I find it odd, and entirely disheartening, that our generation has lost the ability to keep healthy boundaries. I’m not talking about sexual boundaries; although those have certainly lost their footing, they’ve been discussed so much it’s become cliché to even mention them. What I am talking about, however, are the natural boundaries that form in social settings, relationships, friendships and interpersonal interactivity. We have lost the ability to keep any mystery about ourselves; gone are the days of time-built-trusts, rampant are the rules of fast vulnerability. This is due, in large part, to the internet. (*disclaimer* although I hate generalizing commentaries on “the internet”, “our generation”, and “society”, I am about to write one. Hypocrisy: one, Ashley: zero)
Ironic, I suppose, that a girl such as myself would be writing (or ranting) in opposition to this grown trend. From the outside: I have a public persona, in a sense. I have a blog that I update regularly, I have a twitter account, I have facebook, I have a myspace (although it’s entirely inactive and archaic) – truth be told, I’ve been plugged in at some point to almost every social media site available to humans (almost). So what am I saying? Isn’t it hypocritical of me to harp on the readiness of our world to be viewed in the public eye? Perhaps. But I like to think there’s a difference – and this is what I’m getting at. I’ll use my blog as an example. You are here, and you are reading what I’m writing. This is your choice, for certain – and it is my choice to post here in the first place – but the confusion comes when those readers I don’t know assume they know me well because they read my blog. Fact: I have a deep seated love and appreciation for every reader – each visit on my tracker sends a little chill of affirmation up my spine and makes me giddy with appreciation for you – but at the same time, there are some of you that I don’t know very well, and likely won’t know soon, either. Let me assure you – whatever I post here is 100% genuine, I don’t lie. But I do edit. I keep myself in check here, because I remember who I’m writing to: whoever wants to read it.
This admission seems rude, doesn’t it? Sure, we all do it…but admitting it out loud feels like something else entirely, which is why I am currently having so much trouble with the way our society seems to be running. My next example, and the root of my current inner turmoil is (can you guess it?) – facebook.
On the one hand, I love it. As a former student, I have friends so near and dear to my heart that now live literally all over the world. Facebook provides a space we wouldn’t otherwise have – a space to share photos, daily activities, and the general goings-on that make life feel a bit more normal (as if they weren’t across an ocean). As the only daughter to move away from my home city, Facebook provides that space again: a way to stay connected to my family on a daily, visual basis; a way to feel included, even when I’m not there. Finally, as a friend to friends in my vicinity, facebook has proven to be an incredibly useful tool for communication; staying up to date on current social events and activities, and making fast arrangements over the internet.
So what’s my issue? My issue, I suppose (and this is where I start to sound heartless), is when it comes to people that I don’t know well: Facebook makes me draw a line. Because really, is there a spot to keep my mom in the loop and my new acquaintance? My mom is certainly privy to far more detailed information than someone I’ve just met, and rightly so. My sisters have a far greater entitlement to know what’s going on in my head than that guy I met at a birthday party last April. My best friends mean more to my heart than a one time visitor to my blog. And what about someone I don’t know that is in my friend circle? They’re in my friend suggestion box, but I still don't want to add them.
The problem with all of these sentences is that they are too cut and dry. But as it stands, these distinctions are now a matter of force and forefront – I can’t not think about which “category” to place a person in. Full profile? …Limited profile?…blocked? Instead of the natural growth that was once a part of friendships, it suddenly becomes a matter of definition and rule. Over the past year (and I’ve advertised it, so you likely know this) I have seriously debated giving up Facebook altogether. Mainly because I feel like I’m alone in this: I have boundaries. I do not enjoy the fact that it’s now customary to say, “Hi, nice to meet you, let me in to your life entirely” - a summary of what happens when you hang out with someone three times and they request your “friendship” on fb. I also do not enjoy the amount of times I’ve insulted people by saying, “actually, no, I don’t want you on my facebook.” People. It’s facebook. Hardly insult worthy. You know what I say when people I don’t know well don’t add me or delete me? I say “Oh, okay.” Because I recognize that (shocker) I probably don’t mean as much to them as their best friends and their sisters. Granted, I like these people. As I like the people that I don’t add. These people are all nice and lovely and fascinating and I’m sure as I get to know them better, I will like them even more.
But this is what I mean when I say I am alone with my boundaries: it actually insults people to ask them to give me time to let them in. And I’m left feeling like the bad guy, the heartless snob, the cold decision maker. But you know what? I’m none of those things. I’m actually very nice, and I love people. How is this communicated to a generation (boo…generalization…) that does not understand what it means to know someone in real life and not on the internet? It’s impossible. To meet someone is to add them to facebook, apparently.
It used to be natural. It used to be normal, even. But now, to want space and safety means to draw harsh lines and make people feel on the outside. This is the part of social media that makes me want to “spit nails” as I so sweetly wrote to a friend earlier today…I am at a loss.
Related afterthoughts: anonymous is the new black.