FACEBOOK FAME: Yet Another ‘Suburban Star’ is Born …

By Arden Edelcup

I list as one of my many guilty pleasures a love affair with the “Real Housewives” Reality TV series. As with many anonymous people in society, I watch with a mix of a delight and slight distaste at their egotistical sense of entitlement in their rarefied world of wealth and privilege. Ironically, I bemoan to my husband during the whole glitzy hour that I mostly dislike these mean-spirited brats. However, to be brutally honest, there is a glimmer of envy as well.

I believe that my Girls Night Out with my barely-aging middle-aged girlfriends at hip trendy suburban hot spots is just as (if not more) compelling to watch as the women sipping Skinny Girl Margaritas on Rodeo Drive.

Our witty antics and wickedly sublime comments rival those of Bethenny Frankel. On many of those occasions, we enthused jokingly that our fabulously interesting and complex lives should be broadcast for the world to savor. I toss back my flat-ironed coiff and proclaim that we should have our own Reality TV Show. For me, I have these little moments during wacky family dinners and at my store, which is located in the heart of suburbia.

Whenever there is a customer in the throws of emotional explosion, or even one that looks like she has had a few too many mid-day cocktails, I secretly giggle, and think: Where are the cameras?

Then one day, it hit me. Maybe it’s not really a joke but a sad commentary of how anonymity equals irrelevance in our thirst for fame in the Reality TV universe we now live in. Where brides meet grooms, teen moms are normalized, and our low-class trashy neighbors that mom didn’t let us play with are now glorified for all their witty foul-mouthed banter.

I had this A-ha Moment last year when my friend’s quite ordinary birthday lunch of chopped Chinese chicken salad and iced tea turned into a photo-shoot. Our patient, hard-working waiter was taking each of our iPhones to snap pics while we decided …  aghast … which ones were the cutest to post on Facebook? Admittedly, I jumped right in. While the complimentary birthday cupcake was being served, we were all distracted with scrutinizing in great detail all of the various adorable photos and then debating which of them was the most Facebook-worthy. The cupcake came and went without a thought and my birthday girl never even blew out her candle. We had more pressing issues at hand than being immersed in the actual celebration. We needed to post the proof of the delightful afternoon of fun and folly that we shared. In the interest of total honesty, I logged onto Facebook immediately after lunch to make sure that the pic was up, and I added a snappy phrase about mid-day Mojitas for my audience to appreciate.

Then it hit me …

What was the purpose of that picture? Was it that vital to my life that some barely remembered high school crush stare longingly at that photo? Did I hope to impress my friends with full-time jobs of what they are missing because they are unable to indulge in the afternoon? Or was it truly that I needed to convince myself that my daily experiences only garner meaning when ‘liked’ by others.

From that day, I began to peruse my Facebook wall with a more discerning eye. While I genuinely enjoy viewing the occasional updates by exuberant family members with their new puppies, or proud friends announcing their child’s acceptance into college, there were also those hungry for a bit of attention who inundate my Facebook wall with their daily entire social itinerary. Then of course, there are my fortunate Facebook buddies who spend their winter breaks at exotic vacation locales. With all the picture taking and posting, I wonder when they are actually relaxing.

I also began to reflect that maybe some of us should ask ourselves why we have developed an ongoing need to showcase photos of our fabulous life with fabulous friends at black tie charity events. A college friend recently divorced in her late-40s, has a compulsion with posting pics of herself in bikinis. If it is a day at the beach or backyard barbeque, every one of her 500-plus friends is privy to her yogified bikini-worthy physique. Some of my other cyber friends have developed the ego-gratifying habit of posting sexy pics of themselves at clubs and parties and add well thought-out slightly provocative captions. Just sublime enough to garner equally sexualized responses and “likes” from other men.

With all of these observations and a hard look at my own behavior as well, I have come to believe that maybe, just maybe, some of us are using Facebook to quench our own thirst for a bit of social validation.

Are we deep inside Reality Star Wannabes? Maybe we need to check our middle-aged egos at the door and admit that perhaps we may be seeking a sip of the juice of fame. Even if our audience is a few hundred friends, pseudo-friends and distant relatives.

Are we becoming so hard-wired to believe that nothing we do has any meaning if it doesn’t have admiring eyes to see it?

Toss in a pic of a celebrity sighting, and we are on fire. I recently made the decision to “unfriend” the girl with the endless array of bikini shots because it made me realize that our authentic relationship over the years disintegrated from regular phone calls to occasional texts, to becoming a passive audience member of her Reality Facebook Show.

But as they say in Hollywood: The show most go on …

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Arden Edelcup, a freelance writer, is a Mom of three “Indiana Hoosiers” and owner, with her hubby Earl Edelcup, of Ross’s in Highland Park, Illinois.

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