, actually, and that you may, after all, Become Somebody someday. Small talk is the attempt to preserve face.

In my opinion, facebook is very often tabbed small talk.  What better way to save face than through facebook? The part about small talk that most people complain about is how fake it is. Similarly, a profile can be crafted to perfection: a flattering yet simultaneously silly picture, a quirky/eclectic/mature music selection, a reference to a cool hobby, and exclamations such as “I love my life!” (that’s the part that always ends up convincing me).  Facebook starts out feeling so controlled and simple.  Yet the more pictures of you that are tagged, the more people who write on your wall, the more times everyone you’ve ever met sees a broken heart on their home page because you and the boy broke up (again), the more you lose control of the face you are presenting to facebook.

This is why I think that facebook is worse than small talk:  imagine if the same nosy neighbor that asks you what-on-earth-you’re-going-to do-with-that-major were able to (hourly) track not only your job search, but also your relationships, vacations, current movie choices, weight gain, and hair color.

What “friend” would search for every detail of your relationship only to ultimately judge it?  What “friend” would read a status saying “—had the worst day of my life!” and not say anything?

I dare you to actually be friends with your friends on facebook.

Don’t be anybody’s nosy neighbor. Delete people you would be happy to see fail.  Delete people you judge.  Delete people you have seen more times in pictures than you have in real life.  You’re a better friend than that.

Don’t let anyone be a bad friend to you.  Delete or limit the view of the following: people who you feel judged by, people you don’t know (duh?), people you feel diminished by, people you are jealous of, people who are friends with you only to track your interactions with everyone, and people who make you try to save face on facebook.

Facebook has the potential to be a great social networking tool.  Don’t let it make a voyeur out of you.