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It's Complicated: When Your Partner Doesn't "Like" Facebook

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He doesn’t know about Oakley, the owl, and his owl puppet.

I doubt he knows about the century-old photographs of Antarctica that were frozen for posterity.

And unless he happened to catch it on the local news, he probably missed Back to the Future Day altogether.

At the same time, he doesn’t know about our niece’s latest date or our scuba-diving friend’s recent brush with death-by-scorpion-fish. And he hasn’t seen or heard our nephew riffing, late at night, on his guitar.

There are a lot of things my partner doesn’t know about — and may never know about — because he’s not on Facebook. Never has been, has no desire to start now.

No need to know

Is my NFP (Non-Facebook Partner) right? Is it all really a waste of time? How important is it really for me to know that a 450-year-old church is now emerging from a reservoir in Chiapas because of drought? And could I not have lived another day without knowing that I could actually save money by moving to Las Vegas and commuting to my job in San Francisco?

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(Photo: Associated Press)

Perhaps. But I still like to know about that stuff. I learn dozens of things every day from Facebook, Twitter, and the rest: Facts about the world. Political news. Stories about my friends’ lives — the trips they take, the conversations they overhear, and (yes) the food they eat. The first days of school, the last days of lives.

I learn new things about people I haven’t seen in decades. My old friend Helen likes bugs. Who knew?

I like the flip-side, too. I enjoy sharing what happens in my life, too. When I see something interesting, beautiful or just silly — the first monarch butterflies of the season or my cat bathing my reluctant dog — I’ll think, “I can’t wait to post that on Instagram and Facebook.”

Because I know that somebody will be interested. And that makes me feel connected. I think that connection is real. But it’s a different kind of connection than those I might make in the offline world.

Planet Facebook

Every day I’m on Facebook or Twitter, I take in all kinds of information, but then I move on. It’s a kind of conversation. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes the things I read are important, sometimes they aren’t. All of it passes by, like a river that I dip into on occasion.

But it rarely occurs to me to tell my NFP about it. It’s not because I don’t want to share (I usually do), but because I don’t think to pull it out of context. It exists on the Internet as if it’s on a whole different planet.

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It’s like I go somewhere every day and talk to people. I look at their photos, hear about their families, their friends, their meals — whatever is on their minds, big and small. They aren’t always things they’d say in a real-world conversation. But in the context of a social network, it makes perfect sense.

It’s all the stuff you might do at a big party, except that at this party you can drift in and out of the room at will. You can be invisible or fully present. You can walk away when you don’t like the conversation, weigh in when you do. You can pay attention to some, ignore others, make polite chitchat, or launch into full-scale rants. It’s whatever you want it to be.

So how exactly do I convey all of that to my NFP? When he asks me why I didn’t tell him about some friends getting married or some other event, I think, because it just doesn’t translate.

Join the party

Occasionally I’ll remind him that anyone is welcome to join and once again make an offer to help him get online. But as he points out, he knows how to get on. He just doesn’t want to.

On some level, I do see his point. It can be a pretty big waste of time. Some days I’m catching up on the latest news, memes, and stories, then I look up and realize, hey, where did the last 20 minutes (or more) of my life go? I know I can look like a zombie — especially when he sees me sitting on the couch staring into my phone for hours at a time.

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(Photo: Thinkstock)

But still I sometimes wish that he was at the party with me.

So from time to time, I’ll email him (and other non-Facebook friends — NFFs?) an especially cute cat video or cartoon. They’re missives from Planet Facebook saying, “Hey, look, it’s friendly in here. Come join the party.”

As I write this story, I’m thinking, “I can’t wait until it goes live — so I can share it with my friends.”

Of course, I’ll share it with my partner, too. I’ll probably send him a link and ask him to read it. And maybe that’s better than on Facebook. Because on Facebook there is no Dislike button. Only Likes.