I see you there. You know who you are. The ones who scroll Facebook but never post anything themselves.
When my wife and I announced we were dating on social media, I think the Internet broke. It’s very encouraging to have the support and love of your friends and family. I think the posts clocked up 700+ likes in a matter of hours.
I remember thinking, wow, people are really cool. I also remember thinking, wait, I haven’t seen about 50 of these people post anything in a while.
A similar reaction when we got engaged, what a happy day that was. And put up our wedding photos. Our first married Christmas photo. And then when we announced our pregnancy. All a similar response.
And then when our child was born, how great was that. And when she was one month old. And two. And three. And omigosh what a cute baby photo. Or a super cute or cool photo of my dog. And…
Hang on a second, there they are again. And again. Within minutes. Sometimes within seconds. I thought these people never used Facebook? And on that person’s baby photos. And on that public page. And boy oh boy on that news.com.au article. And on that meme about the cow and how relatable it is to sisterhood and/or Bitcoin investing.
You know who you are. The ones who scroll Facebook but never post anything themselves.
And I remember how lightning quick some people responded, not just to a few of these, but all of these, and it’s really encouraging. And I thought, oh well, I guess the algorithm just isn’t showing me posts from these people. Usually the people you interact with more get preferred in your News Feed and Stories and all that. Must have been a while. No dramas.
But no, opening their profiles, and no posts other than reshares for over a year. No tagged photos in 3 years. No business ventures, no cool holidays, no movie reviews, a lot of not much at all.
And maybe I’m just on a custom privacy list for a bunch of people, it makes sense.
But it’s like, maybe a few hundred people. At least. People who say they don’t really use social media, but seem to be actively scrolling Facebook but never post anything of their own.
But they used to. Many people did. The feeds used to be filled with these same people recommending restaurants, watching movies, spending time with friends, loving life.
And now, not for everyone, but a lot more people seem to be actively scrolling and liking stuff, but not really commenting or messaging, going to or sharing events, or really doing anything that they used to do.
Usually when I write a blog post I like to make sure I’ve done a lot of reading on a topic. Usually I’ll share things that have really helped me on a topic like relationships or something that I’ve checked a diverse group of opinions and research sets on.
But on this one, I’m stumped. And to be honest, while I’ve loved all the support and the celebration during a lot of great things in life, it’s made me kinda sad.
I guess there’s the privacy consideration. Meta, Microsoft and Google have been in the media spotlight over the last few years regarding data mining or sharing, although that’s kinda baked into using all these services for free. But I can understand some people being more reluctant to share, although the content you view still shares a lot about yourself even without commenting or posting anything yourself #RonSwanson.
Plus I’ve posted a lot of these sorta milestone announcements at a wide variety of times throughout the day on very different days. There’s no getting around it – the non-posters are actively watching and scrolling just like the majority of other users, maybe even moreso.
And as mentioned people have different privacy lists. You can customise your audience for what you want to post. As people’s interests and lifestyles have changed over the years, the people they feel comfortable sharing certain things with might change as well. I remember a little while ago having a look through what’s publicly visible on Instagram (I don’t have an account myself), and there are definitely way more butts on Insta than on Facebook. Maybe people don’t want their beach butts on Facey as much as Insta. Maybe that’s what’s being hidden. Should be called Buttstagram when summer comes around.
But every now and again when you do see a post, the privacy is set to Friends, and not “Custom” friends.
It really does just seem that more and more people scroll Facebook but never post anything in growing numbers.
Maybe it’s a sense of not feeling like you need to share anything from your life currently. I guess that’s okay, but it’s an interesting situation to be in that you don’t want to share but you’re very actively still watching what others are doing with their lives.
There’s probably a psychologist out there who could delve into the impacts of comparison or intimidation or even just the mystique of voyeurism where people just like to watch. Shows like Big Brother definitely show there is an active interest in people watching without actively doing anything yourself.
But the picture I get in my mind is from the classic tale of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. In the story, Prince Adam is cursed and locked in an enchanted castle, with his only experience of the outside world relegated to a magic mirror that will show him anything he wants.
Granted, he gets to see anything he wants, but he’s not an active participant in the outside world. He sits locked in his chambers, only observing the world through a small pane of glass.
And it makes me wonder if this state of scrolling Facebook but never posting anything is actually more like this Prince Adam experience. Relegated to watching the world through a screen, not actively participating in life any more.
I know you don’t have to post everything you do to social media. There’s many catchups and places I go that I don’t post every movement about as well.
But when it’s been months, or even years, and not just digitally, but no one has seen your face in public, you don’t come to anything any more, and you seem to be sitting there watching the world from the outside in… I dunno, I feel for you, friend.
I wrote a while ago about a phenomenon in Japan and in the West known as celibacy syndrome, where people were preferring their romantic and sexual interactions with a screen over those with real people.
I wonder if this is a less physical but similar phenomenon occurring with friendships and community. The preference becoming to watch rather than to engage.
We all need community. We always do. I heard a great comment from Dan Paterson of Questioning Christianity at our church about a month ago regarding renowned and respected leaders who fall from grace and make devastating decisions. He observed that people who make high profile mistakes are often promoted beyond the realms of the community that would have kept them accountable and on track.
We never graduate from our need for community or interaction. I’m a passionate believer in it. Every time I see someone willingly withdraw themselves from active community participation, their biggest mistakes and most fruitless seasons are not far away. Single, dating, engaged, married, kids or no kids, to whatever age life takes us – we always need to be plugged in.
The apostle Paul compared each of us to a body part. Have you ever seen what happens to a liver or a lung that isn removed from the body? Unless it’s placed in medical storage for transplant or other purpose, eventually it dries out and dies, and at the very least, is unable to perform its primary function in any meaningful way.
And I hope, dear reader, that you’re not in this boat yourself. Watching the world without being a part of it. We need you. I need you. I’ve been so blessed by the gifts and talents of the many people I’ve been fortunate to meet, and to have your contribution diminish or disappear would be utterly tragic.
So this is a bit of a different style to normal, but this is just a call out to those who scroll Facebook but never post anything. Hope life is going well. Hope you haven’t forsaken your passions or been distracted by things that have taken you away from the person you’re meant to be. Hope you’re living and loving your life, and if you’re not, I hope you remember who are and find the community you desire.
And if nothing changes, I’ll see you in the React section and will be sending you my thoughts.