“…and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” (Surat 2:216)
It’s hard to tell with Facebook – is it good, or is it bad?
I’ve deactivated my account twice: Once when I became frustrated with the inability to permanently remove photos/conversations previously tagged in; then later, after I’d opened a new account in my married name, I deactivated again. For a myriad of reasons, I reactivated that one but once again, I’m second guessing myself.
To be (online) or not to be? That is the (21st century) question.
Would you go for a coffee with someone you can’t talk to? Have no common ground to discuss? Would you call up a stranger to tell them of the birth of your child? Share your cravings with a faceless name not recognised anymore?
I do. We do. Facebook tells us to.
The second time I deactivated my account was just prior to deciding to wear hijab. I needed the space, needed to breathe from the life of my “friends”; I wanted to focus on the here and the now, the reasons for my thoughts, the feelings in my heart. In short, I wanted to live my life here and not there. Then it got harder to stay in touch. As a generation, we’re lazy. My Grandma has friends now she hasn’t seen since university days, yet is clued in to their daily lives as though they lived next door. How? Letters. Every month for the past 40 or so years, they have each sat down to write and fill each other in on their lives, growing families, career moves, hobbies and travels. My best friend and I, stuck together since primary school, write a letter maybe twice a year max? We rarely even email anymore. It’s all about the quick sentence on Facebook via messenger or a text via a free-international-send app. Pre-facebook, it would be months between connecting with my brothers or sister at all! We are luckier than those older generations to have these tools at our fingertips and that distance means little now, but for all of the blessing and benefits of Skype et al, we’re missing something too; a realness to it all.
This time round, I don’t so much want to deactivate as to purge. Facebook now has new uses – through it, I still stay connected to old friends, share photos with family, but I find new connections too, find support and advice, read & share articles of note. Facebook has, in many way become the network it claims to be. And at the same time, I feel trapped. Feel my speech is confined for fear of reprisal; What on earth is that all about?
In the past month or so, three conversations via chat have ended abruptly with my ‘friend’ signing out. All three were regarding the hijab or Islam, and not one was a friend. They were people I used to know in my wine drinking days. People I connected with once though I now know not how. People whose perceptions of me, of religion, of “a muslim” are at odds with reality, yet still they appear as my ‘friends.’ No, I don’t want to deactivate and close my account, I just want a purge on the falsehood.
Unlike Twitter, where you go to join in conversation with like-minded people (or else debate with non-like minded folk), Facebook is more about voyeurism – at least its starting to feel that way. A great number of the people Facebook marks my friends, I havent seen in years and I know aren’t interested in me, the person – rather, the life I lead. I’m done with it. So done.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a real-life friend who sadly herself kind of falls into this Facebook category. I hadn’t the words to say anything to her then and I understand that – taken aback it’s hard to be articulate face-to-face – but why havent I used Facebook to clarify my position on my life, on my choices? Should I have to?
Since the last conversation was terminated mid-stream (something along the lines of: They: Is it for your husband or to make life easier in Turkey that you wear the scarf? Me: lol. neither. I converted to Islam and I chose to wear the scarf.. They: **the other person is offline**) Since then I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a status updating stating simply I am Muslim, choose to wear the scarf as a personal reminder of my faith and am open to questions on the subject, however I’d be grateful if the insinuations that I do so out of a twisted respect for my husband were left behind. I figure this would make a number unfriend straight away and may open up conversations with others, like that friend I spoke about the other day. Yet though everyday I’ve considered such a status update, I’ve not yet written one. Because it feels confrontational and that’s not what I want to achieve.
So maybe I should just post this blog..going round in circles again. But I’m reluctant for this option, too. Unlike Twitter where you tweet with all strangers, alongside all the ‘friends’ there on Facebook, there are family members, too. Mine and G’s. Close ones and distance ones. Many I’d happily share my thoughts with, also many we remain in touch with vicariously through Facebook as a mark of respect for the blood tie that binds. When I tweet out a blog post, the whole world can see my words; if I Facebook a blog post, our whole world would read my thoughts.
Of course, I could un(de?)friend – but from whom? That’s the problem.
So what to do, what to do? In this media-run world, true friends become harder to define. Where once the letters would have stopped, now we flog a dead horse. Again. And again, ’til eventually we die. But you know — there’s an app for that now, too.