Oversharing your joy

Mark ShermanI’m not on Facebook. I know that may put me in the minority in the United States and could get me bullied by those who are, but then they’d be guilty of Facebookism. I don’t even tweet. As far as I’m concerned, birds tweet; people talk. And, perhaps most shamefully, I don’t text.

Why don’t I do these things? There are many reasons, starting with the fact that I’m busy and I’m codependent, and I find it hard enough to answer my e-mails without having to worry about people contacting me through Facebook (not to mention tweets and texts). And then there’s the whole “friend” thing. Suppose someone wants to be my “friend” on Facebook, but I don’t want them to be? “I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, so how do I say no?”

And what about “de-friending”? Do I need this kind of aggravation?


I just read a book titled Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle. Turkle is not a Luddite, and uses Facebook and the like, but she sees major problems with people becoming addicted to this stuff.

To be perfectly honest, here is one of the main reasons that I’m not a Facebookian: I’m not big on hearing about how great things are in other people’s lives. I don’t mean my family, of course. Their joys are my joys. Close friends? Well, to be honest, I want them to be happy, but just not that much happier than me.

But if I were on Facebook, with hundreds or even thousands of “friends,” I’d be hearing all the time about how this one did this and that one did that, or what great things their kids and grandkids have done, and I’d be thinking, Do I need this? My big excitement today was recycling some old newspapers. So now do I have to hear about how somebody’s granddaughter is the best reader in her third grade class?

Look, I’m sure your granddaughter is wonderful. But I don’t even know her. This is the kind of thing to talk about with your spouse, and your granddaughter’s parents, and perhaps (or perhaps not) a close friend.

I know there’s that expression, “Smile and the world smiles with you,” but that was from back in the day when we didn’t have all this digital stuff, so in order to know you were happy, someone actually had to see you. And, yes, I have noticed that when I walk into a room smiling, it does seem to lift up others’ moods as well. But if I walk in telling you how great my life is, that’s a different story.

Talking about smiling, there has been a shift in the last 80 to 90 years in how people appear in photographs (and photos are all over Facebook). Look back at photos of your grandparents or great-grandparents, from the first part of the 20th century, and no one is smiling. Okay, maybe with the average life expectancy at about 55 to 60, there wasn’t that much to smile about, but still, didn’t these people want everyone else to think they were on top of the world?

No, they were much more considerate than that. They knew that people who saw their photographs might not be having such a good day, and why rub it in? And I suspect that if people had Facebook in those days, they would have primarily shared how tough they had it.

But the oversharing of joy is not the only reason I’m not on Facebook (at least not yet; I’ll tell you, being a “Facebook resister” is not easy). A couple of years ago one of the several people who have tried to get me to join said, “Think about this. Maybe you’ll hear from some student who was in your class 35 years ago, who’ll tell you what a great a teacher you were and that she really liked you a lot! How would that be?”

“Oh, that would be great,” I told him. “It would be just what I need. Isn’t that what every man married for 40 years needs?”

So no, for now, I’m not joining. Like the Kevin McCarthy character in 1956’s utterly chilling film, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (which is about giant pods from outer space that replicate people’s bodies and turn them into bland automata), I am going to hold out. And for those few people who still haven’t joined Facebook, I’ll just repeat the lines he says at the end of the film, “They’re after all of us! Our wives, our children, everyone! They’re here already! You’re next!”

To which, in this modern-day version, I’d add, “Today they’ll be sending you photos of their grandson getting toilet trained; tomorrow it will be the fantastic things he’s doing on the playground. Run, fellow Luddites, run!”