Facebook + Life = Lifebook


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Stressed out: Can Facebook get you this frazzled?!

This guest article was authored by Fungai Rufaro Machirori and it first appeared on her blog, Fungai Neni.


One of my friends recently asked on her Facebook status why so many people deactivate their FB accounts when they hit a patch of uncertainty or depression in their lives. I am sure you’ve noticed how people take little holidays from the land of FB and then come back firing great guns like life is a bag of roses again. I can say that with all the sarcasm I want because I have done it too, so don’t hate my honesty!

I think that we all know the truth about Facebook anyway. Need I dredge it up again for you to hear? Okay, here it is in brief:

  1. We are largely aware that not all of the people on our ‘friends’ lists qualify as such and that in fact, you could probably count a handful of real friends amid those hundreds and thousands of people whose smiling faces light up the vertical panel on your FB profile page. Most of those people qualify simply as acquaintances… Some are even enemies! Think of it this way, how many of your FB friends would you introduce in real life as your friend?
  2. We know that Facebook, like life, is a lot about keeping up appearances. Don’t get me wrong, there are genuine moments when we simply want to share the good things happening in our lives with our friends, but at the same time, FB has trapped us in a rat race where we see how good XYZ’s life is and begin to mope about how unexciting our own existence is.  Whether on purpose or not, we are making ourselves envious and resentful of our so-called friends’ successes and achievements.

So, yes, Facebook has become the virtual version of real life where we keep up appearances all too well.  But at the same time Facebook is this dynamic hub of interactions and bond-making that makes it a really great space. It is, just as with life, half of one thing and half of another. Which I think is what we all know anyway, which (I think) is why deactivate our accounts when the heats gets too much.

I deactivated my account for about a month this year and I am telling you, my days felt much lighter. You see, I was burnt out, exhausted, overcooked yet underdone! I felt like I had given all that I had and could give no more; not a smile of empathy, not a shout of laughter, not a drop of a tear; no, not even a cute smiley face on anyone’s FB wall!

So I decided to go away for a while. And that was because I realised anyway that those whom I interacted with on a more intimate level would find other ways to communicate with me; and those that I didn’t would wait for me to come back and then we would resume our ‘friendship’. Simple!

And yes, that’s what happened precisely!

But what was even more important for me at that time was to get out of the stifling rat race. I didn’t have to look at newly uploaded photos of an acquaintance’s magical holiday on the moon or snaps of another’s perfect wedding to an outrageously good-looking man.  Call me weak, but the truth is that I just couldn’t handle it at that point. I needed to get back to me!

Facebook has become our anorexia, our nicotine, our obsession, our disorder. It has become just what our real lives are anyway, which is why – I think – we need to get away from it sometimes.

So what did I say in response to my friend’s post?

How many friends is that again?!

I said that the truth is that most of us know that not all the people on our friends lists are actually friends. Others are snoops, others are watching our every move with eyes glowering green with envy and yet others are simply adding as many people onto their lists to reach 1 000, 2 000, 3 000, 4 000 and then that magical limit of 5 000. And oh yes, some are truly our dear beloved friends.

So what am I prescribing?

Absolutely nothing because Facebook is about real life. You can never be absolutely sure who’s got your back. And that’s why when we are disappointed or dejected, our meltdowns and burnouts take place in private, because you just can never be too sure who’s rejoicing as as you mope and wallow away your life in public.

Mr Zuckerman, you got it wrong! You should have called it Lifebook, not Facebook! Facebook is everything that we experience in real life, only in a hyper-realised way.

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