Thursday, March 15, 2012


I don't deny that I like a little gossip. Who doesn't? It is that lowly form of entertainment, giving petty shocks of delight as one assumes much from the slightest shreds of available information.
But social media is providing too much detail, writes Pamela Paul. Pieces of others' lives that we would rather not know is being freed into the world at large, while we duck ineffectually.  
“I feel as if I see things about people that I don’t necessarily want to see, and then it’s lodged like a piece of corn in my subconscious,” said Sloane Crosley, author of "How Did You Get This Number."
The web, in its eagerness to please surfers, have decided to bombard its users with people it thinks we know. 
“There’s one person who keeps coming around in the People You May Know Box on Facebook where just the suggestion of this person changes my whole day,” said Pam Houston, the novelist. “It’s essential to my well-being to create the illusion that this person doesn’t exist.” 
Goodness, how I hate that feature. Either I feel as though I am supposed to know them, or they keep on suggesting people I made an idiot of myself in front of. 
Sure, you can unfollow, unsubscribe, de-link or tune people out. “At least the Internet gives us the option of blocking them, consigning them to oblivion forever,” Andy Borowitz, the humorist, “shared” in an e-mail. “The only equivalent option in the real world is strangulation.” 
But sometimes, the gossipy side of ourselves needs to be satiated, despite our better judgement. 
Let’s be straight: it’s not just that other people’s minutiae bombard us regularly. Sometimes, we seek it out despite ourselves. Whether you call it low-buzz stalking, cyberstalking or the unsettling new term “creeping,” people can now browse around the edges of former intimates’ lives, learning much too much about them.
Then there are all those parties and get-togethers that one wasn't asked to join. 
“I had to stop following certain friends because I was constantly seeing them tweet about all the parties that I wasn’t invited to!” said Laurie David, a Hollywood producer and author. “The worst is the Twitpic — people take pictures of themselves at these fun dinners, and you’re not there.” 
And for singles . . . 
But while other peoples’ unsolicited information can be amusing or annoying, it can also be hurtful. For singles, the Internet is fraught with painful T.M.I. Never mind a man graciously telling a woman he’s met someone new and wants to pursue that relationship. One look at his active profile on, and his cover is blown.
“You meet someone at a party, and instead of them asking for your number, they’ll say, ‘I’ll find you on Facebook,’” complained Dodai Stewart, editor of “Then I’ll see drunk party photos of the guy with other women he’s dating. I end up unfriending because I just can’t deal with it.” 
Although, sometimes I used FB to dodge an unpromising evening. Like the guy who's privacy settings are nonexistent, so his "likes" for every form of alcohol is public information. 

A woman wrote into my local paper how it seems everyone else has these amazing lives, these husbands that shower them with gifts, these friends that go out and have fun. She took everyone's photos and status updates at face value, and decided her own life was wanting. 
A study published last month in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the happier they perceived their friends to be and the sadder they felt as a consequence. 
People's lives are obviously not strictly that which is seen on social media. I don't want to say that not everyone is that happy, but one shouldn't believe every single photo and typed word. 

To quote Joel Stein:
The entire point of Facebook is to make you jealous. Why does that person have more friends than I do? Why do they go to such fun places while I'm at work? Why do their friends have better abs? Why does my wife have so many male friends who show off their abs?
I have concluded that people lie or misrepresent themselves as much on FB as they do in online dating profiles to mollify their insecurities. Yet that, in turn, chips away at others' egos.   
What we’re losing, Ms. Turkle said, is a healthy form of compartmentalization. We can no longer box up aspects of our home life when we go to work or tuck away distressing episodes from our past. Never mind ever moving on.
Think of a life without closure: The boy you made a fool of yourself over in high school is now a private-equity king with 400,000 followers. The face of the guy who date-raped you in college pops up as Someone You Might Know. 
Sometimes I meet someone new, and I'm happy I have FB to be able to easily communicate with them. But I never seem to again. What was once two ships passing in the night is now a failed foray into true friendship. 
“For most of my life, I’d encounter people and then they’d be gone,” said Caitlin Flanagan, the cultural critic. “You’d have to go to a major library and pore through phone books or hire a private detective to track them down.” Now it’s way too easy. “You can get this instant download and find out their whole life story and download all their pictures,” she said. “But then you’re like, ‘That’s enough of that person.’ ” 
Or I wish I never friended them to begin with. 

Consider the awkward stages of child- and teenage-hood. The joy of graduation and then a reunion years later is that it gave everyone else time to forget who one was, who has the chance to transform from geek to chic. No more. 
Weren’t we better off knowing a little bit less, a little less often, about everyone else? After high school graduation, a theater geek could once dye his hair blue, come out of the closet or declare himself a semiotician without so much as a backward glance. Once the kinks were worked out, he could introduce his new self, by which time most people would have forgotten about whom he used to be. Today, kids who graduate have to drag all their elementary school and high school “friends” along with them.
Have you noticed how sometimes what people post sounds really disturbing? Apparently, to them it was incredibly funny and interesting. 
Alas, what strikes us as witty, original and winning often comes across to the rest of the world as sloppily confessional, self-promotional or trite.
I now find myself deleting all those photos I once thought so necessary to post. I used to fret over witty status updates; now I state something inane infrequently. Perhaps I have decided to seek an aura of mystery. 
It is, I confess, paradoxically and distressingly difficult for me not to post about how much candy I’ve eaten on a given day. And even I don’t really want to know about that.  
Although I still find myself searching to see what someone's chosson looks like.   


Sporadic Intelligence said...

Can I like this post, or is that too ironic? I actually just shared this to FB ;)

Altie said...

:) I like this post. It is well put together, with many good points. And so true.

Princess Lea said...

SI: I'm going to be hounded off of FB for my blasphemy!

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but wanted to let you know I was thinking of you earlier today when I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the latest trend in make-up: wearing a bright, bold lipstick as your signature color and using it to focus on your lips rather than eyes, etc. I know you've had several posts about foundation/blush/mascara/eye liner and shadow, but don't remember if you covered lips??? Or maybe you did and I missed it. Well, according to this article,the nude/light/lip gloss is OUT, and so is colored lip liner, and some more stuff (but I forget).

Anyway, I know a dedicated fashionista such as you wouldn't want to be behind the times, so just wanted to make sure you were aware of the latest....

Nechama said...

That was a really thorough treatment of the subject.

You quoted:

" The more time people spent on Facebook, the happier they perceived their friends to be and the sadder they felt as a consequence.

Too true. People only post the best most exciting moments. The rest of their (unposted) life would be dull in comparison.

This leaves the viewer feeling life is boring because their EVERY MOMENT is not as glamorous as the few moments other people posted about.

Princess Lea said...

Anon: I haven't covered lips yet, because I'm trying to go in the same order as when I do my Face - foundation, eyes, then lips, eventually cheeks.

I have always believed that lipstick is the way to go. I hate gloss, and I am very happy that it is out! Thank you for telling me that it is officially dead in WSJ!

I have two previous posts on lipstick, one that one should use only pink colors, and another advocating Nars Carthage. Google it - it is seriously bright and bold!

Although, no matter how bright my lips, my eyes get the same eyeshadow treatment. I like color.

Nechama: Yup. Social media has left us feeling deprived, and sometimes jealous. I find myself, often, actually believing the face value on FB.

Anonymous said...

Just curious...what about hilchos Lashon hora?

Princess Lea said...

In terms of FB?

Anonymous said...

Not really, more in terms of your statements: "I don't deny that I like a little gossip. Who doesn't? It is that lowly form of entertainment, giving petty shocks of delight as one assumes much from the slightest shreds of available information." -- Anon 12:44pm

Princess Lea said...

When I say gossip, I don't mean loshon hara. Talking about something that is known to many doesn't exactly qualify. In this case, people that post their own business over the internet are expecting it to be talked about.

Like what does the chassan/kallah look like? She got a new haircut? Where did she go and with whom?