A Culture Of Voyeurs

I am probably one of the few people who signed up for Facebook without realizing what the heck I was signing up for.  This is how I got suckered into it.   My graduate school sent me an e-mail saying they were going to have “a Facebook page.”  They also said one of the professors had reviewed a book and was giving his thoughts on it.   They gave a snippet, but in order to read the full review, you had to go to the page.  Of course you couldn’t go to the page unless you personally had an account.  Thus I created my Facebook account.  I read the review and moved on.

Then the friendship “requests” started coming.  One woman from my former church sent me one of these such requests.  What I found intriguing was that this woman really had not been a friend to me in real life, and by gosh I sure could have used one.  She couldn’t manage to be a real friend to me while in the church, but she sure was interested in what the heck I was up to now that I was no longer at the church.  Another mother in the community I was trying to befriend would tell me lots of updates about people.  She would say “Oh did you know so and so had their baby?  Did you know so and so just got back from Europe and they returned to a flooded basement? “  I would always say, “Oh, do you hang out with them?”  She’d say, “No, I just keep up with them via their Facebook page. Are you on Facebook?”   I had to admit I was, but I was beginning to feel a little queasy about it.   I realized quickly it wasn’t just a “social networking site” it was also a popularity contest.  I had to admit I would feel bad when I saw other people’s pages who had 356 friends and I had 8.  I began to wonder if this was good for me.  Do I really want to know that Jane is making cookie dough right this very minute and that earlier little Tommy threw up?  Do I want to spend my time reading this or do I want to have a real life connecting with real people?  When I started receiving messages saying that someone had planted a “lil’ strawberry in my strawberry patch” I knew I was in over my technological head.  No one told me I had to maintain a garden if I signed up for Facebook.

I never shy away from calling it like it is.  The truth is we have become a nation of voyeurs.   From reality t.v., to Facebook, and Twitter we have opted out of real life and settled for peering into others.  Americans are notoriously envious despite all our privilege.   One way we can tell if we are “keeping up” is by seeing what others do and have in their private lives.  I think there is a place for social networking.  Facebook can be fun if you use it to keep up with friends you can’t see often.  My problem is when people use it as an alternative to real relationship and spend more time keeping up with their e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook messages than they do interacting with real people.  I realize I have to hold myself to that same standard with blogging too.  One night I laid in my bed and listened to a mockingbird singing it’s many calls.  The wind blew softly through my window as I marveled at the beautiful sound.   Most of us have lost the ability to experience “wonder.”  We need to stop peering into people’s lives and really experience our own.  Then we really have something to share with the world.