I miss my friends from graduate school, who have moved far away, some of whom I know read this blog and keep up with me, but I miss out on their updates and photos and I especially miss their funny quips and clever observations and interesting links.
A couple of businesses I've been interested in purchasing from have Face.book pages instead of websites and you have to "follow" them on FB to get their coupons and discounts.
Many of my BLM friends have connected through FB and even have a private group for general kvetching and encouragement.
Many of my blogging friends also do FB and I'd like to see what they're up to on the days they don't have time to type a novel about it.
Oh--and I have to admit this is a HUGE one--to get Target's Cartwheel app on your phone, you have to sign in through Face.book. (I don't know when Target and FB got in bed together, but seriously.)
I had a FB profile before Eliza died. I updated occasionally. I "liked" stuff other people posted. When I was bored, I used my phone app to scroll through and spy on people I knew from high school and was somewhat curious about but would never have wanted to have to actually talk to them. (Just being honest. You can probably see why I didn't win any popularity contests in high school.)
Deactivating my FB account was one of the first things I did in the early days after Eliza died. I couldn't bear to post my loss on what was--for me--a superficial public forum. I'd never taken FB seriously, and I felt uncomfortable when other people did. I would "hide" political ranters (even if I agreed with them) because, DUDE, you're not going to convert anybody with your FB update. I thought of FB as a shallow social network, a way to stay in touch but not connect deeply with anyone.
It was also a place to put forward an image of myself that was fun--lighter, easier, breezier than my real self. It was like the abridged version of my reality, without any of the ugly or sad parts.
But when Eliza died, ugly and sad became my entire reality.
The day I got home from the hospital without Eliza, FB notified me that a friendly acquaintance from grad school who'd moved away the previous summer had sent me a message. It said something like, "How are things going? You're getting really close! So excited for you!"
I went numb. I felt cold. Then I started clicking frantically to deactivate my account.
Are you sure? FB wanted to know.
Yes, I'm fucking sure.
I'm sure I don't belong here anymore. I'm sure I can't participate in a world of gleeful pregnancy announcements, what-I-had-for-lunch updates, unoriginal TGIF statements, vague song lyrics, chipper "I LOVE MY LIFE" statements (although, honestly, the more you say it, the less I believe you), smug I-ran-this-far-today reports, vacation photos, funny jokes, and general snark. These things--all of which I had previously found at least unoffensive and at best amusing were suddenly hateful content, hitting me like a series of gut-punches without time to catch my breath in between.
Everything was about me and my grief and I had lost not only the desire but the ability to participate in a forum that couldn't acknowledge the depth and breadth of my loss.
I know a lot of people feel differently, but I've never been comfortable with FB as a place for sympathy or condolences. Just like all the virtual strangers writing "Happy Birthday!" because FB told them it was my birthday, such comments felt meaningless to me, like people were putting on a show for someone else.
Maybe it was because I sometimes used FB in a snotty way--to roll my eyes or be judgy or feel lucky I wasn't in someone else's situation. In my opinion, FB was a place to post silly things or funny things. It wasn't a place to brag about serious accomplishments (I had a friend who wouldn't post about job interviews because she knew it might sting for other academics in the dismal job market) and it certainly wasn't a place to advertise your failures.
Pages dedicated to lost loved ones, RIP messages--they just felt out of place and inappropriate to me. They made me uncomfortable because I didn't know how to respond to something so serious in a forum that I had never taken seriously. (Do I "like" a comment about something sad? Do I comment on it? But I don't know what to say... And I don't really "know" this person that well... Why are they making me think about hard things when I'm just killing time on FB?) Now I understood the desire in a way I never had before, and I know many people have found great comfort through communities on FB. But I'd never thought of it that way, and I felt as though I'd gone from mingling at a party where we were all having fun to being cast out and marked as an object of pity--the only person in my friend list whose life had just been shattered.
(As for that well-meaning and friendly acquaintance who happened to send me a message on December 5th? I'm assuming someone told her my baby died, but I never heard from her again.)
Eliza's death wrecked the surface of my life and everything underneath it. I couldn't put on a happy face with her gone, and I wasn't willing to share my most intimate grief with my FB "friends" either.
Also, there was this: When Eliza died, lurking under my breathtaking grief and my gut-wrenching disappointment, I felt really ashamed. Ashamed and embarrassed that something was wrong with me or with my baby and this pregnancy I had been so delighted in, so proud of, so happy about, had gone so wrong. Something was wrong with me and my baby. We never learned what that "something" was, but it wouldn't have made a difference. I had failed. I had failed to have a healthy baby. I had been profoundly disappointed after being so smug and so sure that I would bring my baby home. And I couldn't bear to post that failure on FB.
To be honest, there was also this: I couldn't stand to see other people's success. Pregnancy announcements, baby pictures, funny stories, potty-training complaints--oh, hell, complaints about anything related to kids--were suddenly too much for me. I knew I couldn't take it. And so I took myself out of it. As much as I'd like the Target cartwheel app, I haven't regretted that decision.
But I've started to wonder... Has it been enough time? Could I handle it now?
I am pretty good at being able to celebrate other people's happiness with them. I might grit my teeth as I smile, but I don't wish them ill. My heart will always ache for my baby girl, but I don't begrudge my friends their healthy babies, and I was genuinely glad to hear recently that someone I know is expecting after struggling for a long time to get pregnant. I could definitely deal with--and participate in--the superficial nonsense that makes FB fun. And, as I mentioned before, I really would like to keep up with friends who are now far away.
But somehow, I'm not quite ready to get back on Facebook. I'm not ready to reactivate an account that was frozen in time the day after my daughter died. I'm not ready to look back at my timeline and see the person I used to be.
FB is not an accurate depiction of anyone's life. It's certainly not a place to measure success and failure. But for me, it's a measure of the difference between what I thought my life would be before December 6, 2010 and what it is now.
I have a good life now. I'd go so far as to call myself lucky, even. But I'm also a bereaved parent, broken-hearted and missing my first girl. Most of the time, I'm starting to find myself resigned to this path, doing what I can to make the most of this life, and appreciating all the good things (and people) my life has in it. It's just that FB throws into sharp relief the crushing disappointment of losing not only my baby but my entire future as I once believed it would be.
FB is a painful reminder of the moment that everything changed. It's become more than it ought to be in my head. It's taken on a larger significance than it deserves. I'm kind of hoping that one day I'll get over myself and decide I want the cartwheel app more than I want to be freaked out by FB. I know I can downsize my friends list and be selective and private and hide people and whatever. I don't need to let it be bigger than it really is. It doesn't have to be a metaphor. It can just be what it is. But... I'm still not quite ready for it.
It comes down to this: I wish I could be the person I used to be on Face.book. It's just that nothing is that simple for me anymore and as far as I'm concerned, FB is not a place where I can explain why It's Complicated.