An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Look, don't get me wrong on this point, while I rather like and regularly participate at “Face”book, I recognize that it is just one more very particular way of bolstering the great facade of life. In fact I would argue that the internet in general from a social standpoint is the WORSE for allowing us to deceive one another.
Yes, we deceive one another. We do it all the time, though it isn't necessarily (for the vast majority of us) some grand overt effort to lie. It may be as subtle and even appropriate as making your house immaculate before guests arrive, or as potentially dangerous as hiding a truth about ourselves from our spouse. But no matter what, I think – at least in my personal experience – it stems in part from wishing to project an image of who we wish we were to others. I think if we are honest with ourselves we'd see this...or maybe I'm just crazy. But wouldn't we LOVE it if we were so on top of our lives that the house was always immaculate, that needed repairs were immediately accomplished, that projects were tackled and completed in a timely manner? Or that we are good people, perpetually full of love and compassion. Or that we are good parents who are devoted and hardworking, raising PERFECT kids. On and on it goes...in the end we just want people to think the best of us and for many of us it is very painful to learn that someone has seen through the facade and perhaps knows us better than we like. Sometimes they are right in what they see, and sometimes they are wrong and simply replace our facade with a different one of their own making...but when our facade is broken (either way) we must deal with reality. In some ways we are like politicians in that we seek to control or “spin” the news to our benefit – limiting or even eliminating the bad and proclaiming from the rooftops the glories and triumphs of our lives.
There is a rather gruesome TV series called Dexter, which I never...NEVER watch because a part of my facade is that I do not pollute my mind with trashy television. But if I had ever seen an episode of Dexter I would tell you it is about a serial killer (who via an ongoing policy of self-discipline, only kills bad people) and who then struggles to blend in with humanity and hide the truth about his inner self, The intriguing portion of the show, to me, is that we are all like Dexter in our efforts to hide our true selves. Dexter is forced to try and maintain his facade at ALL times, and thus struggles terribly, as you might imagine, with intimacy. (If Dexter could live his life entirely on Facadebook he'd have it easy!)
Intimacy I believe, to some degree is a term we may use to describe a place where we can begin to let the rigorous efforts of maintaining our facade rest. At least it should be. And I think we should struggle to build more intimate relationships...and I don't anticipate that happening on Facadebook. The internet is like a foundation which invites or even beckons us to build our facades upon it. Nobody posts pictures of themselves losing their temper and yelling at their kids. No one posts a blurb about how they are seriously struggling with anger. Instead we all present our facades...again, not like a deliberate deception...but just showing as much of our lives as we are comfortable showing, knowing that nobody really WANTS to hear that we had a crappy day and that worse yet it was of our own doing. (Sure we'll sometimes note having a rough go of it, or having a bad day...but I don't think it's the same as SEEING someone having a bad day, free from the filters we will naturally strain the news as it finds its way into Facadebook.)
At Facadebook we present the immaculate house: smart quotes, wise insights, pictures demonstrating our idyllic life, and other things that generally demonstrate that we are not nearly the damaged goods that reality might reveal. This isn't wrong and it isn't bad...but we must remember it isn't reality. How often have we looked at others' Facadebook accounts and thought: “Wow, how is that they have their crap so together! They are perfect! My life is so dysfunctional in comparison.” And will we make these determinations from Facadebook postings? Yes, many of us will...knowing full well it's absurd. That said, I won't even mention the insanity that may exist amongst people who really believe they have their crap together, are perfect, and have no failings. To them I would simply say: Please write a book and let the rest of us know how to do it! (It, being, the unfathomable depths of self-deception.)
I'm not going to settle now on being a curmudgeon who will sit in judgment on Facadebook and refuse to use it any longer. Nor will I shake my head at postings of idyllic pictures (or even stop posting them myself – even if I manage to find some). Facadebook may maximize our ability to maintain our facades, but our facades won't go away simply because we stop using the internet...facades are a very long human tradition that began when Cain told God he had no idea where to find Able. But I do want to pause more often and consider reality, which is much harder than most of us realize.
The serial killer Dexter may be like us in many ways, but one thing never occurs to Dexter: to share who he really is and then to seek to CHANGE it. This is the ultimate danger of our facades, in that we live them so well (Or God forbid we live on Facadebook so much) that we begin to ignore who we are as real people. We neglect intimacy (as I defined it above) and in so doing we neglect the glorious opportunity to change.
Let our “facade” be that of the image we see in the Icon of Christ...and let us pursue it believing that through Him we can in fact make our facade real. Let us do it in real community and intimacy, sharing our failings, leaning on, and loving one another with all our many faults not seen on Facadebook.
I think the blogging world is far more dangerous in the respect. Especially for me. I find myself reading blogs of faraway friends (whom I've never met in person) and constantly find myself comparing my reality with their picture perfect world built up in their blogs. We've talked about this before and I know some people probably feel that way about my blog as well. But it can be a very dangerous place to be. On both ends (reader and writer). I've really cut back lately and I think that is why. I just don't see the good in it when all I do is compare myself and/or build myself up in my writing. I wonder what amount of pride we are really carrying about while we blog.
Susan, Of course we can only truly discern pride in ourselves. No doubt it IS present. But I also think we have a responsibility as readers of blogs and FacadeBook postings to not let our own worries about our failings and struggles paint the picture of the reality of other people's lives we think we perceive.
As with many things in the world, it is morally neutral until people DO something with it. Whether reading or writing. It can be good and it can be bad....but for SURE (and this is my main point) it cannot create real community or foster intimacy.
good post. I wonder if for some a faux community is as good as it gets. In other words, they're so alienated that something like a blog posting or having a bazillion Facebook friends makes them feel like someone out there is actually reading and thinking about what they're posting.
James, as I'm off and on thinking about what happened at Fort Hood and reports that the shooter apparently revealed some of his feelings on a blog posting, it occurred to me that there have been other instances of the same kind of behavior exhibited by other mass killers. So, in a strange way, the various online communities out there are not only environments where some people choose to hide or misrepresent aspects of themselves, others seem to find it is a place where they can do just the opposite and reveal their true thoughts and feelings. I'm not sure what to make of it. . .any thoughts???
That's an interesting point...I also note that it always seem to be in hindsight that we find these postings...it's as if no one took them seriously or no one saw them! I recall the extreme loaner who recently went beserk at a workout club...after the fact his online journal was found and it certainly read like a crazy man, but he never overtly stated what his "plan" was...but it sure seemed ominous after the fact.
I really don't know...perhaps for some the internet and its sometimes veil of anonymity gives SOME people the sense that they can "let it all hang out" as it were. Also...perhaps they have no one in the real world to vent to?
Geez...this all could be a thesis paper for a Psych student to explore!
One thing to consider is that by baring our own soul online, we potentially risk revealing the struggles of others...our kids, our friends, our parents. And we absolutely do not have a right to do that, without their permission. Another point is that by keeping our own posts generally positive, we could be helping ourselves stay clear of despair (I speak personally here).