The Compelling Little Things: Your Facebook Status Can Betray You

Photo credit by PierrickBlons; creative commons license.

Little things can be so compelling.  Sometimes they’re red flags that end a relationship.  Other times, they’re white flags of surrender.  Most of the time, they’re signs all their own, which–put together–can tell a story that lifts or break our hearts.

I enjoy observing human dynamics, how people interact with each other, what drives a person.  I love it when I witness some small compelling thing that elicits an “Awwwwwwww” of awe from me.  I hate it when I learn something that’s a deal-breaker in a relationship, not from gossip but from comments posted by that person on a social network like Facebook, MySpace, Buzz, Wave, or Twitter.

A man can be very sweet and open-minded when he’s trying to get a date, say all the right things, do all the right things, and yet a pattern of Facebook updates spotlights a man who is extremely judgmental of appearance, skin color, and age.  An “upstanding Christian” at work can break half the Commandments in the privacy of a friends-only forum, leaving you to wonder if you ever knew this person at all.

A man I was somewhat interested in recently friended me on a social network.  My heart sank a few days later when the “real” man began to show up in his statuses.   It wasn’t his crazy photos or any self-deprecating humor, as some people do.  What saddened me was the photos he’d secretly taken of strangers and the cruel and hateful things he had to say about them.  It didn’t matter to me that those people would never know their photos had been ridiculed and passed around or that he’d done this in a private but extremely large forum.  What mattered to me was the grand lack of compassion I saw in him that I had not seen in my personal interactions with him.

I guess status updates on social networks are just another way to get a glimpse into the real person, a tool that wasn’t there a few years ago.  Yes, we’ve given away our own privacy.  Not just those of us who are writers or teachers and actively share through the written word, but everyone who shares of themselves on a social network.  Every action creates another window into who we really are.   Before, we could keep our racist, sexist, ageist, and other prejudicial thoughts quieter and less known.  Now,  the way we think and the way we treat other people are all right there, announced loudly, clearly, by our own selves.

That’s not all bad, though.  One man whose company I enjoy touched me deeply a few months ago when he posted a simple status update.  It wasn’t meant to impress me or anyone else, and many people would never have said it out loud or stated it publicly, but it was a comment from his heart that really stirred my own.  He’d had something remarkable happen, a dream come true.  It was the result of someone else’s misfortune that he had nothing to do with and he stepped up to the task readily.  He’d been downright giddy about the upcoming event for months, that he’d get a chance to help, to make a difference.  I’d thought his happiness about this dream-come-true was endearing, and he’d gone out of his way  to make things easier on the people who were on the losing end.  The day before the Big Day, he posted about how much his heart ached for the people who were hurting even though the torch being passed to him temporarily meant the world to him.  His compassion for others was so clear in his words.  He could have been dancing and singing “Nanny-nanny-boo-boo” to others, but instead, he let kindheartedness show through.

If what we say online betrays who we are, then let it betray compassion, kindness, and treating each other well.