I’ve just learned something rather important. Things that I think are deeply private needn’t always be so.
I’ve always struggled a bit with Facebook. I joined reluctantly when I was in Dunoon, and linked to a few church people. But the more I used it, the more I valued it as a space to connect with old friends and good friends, and I fairly ruthlessly cut down my friends list and ignored new requests to create ‘safe space.’
A brief flirtation with Google+ (all those lovely circles, but hardly anyone there) made me look again at Facebook lists: a way to filter posts to those for whom they are most appropriate. I decided it was possible to relax the boundaries a bit — to say yes to friend requests I’d long been ignoring, safe in the knowledge that I could create a ‘close friends’ list of those who I trust enough to bear with a certain amount of venting on my worst days (‘safe space’).
But before I could add people, I needed to look back. Was there anything lurking that needed to be deleted, any tar pits waiting for me to fall into if the wrong person looked back through my profile. (I know: who could be bothered looking back through a profile? But it’s always the person you least expect who actually takes the time…) I have never used Facebook — or any other medium — to talk about people, but still there are times when generic comments become specific to knowing eyes. So, I trawled all my old posts.
In four years, there were only five updates that I chose to delete. Two were truly grumbly, one spoke well of something that had happened in the church, but in shorthand ways that could be misunderstood, and two were simply too pathetically self-indulgent to exist any longer in cyberspace. But that was all. Really, even those posts could have stood if they needed to. The earth would not have stopped turning had the ‘wrong’ person read them.
At worst, my Facebook statuses revealed very clearly that state of my moods. Good days and bad, seasons of tiredness, and moments of joy. The thing is: the people who saw me knew those things already, whether they were linked to Facebook or not. Indeed, they often knew them better than I did, and could perceive both the causes and shifts of my moods long before I admitted them.
So, all that privacy seeking for nothing.
I think it must have had something to do with the goldfish bowl.
But that is really good news. Because if I have have learned that facebook — my safe space– is really OK, even uncensored, then perhaps there are other anti-goldfish moves that were unnecessary too. Like loosing confidence in the blog.
Oh, it is a long journey. Many false promises of returning to blogging, and of learning to write regularly again. But things are happening. I simply need to reform habits of discipline and get on with it.
But I’m still (mostly) applying one old rule on Facebook: when it comes to members of my former congregations, the other person gets to initiate the friend request. When it comes to young people, or those who are in a particularly fragile phase of life, they get to initiate as well. I will say yes now. But they get to choose.