Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Know You, I've Seen Your Profile.

It was my third night staying late at the office, my little silver Jetta once again the lone car sitting in the parking lot. I was in the middle of working on a 200-slide PowerPoint when my friend, Dajana, sent me a a picture of a cat. I thought it was hilarious and immediately opened my facebook page to place it on my wall.

But when I opened up my facebook, I was distracted by a picture in the lower right corner of a man and a woman holding a baby. They were family friends from long ago, and this baby they were holding, I guessed, was their grandchild. Facebook wanted to know if I wanted to be friends with these people.

Instead, I went to their daughter's page. We'll call her Ashley. Until seeing the photo of her parents, I had not known Ashley had had a baby. I started clicking through her photos. There were some cute ones of the baby wearing one of those bath towels with the animal hood. Then, I kept clicking...

There is Ashley, toasting wine with her beaming parents, her husband, her sibling, her grandparents... This one is with Ashley in a hospital bed, IV still in and baby just born... Oh, here is a good one of Ashley super pregnant, standing in front of the school where she got her Masters degree... Now this picture shows graduation from said graduate school... Photo of big dog, husband and Ashley... a medley of photos of other people's weddings (once one falls, they all do)... photos of the big dog as a smaller puppy... ...The honeymoon in South Africa... Photos of Ashley's wedding... Oh my gosh, back to college dorm pics... beer pong...

In less than ten minutes, I had gone backwards in the entire adult life of this girl.

I realized that I had been crouched forward, my face no less than ten inches from my computer screen. I'd been analyzing each and every photo, at some point snidely commenting aloud, "Perfect family, perfect lives."

Whoa. Was I falling prey to the oldest trick in the facebook book? The profiling of people's profiles, deciding that I knew their hopes, their joys and sorrows simply through the images they uploaded to the Internet? 


I went downstairs for a bathroom break. I ran to the bathroom because our office is full of windows and it's scary at night.

Back at my desk, I opened the picture of the cat that Dajana sent. I looked at my own facebook profile and sighed with something I'd realized the other day – the fact that the last three posts on my wall were pictures of my cats. Holy fuck, did I really do three posts about cats in a row?


But then, in a moment of egotistical self-soothing, I opened up my pictures and saw that I mostly had images from the travel that I do for my job. I have pictures from China, Russia, Brazil, and all over the USA. But I don't have baby pictures. I don't have wedding or honeymoon photos. I don't have beer pong photos, which actually stings the worst because I have never actually played beer pong. I'll only admit that here so my secret is safe with a few scattered readers. Otherwise, I lie and say I've played. I went to a small, private liberal arts college where I lived in the Art Studio. If you are out there, and you read this, please, invite me over to play beer pong. (But do so discretely.)

My point about the photos is something we all know but I had to remind myself of it tonight.

We are not our facebook profiles. We are not what we tweet about. In an age where we are living to social network instead of social networking to live, we need to periodically remind ourselves that the crap we put out on the Internet – it's not us.

Sure, our cyberselves are manifestations of our behaviors, patterns and decisions, but they aren't babies. They aren't weddings or honeymoons in South Africa. They aren't research trips to China and Russia.

Our cyberselves are just digital zeros and ones.

So, no, I don't instantly know the past decade of Ashley's life. I may think I do, but that's just a trick of the Internet. If I really want to know what's up, I gotta do it the old fashioned way and talk to the girl.

And since we are not the Internet, I'm not going to worry about looking like a crazy cat lady with cat pictures on my profile. Because I'm not. I don't even like cats that much, but I like putting pictures of them on my facebook profile because I think they are funny. Seriously, I do.

No Lol here.


  1. Well said Susan. If it makes you feel better I have never played beer pong either and I have an album on fb full of pictures of my dog. Yes, I'm the crazy dog lady and I'm ok with that. We might not be traveling the 'traditional' route through life, but I'm sure there is someone out there looking at your fb profile thinking "Damn, I wish I could ditch my husband and kid and live like Susan Anderson."

  2. I really loved this post! I agree that our online personas (and even our blogs) are only a glimpse at our real lives. You said it a lot more eloquently than I ever could though :) Hope all is well.

  3. This is such a lovely post. You really do a great job!

  4. Great post! At first, i think it is just a piece of joke or what but after reading it, i found it really good and helpful.

  5. Great job! I think it is more better if you put some cat's accessories topics here.