When it came to joining Facebook, I was a bit of a late bloomer. My daughter kept trying to get me to join and she was always telling me how much fun it was to connect with old friends, but yet, I resisted. Truthfully, I was a little scared. What if no one wanted to be my friend? What if I wrote something stupid on my page? What if my profile picture made me look too fat? After months of resistance, a co-worker commented that Facebook would be a good place to promote my upcoming book release. This got my attention. It had been years since I had written and sold a manuscript, and I was anxious to learn how to promote my new book using the endless resources on the Internet. Facebook seemed like the perfect place to start. Within weeks all my fears were forgotten. I was having a blast finding old friends I had lost touch with through the years, classmates and teachers, past co-workers, as well as making scores of new friends. Before long, I had not one, but two pages! One page was for my writing information and updates and one was for my personal life, where I shared every little detail about my day-to-day life and the happenings in the lives of my family. That’s what one does on Facebook, isn’t it?
As the years passed, I added another page for my Twilight obsession to my list of pages on Facebook. The friends I made on the fan page crossed over to my personal page and my friend count kept climbing upward. I began to talk on the phone, Skype, and had the opportunity to meet some of my new online friends in person. I even went on vacations with a couple of them. Several of these new friends, whom I was meeting in person for the first time, came to visit me and stayed at my house. That they would use their vacation time to come and meet me meant more than I can tell you. I truly cherish the new friends I have made through Facebook, as well as the old friends I am in touch with again. Still, the majority of my Facebook friends are complete strangers who live in every corner of the world and all places in-between. Yet, they are usually the first to comment on my status updates, notes or photos whenever I add something new. They have offered encouragement when I needed it, sympathy when I was grieving, and shown me more kindness, consideration and understanding than many of the people I have known for years. I never want to lose the closeness I have felt with these so-called strangers.
As my comfort level on Facebook and my circle of friends grew, I shared everything from what I was having for breakfast to how long we would be gone on vacation, along with every tiny or major event in my life, or that of my family. Facebook is for socializing, right? Well, I was a ‘virtual’ social butterfly!
It didn’t seem like a big deal to me when a family friend made the comment that if anyone wanted to know what was happening in my town or with anyone we knew they only needed to go to my Facebook page. But, that comment made my live-in boyfriend nervous. He told me I was not to write anything about him, and especially about the times when we would be away from home on my Facebook page. Okay, I get the part about not announcing when our house would be empty. Hello house burglar? I tried to limit my posts to just the major things like how proud I was of my children and grandchildren. Then, my youngest son got mad because he didn’t want me telling strangers personal things about his son. But, I want everyone to know that I have amazing grandsons. What is wrong with that?
When both of my parents had health problems, of course, I shared this on Facebook. And, apparently friends and relatives on Facebook told other friends and relatives who weren’t on Facebook. Everyone started calling my parents to ask about their conditions. So then, the parents are not happy with me for sharing too much information.
I was starting to notice a pattern now. But, I was still a little clueless until I start reading posts from another person I had befriended on Facebook (and never met) that were even more personal than my own posts were. This person was losing a parent and they were sharing all the intimate details of the illness, and posting last pictures of their loved one in the hospital. In the past I have always given sincere condolences on many friend’s pages when someone I was friends with had lost someone (or even a beloved pet), but it was always after the fact. This time I felt like I was intruding on a very personal tragedy that was still evolving. I was heartbroken for them, and yet, it felt awkward to even try to express my deep sympathy to this person I knew only through a few casual comments on different posts. This was my wake-up call. How much of our personal lives should we share on social networks?
I believe everyone has different standards when it comes to how much or how little you post on Facebook or any other site, and I respect that completely. Although I will always want to share the big events in my families’ lives, I finally realize there is a fine line between being ‘social’ on social websites, and spilling your family secrets to the world, which is basically what all of us are doing once we post anything on the Internet. All the security measures on Facebook mean absolutely nothing if your personal account gets hacked.
In the future, I will respect the privacy of my loved ones before I share any details about their lives. As for me, I will still post all the dirt about myself…I can’t help it…I’m an open book. No pun intended. So, please forgive me if I must share the big events and the little pleasures with everyone. I mean, who doesn’t want to know that I’m sitting on my deck watching the sun go down, while sipping a cold one?