Oh look, another really insightful column about how Facebook is destroying everything. What is it this time? It's your precious friendships, writes Elizabeth Bernstein writing in the Wall Street Journal. Facebook's culture of over-sharing is polluting her relationships with loved ones. Boring status messages are putting her to sleep (how dare they?) and everyone she used to know pre-digitally turned out to be a raging narcissist blah blah blah. I'm going to go Tweet now about how much I hate this article, right after my Facebook status update about how my socks feel cold today.
Let's consider this lede:
Notice to my friends: I love you all dearly.But I don't give a hoot that you are "having a busy Monday," your child "took 30 minutes to brush his teeth," your dog "just ate an ant trap" or you want to "save the piglets." And I really, really don't care which Addams Family member you most resemble.
Really, Elizabeth? Not even a hoot? Those are all answers to extremely frequently asked questions among friends: 1) How was your day? 2) How are your kids? 3) Anything out of the ordinary happen around the house? and 4) What do you want to do with your life? What exactly is so offensive about that information being volunteered freely rather than solicited?
I don't understand why people like Bernstein seem to take offense at the idea that their friends' self-documented lives aren't interesting to them. Nobody feels offended when they're browsing a bookstore -- "This book about French braids looks so stupid, I hate book stores!" ; "Why would I want to read about Millard Fillmore!? This place stinks!" -- so what exactly is so painful about perusing a host of status updates that you can actually suppress on a site specifically designed to be a clearinghouse for your friends' personal lives?
The more interesting story here -- way more interesting, at least, than a WSJ public service announcement about Facebook etiquette -- is how modern technology has made it possible to never be alone. This is far from an original observation, but it's a profound one. I consider myself a decently interesting person, but I'm quite sure a quarter-hourly detailed report of my life would be terribly uninteresting to everybody except my grandmother. Social media technology allows and encourages us to publicly document our private lives, which means that quiet moments and private thoughts that were once introspective and personally significant can, for the first time, be judged on a public platform. So yes, you're bound to get Tweets about lunch portions, Facebook updates about your office air conditioning and, yes, Wall Street Journal columns about how you find your friends annoying (that's kind of an overshare too, isn't it?). The grand sociological reveal of Facebook (if there is one) is not that overshares are ruining our social media experience. It's that everybody is capable of being just as boring as we private fear we are.