The Facebook experience has been analyzed from pretty much every angle. But there’s one angle that I’ve yet to come across and that’s Facebook’s role in creating a personal narrative.
With every post, every person on Facebook is writing the narrative of their lives. Even those goofy cat videos and the political rants. Every post in an entry into the diary. Every comment is a statement of value and purpose and worldview.
So, the real question is: What kind of story am I writing?
Is it an angry polemic, with references to politicians and religious groups?
Is it a comedy, with funny videos, punny observations, and witty retorts?
Is it a tragedy, with every negative thing in life highlighted, including pictures of people who cut you off on the road?
Is it an aimless wandering with no coherence?
Is it a non-story lived out as a series of reactions to sporting events?
The kind of story you’re telling about your life determines what you include in your Facebook posts.
Do you only tell good news?
Do you post a lot of pictures that no one else will look at mostly to make sure that that part of your narrative never gets lost?
Do you just watch others and not post about yourself?
Do you engage in political conversations?
Do you dabble in pop culture?
Do you set yourself up as an expert about something?
Do you post in order to sell something (or yourself as a brand)?
Do you do more posting or more commenting?
There are a lot more questions that could be asked and further follow-up questions, digging into why we post what we post.
But the most important thing is to recognize that all of these post and pictures and videos are creating a single narrative. It may not seem so as we go through our days, tossing things onto Facebook. But what we do put up just may be the only lasting narrative of our lives.
My brother-in-law’s father died recently and I wasn’t able to go to his memorial service. But I did have Facebook. And because of it, I was (and still am) able to review the past few years of his life. And what do you know? What they gave me was a pretty accurate image of who he was, the things that concerned him, and the values that shaped him. He had written his life well.
One last thing. The best personal stories take part in a story that is much larger than their own. The story of Moses fits into a large story of salvation from slavery. The story of Ghandi fits into a large story of freedom from colonial repression. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “I may not get there with you,” knowing that his story was only part of the story of racial justice and brotherhood. The story of Jesus fits into the largest story of all, the story of God’s redeeming and restoring humanity and all creation. So, as you write your story, consider what big story your smaller story fits into. Maybe that’ll help you write better Facebook posts.