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Status sanitising

Romance, for many, comes with the urgency to spring clean their Facebook histories. But is your page then portraying the 'real' you?

Romance, for many, comes with the urgency to spring clean their Facebook histories. But is your page then portraying the 'real' you?

You’ve just started seeing someone. You’ve been on maybe three or four dates. You’re yet to sleep with each other, which has led you to believe, rightly or wrongly, that this courtship is heading in a more “serious” direction. All that may change when you eventually have sex, of course, but for now, things are looking good.

Waiting for the tram one morning, you log into Facebook, and there’s a new friend request waiting for you. It’s him. What do you do?

If you’re anything like my friend Clare, you panic.

“I freaked out, Annabel, I totally freaked out,” she told me.

“I didn’t know what to do. My page was still full of photos of me with my ex-boyfriend! Not to mention the old photos from my raving days in London, and any number of unflattering shots I’ve failed to untag myself in. I don’t want him to see that photo of me pashing some random at a club at 4am. Or even stone cold sober, but with two chins!”

Clare went into damage control mode, and set about removing all of the evidence – or as much as possible, anyway. Gone were the London shots of her in her Cyberdog gear and glowstick jewellery, pig-tailed and bug-eyed. Gone was the picture of her passed out on the couch at a house party, a moustache drawn on her face in red texta. She kept some of the photos of herself with her ex-boyfriend, but only the ones she looked hot in. Every single picture in which she thought she looked remotely unattractive was deleted. She also decided to rid her page of any embarrassing posts or status updates – things that she perhaps
thought were funny at the time, but in hindsight, seemed less so. She “unliked” Bon Jovi and removed The Lion King from her list of favourite movies. She deleted cringe-inducing comments made by her annoying uncle. Once her page had been sanitised to within an inch of its life, she accepted John’s friendship request.

There are a few problems with this scenario. The first, and most obvious, is that Clare clearly doesn’t feel comfortable exposing her true self to John. That’s perhaps understandable in the early stages of seeing someone – you’re still trying to impress each other, and so might be a bit reluctant to tell them about that time you got so drunk you woke up in a pool of your own vomit.

But Clare’s reaction also got me thinking about one of my pet peeves with Facebook on the whole, that it is often such a misrepresentation of reality, a version of ourselves as we wish others to see us, rather than who we really are.

A few years ago someone contacted me on MySpace (this was back when MySpace was all the rage, and Facebook was but a wee glint in Zuckerberg’s eye). I didn’t know the guy, and proceeded to tell him to bugger off, thinking he was some creep, but, feeling I’d perhaps been a bit harsh, I relented and started chatting with him.

Soon enough, we were shooting multiple emails back and forth every day, and before too long I found myself falling for this guy over the internet. I was living overseas at the time, but was convinced that we had some kind of connection – besides, he’d introduced me to friends of his who were also living abroad and whom I became very close with, and this somehow made the whole thing seem more real.

When I returned to Australia, I was excited about finally getting to meet this guy in the flesh. But for reasons that remain a mystery to me, he was less keen than I to see how our relationship would play out in real life. We eventually met up a few times, but it seemed that he was far more comfortable interacting via the internet, either through witty, flirty, emails or attempting to impress with hipsterific Facebook posts. I realised that I’d fallen for an idea and an image without ever really knowing who this guy was.

In this digital age, the reality is that most of us of a certain age are on Facebook at the very least, and when you first start seeing someone, it can be very tempting to Google them and/or attempt to stalk them on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to try and get an idea of what they’re like. But I’d argue that it’s not a particularly reliable indicator of someone’s character. Unless, unlike Clare, you have no shame in being tagged at your most hideous, are open with your social media friends about the fact that your life sometimes sucks, and is not always as awesome as your status updates would have us believe, and have no qualms about revealing to all and sundry that you’re a diehard Neil Diamond fan.

How do you feel about becoming Facebook friends with the person you’re dating? Have you ever stalked a potential paramour on social media? Did it turn you on or off them?

18 comments so far

  • Your friend clare and her manufactured "life" on facebook are quite concerning - i personally cant stand seeing someones fb page filled with "photos" that are more akin to a professional modelling shoot than a night out with friends - where every post has to be unique, insightful and slightly trendy.. Pretty soon your friend will look at her life as it is displayed on Facebook and wonder where all those real moments went - i fear all she will be left with will be a series of staged photos, too many friends that she barely knows and a contrived lifestyle consisting of likes that bears no resemblance to her real life whatsoever... sad really

    Commenter
    Dave
    Location
    The Burbs
    Date and time
    November 20, 2012, 10:06AM
    • Not photogenic? Envy is a heavy weight. Just put it down.

      Commenter
      MrBlonde
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 20, 2012, 10:24AM
    • You nailed it, Dave. The manufactured lives that are all over facebook is one of the reasons I've found myself using it less and less.

      Commenter
      I'm With The Band
      Location
      Backstage
      Date and time
      November 20, 2012, 12:38PM
    • I agree Dave. It is strange that we live in a world where taking photos of occasions is more important than enjoying and living the moment you are in. I don't take many photos at all because I am too busy living in the present instead of constantly thinking about how my life will look to others.

      Commenter
      toucans
      Date and time
      November 20, 2012, 1:34PM
    • No quite Mr. Blonde - in fact just last week i was voted 3rd sexiest bloke in my village... Having said that even if i was really really really ridiculously good looking i wouldnt feel the need to show the world, nor would i remove any evidence that suggested otherwise..

      Commenter
      Dave
      Location
      The Burbs
      Date and time
      November 20, 2012, 1:53PM
  • It's like that quote that refers to Facebook as your 'highlights reel'.

    Commenter
    Ash
    Date and time
    November 20, 2012, 10:19AM
    • I have never untagged a picture of myself in the 7 years I've been on FB. There are some shocking pics from uni days, music festivals, 21st birthdays etc etc. I am actually more concerned about my parents seeing these pics than my boyfriend though! But, you know what, it's a part of my past. And in pretty much every pic, there's a funny story, anecdote or even a lesson that needed to be learned, and I won't change any of it. I have a colourful past, some of it's been captured, but all of it has shaped who I am today. So stuff 'em all if they don't like it! Haha.

      Commenter
      lauzipan
      Location
      Darwin
      Date and time
      November 20, 2012, 10:37AM
      • Wow! You go! Very brave indeed :)

        Commenter
        justsaying
        Date and time
        November 20, 2012, 1:55PM
    • Yes, I Google guys I'm dating. Forewarned is forearmed and all that jazz. And it's helpful in discovering the truth sometimes. About two years ago, after checking the (completely public) Facebook profile of a guy I'd just started dating, I discovered from his groups that he was a child genius who'd graduated high school aged 12. (It must have been that because there's no way a guy would lie about his age, right?)

      Commenter
      Jen
      Date and time
      November 20, 2012, 10:55AM
      • There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward.

        I think there are many online profiles that could do with a little bit of editing eg. selfies taken in the bathroom with the shaggy dog tooth brush in the foreground, pics with the mates while stuffing down kebabs at 4am on a Sunday morning or expletive-filled, thinly veiled cryptic tirades aimed at the ex or other 'friends'. It surprises me that most people go to long lengths to prepare their appearance for a big night out (clothes, hair, make-up) and then have no shame in plastering tragic end-of-night pictures across social media. Why would anybody want to advertise their worst characteristics or moments?

        Maintaining your online profile is an essential part of being in a digital environment. It makes common sense to project yourself in a positive way. Doing so does not make your life a fabrication. It just presents it in a more appropriate way.

        Commenter
        Me
        Location
        Brisbane
        Date and time
        November 20, 2012, 11:00AM

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