On Facebook Movies and Swallowing Lives

“I have been a swallower of lives; and to know me, just the one of me, you’ll have to swallow the lot as well.”
-Saleem Sinai in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children

This past week, Facebook celebrated 10 years. As part of the celebration, the website published sixty-second films of everyone’s “Facebook life.” My Facebook life, though, is a farce since I left the site completely at one point and only rejoined last year.

Still, the Facebook movies are interesting. They have turned a life into an easily representable series of data points (most liked, most shared, etc.). Facebook offers us an opportunity to write our story as we live it, but it’s a dishonest memoir. Facebook is revisionist history at its best–we decide what is posted, our friends decide what is interesting, and the company decides what is important enough to highlight in a sixty-second summary. It does some of the work of memory, but it misses some stuff, right?

1222This story doesn’t even seem like a part of the life I am living right now. This page, taken from an old journal from just over three years ago, feels like a book I’m reading–not one that I am writing with the pen of my existence. But that’s memory, I guess. And ultimately that’s why I journal–so I can remember the things that my memory tries to forget. December of 2010 is definitely a time that memory has made fuzzy.

(Around this same time is when I met Miranda from New York–the subject of the second-ever post on this blog. I know this, because I found more clues about her in the journal.)


…from the Facebook page, which announces OTP is “permanently closed”

I was hitting the bars hard that winter in Albany, GA–especially the One Trick Pony. I’m not sure why this bar called out to me in such a big way. I wasn’t a fan of country or western, but they had fun Thursday nights, so I signed up weekly for a ride on the One Trick Pony.

So I hit the bar every Thursday night with Darwin, and I rolled out of bed and went to work early on Fridays (until winter break–thank God for winter break). And over the course of just a few weeks, I met a very interesting assortment of characters. Here are just a few takeaways from the pages of journal devoted to those nights at One Trick Pony:

  • On Miranda from New York: She’s married to a Southern Baptist who she is unhappy with, but he refuses to sign divorce papers. . . . As she drank, her story started running like paint on a canvas made of water. Her husband became her ex-husband, an MMA fighter she stayed with for money, of which she apparently had plenty. . .except she was staying at the Best Western.12222
  • On Brandy: She had dabbled in this and that, recording a demo in Nashville among other things. Most recently, she started personal training, which is what the red business card said that she retrieved from her purse. Her natural beauty is debatable, but I support the decisions of people to make certain aesthetic changes. We can rebuild it. We have the technology.
  • On Crazy Horse and June (which is, no bullshit, the names they gave me and everyone they met at the bar): When asked about the nickname by the karaoke jockey, Crazy Horse explained that it meant he was “hung like a horse,” and he “fucked like crazy.” June was awesomely nice, and Crazy Horse was mean to her. He’s the kind of person that breaks people down to build his own ego out of others’ spare parts.
  • On a nurse named Jennifer: Blonde, leopard-print dress, thin. Who knows how much of her was real? [Apparently, plastic surgery was big in Albany.]

I haven’t talked to one of them since that winter, but they are still a part of the story that I write by continuing to be alive. The effect they had on me may be unobservable. But I definitely absorbed them into my fabric, and they absorbed me into them.

Every person we meet and every thing we do becomes essential to the fabric of our lives. I’ll never know what these people did for me, but I assume that part of their involvement in those days of my life was to show me that I could still function in society–that I could still talk to girls–even though I was broken from a bad break-up.

We spend our lives writing the book that becomes our lives. Facebook likes for us to think that the summation of a decade takes sixty seconds–that a life, when lived without unfortunate or untimely end, would take somewhere between seven and ten minutes to represent.

But that’s just not true.

If I had never left Facebook, my movie would still be as long as it is now–sixty seconds. Currently, it does show the most important event to happen to me–finding the woman with whom I fell in love. Other than that, it looks like I run way more than I actually do.

If I had never left Facebook, it would certainly show a few more important moments, like graduations, jobs, or parties–but it would miss the Mirandas from New York, the Junes, and the Crazy Horses.

It would show a lot of the patchwork, but it wouldn’t show much of the thread.

I wonder when you last thought of those people who passed through your life in the blink of an eye. Writers, especially, should take note of those folks.

Until next time,


8 thoughts on “On Facebook Movies and Swallowing Lives

  1. I definitely agree that these Facebook movies are a VERY small part of our realities. In fact, I believe that all of Facebook this way. No one writes about their missteps or issues. Frankly, if they do…no one wants to read it. Facebook is what you want it to be, how you want people to view you. Not usually how things actually are. You’re right, the real experiences are lost. Maybe that’s a good thing, these are the memories that you want to keep for yourself. Not for others to “comment on” or “like”.

    • True. I think I worry that too many people use Facebook as their only way of remembering, and it’s really just a good way to forget.

      Good to hear from you, Lindsay! I haven’t seen you around the blogosphere much lately. I hope all is well!

      • Thanks, Shane! Yes, I am back after a break. I have been editing and editing and then editing some more. Just needed to focus for a bit.

        Yes, I agree. People tend to romanticize the past and it’s not always a good thing. You have to remember the bitter to appreciate the sweet. Right?

  2. This was so insightful and I loved the way your writing just flowed and the perfect metaphors throughout. Facebook has become such a negative thing in my opinion and those videos were pretty silly. Don’t get me wrong, I did mine. 🙂 This post made me definitely feel a bit of regret for only having my memory to rely on. It would be so incredibly interesting to go back and read more of a detailed account of my life and the people who I crossed paths with. You definitely have a new fan. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Re-Write Life | Virtual Napkins

  4. So much I want to say in response…but I am just going to tell you that because you recommended it — and I was happy to see it referenced here — I am planning on reading Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children…as soon as I finish with the handful of books that I am currently consuming. I even looked up a description on Amazon. I’m fascinated just by that; the actual read, I anticipate, will be a treat.

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