Facebook Profiles for the Neurotic Reader
Facebook makes me nervous in so many ways. There’s the panic when I accidentally “like” someone’s status that I have no business publicly approving. There’s the confusion when a “friend” of my “friend” “friends” me and I have no idea who she is, but not wishing to be unfriendly, I approve her request and am stuck reading her daily updates about her super awesome boyfriend. There’s the embarrassment and uncertainty when I encounter a photo of myself half-lidded and holding up a beer, and I face that eternal question: to untag or not to untag?
But Facebook also forces me to question the way I represent myself as a reader. Right now under the “Books” category of my interests, I have listed:
I’ve chosen these authors and books because they are a few that have awed me more than most. But, I ask myself for the millionth time, are they enough? In the Facebook and Twitter worlds, we are always trying to express ourselves with as few words as possible, as few examples as possible. We describe our moods, our activities, our passions and sometimes life-changing events in 160 characters or less. As as reader, I like to think of myself as nuanced, even expansive. Sure, I can click “like” below Anna Karenina, and give the world a good example of what appeals to me as a reader. Does that explain how reading the increasing darkness of Anna’s thoughts made me feel as if Tolstoy had given voice to the darkest part of myself? Not at all.
This isn’t news. Everyone knows that Facebook doesn’t give an accurate picture of a person’s daily life, interests, or relationships, and that you can drive yourself crazy thinking that it does (I’m pretty sure everyone has at some point looked at an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend or ex-hook-up’s new photos and thought, Why am I having less fun than they are?). And you may ask why I even care; if nothing on Facebook is accurate, why should I want to make sure my “friends” know who I am as a reader? You’re right to ask. This might be a neurotic (and futile) little quest coming from someone who worries she might offend somebody each time she untags a photo. But I think it’s worth trying to make these narrow mediums express us as fully as possible. This is the modern mode of self-display, and I choose to enjoy the challenge. So I ask myself, within the limited bounds of Facebook, is there a way to represent myself as a reader that’s more vivid and complete than that paltry list?
More Faster Arts:
One solution is to go big. I can at least attempt to portray the range of books I enjoy by listing, well, more. With five seconds of thought, five authors spring to mind who have bowled me over with their talent. If I spend five minutes on it, I’m sure I can come up with twenty books and writers who will showcase who I am as a reader. Even if the fervor I feel for their work is lost, maybe the variety will say more about me.
Or I could go narrow. I can start listing the short stories, poems, and essays that I’ve loved. Maybe the key isn’t breadth, it’s detail. In the quotations section of my profile, I have a several lines from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and several from Frank O’Hara’s “Meditations in an Emergency.” Interestingly, these writers do not show up on my list of favorites. Maybe the specific turns of language and thought that appeal to me reveal more about me than the broad suggestions of titles or names.
Or maybe I should stay current and only list what I’m reading now. My reading trends might paint a more honest picture than what I say I like.
And I guess it would be possible to use a section like “About Me” to actually explain who I am as a reader. But would that really be in the spirit of Facebook brevity? And, honestly, would anyone really care? Often, I’ve met someone and scrolled through their interests on Facebook to quickly judge them (and usually, ended up completely off base). I’ve rarely stopped to read chunks of text. More than a few lines in “About Me” might get me chalked up as a narcissist, or they would be ignored.
So if I’ve captured your notoriously brief attention spans this long, Facebook friends and future Facebook friends (and I am no exception, clearly), help me out. How should I represent myself as a reader? What do you do?
More Faster Arts:
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