In his poem, “Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock,” T.S. Eliot penned the striking line “There will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” Most of us can identify with “putting on a happy face” to go out into the world on days when we feel anything but happy. When encountering strangers at the grocery store who say “how are you?” we usually say something bland such as “I’m fine, thank you.” We are usually quite aware of the social niceties and are not fooled into thinking that everyone at the store is really fine.
However, social media platforms such as Facebook present a new challenge for many people. The faces posted on Facebook are usually similarly posed to look happy. There is a friend smiling over her kids, smiling in her clean house, smiling over her perfect dinner, smiling with her friends. Day after day someone may present a picture of unending excitement, adventure and love. Somehow the accumulation of all these images can worm its way into our own thoughts. We can feel something is off in our lives since they are certainly not as glowing as the ones in Facebook. This contrast can be especially jarring for someone who doesn’t pause to think of the artifice behind the Facebook personality.
A relative, a near recluse who spends his time watching television, told us that when he went to the mall he couldn’t believe how ugly most people were. His entire perception had been warped by constant exposure to actors and actresses. Even “reality” stars are markedly different from real life people. I hope that we can avoid the same phenomenon when spending too much time on social media. Many people there have simply spent a lot of effort to “prepare a face.”