Facebook has ended authenticity. The social media network links our posts to our REAL names and we, being the braggarts we are, can’t help but give a roaring fictional stage performance. eg. “I ran 8 miles” alongside an instagrammed skinny photo of us in scanty spandex on a beach. We are too fearful of judgment to post what we really think e.g “I keep thinking of butter” along side a real NON INSTAGRAMMED photo (oh the horror of bad lighting) of split spandex at the butt seam. All of our time on Facebook is in effort to keep our high standing among our 900+ “friends”. We craft clever updates and take multiple shots from our phones to find THAT ONE that demonstrates to the world that yes, our life is really THAT good.
Facebook bores me. As an authenticity addict, I am in honesty withdrawal. I relish the hardships, the emotions, and the mundane moments that make up our daily existence. This, not humble-bragging, is what connects us. This is what gets us high.
My addiction started while living in Tokyo, Japan. The Japanese usually keep all signs of emotion undercover, their faces unmoving slates of porcelain. I was living in an expressive’s hell. Until one evening when I stepped outside my balcony and took a different look at urbanity…
The buildings in my neighborhood were so close together that they kissed. Tiny windows crawled up the gray concrete slabs like ants, allowing tiny peeks into the inside. If one wasn’t careful and left the windows open, inhabitant’s real lives would spill out across the metropolis. Luckily for me, there were a lot of open windows.
By stepping outside I was instantly immersed in 2” by 2” snapshots of a hundred people’s lives in every direction. A woman slowly setting the dinner table with white china, taking a moment to polish each dish (what was she remembering?). A man pacing rapidly while talking on the phone and throwing up his hands (how much money had he lost?). A young couple arguing and then embracing-their passion pulsating out of their open window (would their love last?).
I was high on these intimate moments. Witnessing them was like reading a padlocked journal. I felt finally connected to the world that was so hard (at least in Japan) to understand. I was mesmerized by how human and beautifully imperfect we all were. Facebook had nothing on windows in Tokyo.
When I returned to San Francisco I kept up my voyeur-ing, longing to feel more connected to my own city. I wanted to see people’s secrets that they didn’t bring outdoors. I’d go for long walks along the tree lined streets of Pacific Heights at dusk and eagerly look into people’s windows where soft lighting revealed tiny moments of their evening. Making dinner, burping babies, smoking secret cigarettes.
Now I don’t have to peek into people’s windows. There are all these anonymous social networking apps like Secret and Whisper where people willingly post their anonymous thoughts for the world to see. People unite over rants and dreams-their happiness, sadness, and fears available for all to view, comment, and connect on on.
Unlike my window obsession, these apps are better. For one, I won’t be arrested as a peeping tom. People voluntarily give up their intimate thoughts as anonymous secret donors. I am no longer stealing moments but rather graciously accepting them. Second -I feel PART of something. I am willingly invited inside their intimacy, commenting on secrets, commenting on comments, creating a temporary community with strangers. What I love about this new world is that people don’t take time to be perfect, no one risks judgment, and everyone writes what they really think in that exact moment. The utter rawness is intoxicating.
I am back in my junkie state, lured in by the truths that anonymity allows.
“I think I’m gay. No one else knows yet.”
“I hate my job. But I need the money. I wish everyone knew how hard it is.”
“I am going to propose tomorrow”
“My dad is at the hospital. I want to pray. But I’m agnostic.”
“I love the taste of straight butter” (Yes! You too?)
A picture of a golden retriever puppies and a Suburu “I wish this was my family”
These snapshots of everyone’s lives we would never otherwise know.
I ride the cal train every day to work and it’s like Tokyo. Everyone is expressionless, eyes glazed over, hands working their phones. But then I wonder if they are on the Secret app? Perhaps the kid with the un-ironed plaid shirt was the guy that posted the proposal secret? Maybe the stoic, tall briefcase-carrying woman is the one with a dad in the hospital.
I smile at them. We are connected.
Anonymity isn’t just an addiction, but also a freeing agent. We can say what is on our minds without judgment and have our thinking sprawled out across our city unedited. We are connected to the world as they applaud and embrace us for our innermost thoughts. Someday I just hope we can connect our thoughts to our real names….and go into the worlds as our unapologetic true selves.
Will humanity allow it? Can we ever feel comfortable to cast aside our own ego. Will we free others of judgement? Until I know when we can ‘speak freely’ outside, I’ll keep (legally) voyeur-ing.