Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A tangled Life

Facebook has made me a more authentic person.

Even before the days of social networking, I would occasionally complain that my life was too connected. My coworkers at my 9-5 job included family members and people I went to church with. Moms of my friends did stuff with my mother-in-law or my mom. Sharing news sometimes felt complicated. "If I tell so-and-so, then I need to tell this person too." Or, "If we invite this person, we'll need to invite that person as well."

My life felt very tangled. And that was before Facebook.

I'm constantly amazed by how far my Facebook statuses reach. By which I mean, how the same statement is read by people from different parts of my life. Anything I post on Facebook might be seen by:

My husband
My best friend
A variety of ex-best friends
My in-laws
My brother-in-law's girlfriend
My brother-in-law's ex-girlfriend
My grandfather-in-law
My literary agent
Authors I love and respect
Girls who have read my books
Fellow writers who hang out on Go Teen Writers
People I used to go to church with ... including my pastor and his wife
People who go to church with my parents
Teens who babysit my kids
My daughter's preschool teachers
Kids of former coworkers
People I went to elementary school with
People I went to middle school with
Girls I went to high school with
Girls who go to my alma mater, who heard me speak at career day, and follow me on FB
And many, many more ... including a bunch of people I don't really know.

One time I posted something about my favorite sweatpants. (From which you might correctly gather I'm not the most interesting person to follow.) I said something about how my new Aerie sweatpants were so comfy, I may never again wear anything else. That night at a party, my mom - who at the time was on FB - joked that she was surprised I didn't have on my sweatpants. At church the following Sunday, a woman whom I'd never met approached me about what brand of sweatpants I'd bought.

And that was the moment I realized something very basic and, really, pretty obvious - Whatever I put on Facebook can be read by anybody. I already knew that on some level, but the sweatpants situation really drove it home. Like anything I say about my mom might be read by friends of hers. Anything I say about my new church will be read by people who attend the church we've left. If I felt inclined to publicly gripe about my husband, it wouldn't just be read by my friends. It would be read my his parents, his brother, his best friend, a coworker, people he leads in Bible study.

While I used to gripe about how tangled my life felt, I now find I'm grateful for it. The tangles hold me accountable. The tangles hold me back from the temptation of being one person with my cocktail loving coworkers and another person with my conservative in-laws. From being one person with my atheist friends and another with my Jesus-lovin' friends.

What about you? Have you ever been surprised by the reaches of Facebook?

Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out


Emii said...

You know, that is so true -- Facebook does hold us accountable for being the same "me" always and for everyone. Sometimes you just have to be brave enough to let everyone see what you believe and feel and think...

Christine said...

This is a great post! I have also been thinking about the same issue with Facebook lately especially because I use it so often to keep up with other people's very busy lives. It is quite true what you said about your sweatpants story. I think oftentimes a big mistake that we make when using Facebook is forgetting that just because a person does not "like" or "comment" on our status does not mean it has not been read! Great advice!

Stephanie Morrill said...

Emii - I feel like blogging has done that to me too. I used to be the queen of impression management (read: lying) and God has really used blogging and social networking to break me of that.

Christine - YES. I've had that happen where I post something and nobody comments on there ... but then a week later my father-in-law will mention it.

Rachelle said...

An eye-opening post, Stephanie. Thank you for sharing. This is really great advice for those of us (who doesn't?) have so many spheres of our lives ~ athiest friends as well as Jesus-lovin' friends, etc.