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Marissa Lingen

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Fun. Without you. [Jul. 7th, 2011|12:55 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Last weekend, when I was still processing the crazy that was June, the Strib ran an article about Facebook depression. The tl;dr version is that some teenagers are sad because they see pictures of their friends having fun without them. The adult suggestion for dealing with this was to remember that not everything was going on FB and other people are sad sometimes too. And this is good but completely insufficient, to my way of thinking.

One of the kids is quoted as saying, "If [friends] go to a party, it feels like, why wasn't I invited?" And...uh. Really? Really? This did not seem like time for a major life lesson? Because your friends: they will have friends who are not you. They will have friends who are not your friends. They will go to parties without you; sometimes they will have parties without you. Because not every event is infinitely flexible or infinitely large. Because not every event is for you. You do this to other people. They will do it to you. Life is like that.

No matter how bad your day is, someone somewhere will be having fun. Possibly even someone who cares about you.

No matter how personable you are, some of the world's fun will happen without you. Even some of the portion of the world's fun that has been assigned to your near and dear.

This is the key to having a happy convention, but it's also pretty key to the rest of your life. Imagine how awful it would be to live with someone whose life was a boring or painful slog whenever you weren't around. Imagine how dreary it would be to have coffee with someone whose only joy in their life was your coffee time.

I mean, yes, if you find that the people you think are your friends are never including you in anything and are always doing things that could include you and don't, it may be time to reevaluate your friendship with them. But if you have some friends who went to the movies without you? It happens. Ask them how the movie was. Converse. Tell them about what happened when you went swimming while they were at the movies. More to the point, go swimming while they're at the movies. Adults need to know this. Teenagers need to know it. Little kids need to learn it before they get to the point of being teenagers and thinking that friendship means always doing everything together. And adults who don't address that and who blame Facebook are doing the teens in their vicinity no favors.

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-07-08 03:40 am (UTC)
We aim to please.
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[User Picture]From: minnehaha
2011-07-07 06:10 pm (UTC)
There actually is a Facebook -- well, social media in general -- issue here, one that shouldn't be trivialized. People tend to write about good stuff on social media sites: milestones they've achieved, positive things they're thinking, and fun things they're doing. This is especially true as 1) postings get smaller, and 2) more people are reading the posts. This means that someone who is reading their friends list -- or whatever it's called on Facebook -- will face a constant stream of reminders that their friends are doing better, feeling better, and having more fun then they are. I've read some research on this (I'll try to find it later if I have time), and it's depressing. Sure, you can teach people that this reaction isn't correct, that Facebook reality isn't real reality, and that they shouldn't make too much over other peoples' happiness. But these feelings operate at a lower brain level, and are hard to counteract. People have dropped friends, and dropped Facebook, over this.

Again, I'll try to find references for you later if I have time.

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-07-07 06:12 pm (UTC)
Do you think the Strib article did a good job of making this clear? Because among other things, they focused it on teenagers, that is, people who are not socially experienced in any sphere, and it sounds like what you're saying is that there's a broader human issue at work.
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[User Picture]From: dd_b
2011-07-07 06:20 pm (UTC)
Understanding this intellectually came considerably before dealing with it particularly well emotionally for me.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-07-07 06:21 pm (UTC)
All the more reason to introduce the concept early and often.
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[User Picture]From: cathshaffer
2011-07-07 06:38 pm (UTC)
The article isn't loading for me. I'll check back later. Traditionally, it is a violation of etiquette to talk about a party in front of or to someone who wasn't invited. Because regardless of whether you have your own exciting social life or not, being excluded from a party to which many of your friends are invited hurts, and I have scars of my own from those days to prove it (those days when I had A group of friends, and did not have alternate friends on standby). Telling my friends how much fun I had going swimming, all by myself, while they were together partying is not likely to be a consolation.

Facebook makes that small social mercy an impossibility--at least if you are going to get on Facebook after the party and dish about it. A possible solution is to say, hey, Facebook is not the place for talking about how great the weekend's party was or for posting and tagging pictures. (I just recently learned a long time friend was gay because one of his friends posted a drunk party picture. I don't think that's how he wanted to tell me.) I have over 200 facebook "friends." Almost all of them are adults, but not all. Some are college students and teens. I almost never see party reports. The only kind of "I had fun" updates I tend to see are those involving vacations or family events--things which have a pretty clearly defined guest list and are unlikely to inspire feelings of exclusion.

My solution? People shouldn't be jerks on Facebook. If they go to an awesome exclusive party and people get drunk, they should save the debriefing session for Denny's the next morning and send the embarrassing pics to each other via text message, rather than posting them on Facebook for all to see. (Well, texting pics has its own problems, but, hey, I can't solve all of the world's problems in one sitting. :-)
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[User Picture]From: minnehaha
2011-07-07 07:03 pm (UTC)
"My solution? People shouldn't be jerks on Facebook."

Hardly a solution. People are sometimes jerks, and they'll be jerks on whatever social system they're being nice, indifferent, helpful, and everything else on.

Related: Lorrie Cranor at Cernegie Mellon is doing a study on Facebook regrets: things people regret doing on Facebook. Her paper isn't online -- all I could find is this from the conference I heard her present her work at -- but her research shows that the most common reason people have for doing something on Facebook they regret later is anger. They were angry. People can be jerks when they're angry. And they'll regret it later. It's the way people work.

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[User Picture]From: dd_b
2011-07-07 07:04 pm (UTC)
It's not technically feasible for me to create a Facebook group for exactly the people who were at the party (I'd have to have an accurate list, and know their facebook identities) so that I could limit discussion of the party to those. Well, those plus people out of town, plus people who were invited but chose not to go. Or for my snapshot album, or etc. (Technical feasibility is not relevant to social good, bad, or awkward; but it's relevant to the solution space.)

Ah; there's a technical solution within reach there. If the party invite was via Facebook, there could be (but isn't currently) an auto-created group so I could limit discussion of the party to those who could see the invite.

Which has its own problems, being dependent on one commercial service, even if they implemented that idea.

And actually I'd rather see the discussion of the parties I wasn't invited to than not. Sometimes I'm slightly unhappy not to be invited, but actually knowing is useful in evaluating my social position. I don't really think that further Balkanizing the world, dividing it into little separate bits, is good. Discussing things in front of people is always an issue, but sometimes (for example) you walk into the middle of a conversation.
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[User Picture]From: moiread
2011-07-07 07:45 pm (UTC)
Tangential but interesting: Google+ has that selective audience feature. I was intrigued to note it when ckd brought it to my attention.
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[User Picture]From: wshaffer
2011-07-07 08:01 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. I also find that when I do get those occasional pangs of, "Oh no! Everyone is having fun without me!", there's usually a much more specific dissatisfaction underlying that that I can actually productively address. Maybe it's that a whole bunch of people went hiking, and I'm just realizing that I'd like to go hiking with a bunch of friends; or maybe it's that X and Y were there, and I'm realizing that I'm missing hanging out with X and Y; or maybe it's that I wish I were more adept at striking up interesting conversations with strangers at science fiction conventions. But in any case, it's likely to be something that's at least partially within my power to do something about.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-07-07 08:10 pm (UTC)
That's it for me exactly: focusing on stuff that is within my power to do.

And sometimes it isn't, and I have to let it go. For example, I miss a lot of Late-Night Fandom Antics because I am not a late-night person. I stay up late at cons! Late for me means somewhere between 11 and 1. I believe I once stayed up until 2 at a con...but that was with a very small number of previously known friends, and it was a very special case. Mostly, though, if it is happening after midnight at a con, I miss it. And a lot of fun stuff happens after midnight at cons. And you know what? That's okay, because it has to be okay. It's no one else's fault that I'm an extreme morning person. It's not really my fault, either: there's nothing I could be doing but am not doing that would keep me up later. I could waste time being bitter over it, or I could enjoy the parts of cons I get. I know which is a better idea.
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[User Picture]From: janni
2011-07-07 08:30 pm (UTC)
I think I can see this from both sides. I know that feeling of "everyone is having fun but me!" (though less so as I get older and have more perspective), and I also know the frustration of going out, having fun, and then having someone resent me for it when, really, it was never about then.

(When the latter happens in the context of a relationship? It's time to get out. Because being unhappy will not cure the other person's unhappiness; it will only add to yours.)

I don't think it's a facebook issue per se--these things were issues when I was in school and knew everyone was going to parties and such but me--but I can see how facebook might make it worse. Which doesn't mean getting rid of fb is the answer ... though maybe teens could benefit from learning the value of gafiating in an online context, or of time away in general?

I love facebook now, privacy issues aside. But as a teen, it would have been a pretty painful place for me in so many ways. Don't know the answer to that, either.
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[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2011-07-07 08:44 pm (UTC)
What you're saying about facing reality and learning to live with it is excellent and true. But also, I think some people, especially kids, create a false image of how fun-filled and glamorous their lives are, and kids as well as adults need to remember too that the image is not the reality.

Some people (especially in places like LJ) are very open in their social media posts and share the downs as well as the ups, the lonely times as well as the parties. But I suspect that's not true of teens on FB. So the person who posts about her fabulous time at the party is definitely not sharing how miserable she felt seeing the guy she liked with somebody else, for example.
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[User Picture]From: akwilliams
2011-07-07 11:58 pm (UTC)
Huh. That is a good Major Life Lesson. One I'm feeling slightly stupid for not knowing at 27, but they do say when the student is ready the teacher will appear so I will handwave over the details and say thanks for putting that into words for me.

It's never been something I've done with friends, but I think some of my relationships really suffered because I couldn't bear to not be joined at the hip at all times. This kinda helps. So cheers =)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-07-08 03:40 am (UTC)
Glad to be of service.
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2011-07-08 02:22 pm (UTC)
Another thought on the "people are seeing only cheerful stuff" (so everyone else's life looks like a glorious cycle of song) is that we keep being told not to post anything we wouldn't want an actual or potential employer to see in five years, or the police tomorrow afternoon. That's often phrased as "don't post drunken photos," but some people are going to add "don't talk about your depression/asshole boss/job loss/illness" because you never know what someone will hold against you. But "I went to a party with X, Y, and Z and we had a great time" or how much you liked a movie will seem safe.
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[User Picture]From: mamapduck
2011-07-09 04:14 pm (UTC)
This is a problem that actually comes up among the adults in my homeschooling circle. The kids range in age from 1 to 18. The moms you like best might not have kids the same age as yours.

J had a 14th birthday. She invited just the big kids. There are LOTS of events with everyone, J wanted her party to be just the teens. Reasonable, no?

Well, while nobody is flaunting their invites ala third grade, the fact is that it was a get together and things happened and those who were there mention those things in conversation and the non-invitees became aware that there had been a party.

One of the moms who is close to J's mom is hurt that she and her kids weren't invited. But... her kids are under 10. So it's her KIDS who weren't invited but it's mom whose feelings are hurt.

Life lesson indeed.
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