Friends are for Facebook

There’s a photo of me on Facebook, smiling happily with three of my friends. I’m on the end. It’s a little blurry, somewhat grainy, and one of us may or may not be holding a glass of wine. It was posted on February 2, 2014. Superbowl Sunday.

Once a photo of you is up on Facebook, it’s up on Facebook. For all to see. And like. Comment. Form opinions about. Create imaginary scenarios. Jump to conclusions. It wasn’t my photo and I didn’t post it, but I am in it, clearly happy to be where I was at that moment: with my friends, laughing, having a good time… in the hot tub.

The light is glaringly bad as it reflects off the water in the early dark, our unfocused faces are all smiling too wide, and the hot-tubbly mist is swirling everywhere. It’s an unremarkable, not particularly special portrayal of four friends hanging out on a Sunday. It was an enjoyable afternoon of football and fun but nothing worth remembering happened (other than the Broncos lost), and there is little to mark that day out of the hundreds that came before or after.

Except for that photo.

I remember that unmemorable, out-of-focus photo because soon after Superbowl Sunday a lovely woman I peripherally know stopped me in passing.

“You’re Nicki, right?”


“You know, I think I’ve been seeing you on Facebook. Don’t you write a blog?”

Before I could reply, “And weren’t you just in a hot tub?”

I remember that conversation, and consequently the affronting photo, because the frantic butterfly wings of my heart took flight as I fleetingly worried she’d (wrongly) assume I led a life of happy hot-tub leisure and little more. That she’d immediately imagine a scenario of Nicki-the-Stay-at-Home-Mom doing nothing more meaningful than writing a bit of a blog, and drinking a bit of wine (not that there’s anything wrong with that) because that’s what it looked like that day, on Facebook.

I know. So what. Even if it’s true, so what.

Except it’s not true. A life of blog-writing and wine sounds definitely delightful, but is probably not true for anyone.

Scattered amongst the eye-witness videos of Iron Dome interceptions and horrific news stories of beheadings and shootings and innocent children killed, between the images of a beautiful daughter who is suddenly ill and a home damaged by a 6.1 earthquake, are apparently perfect portrayals of laughter and fun, parties and puppies, new homes, new cars, dream jobs… and we can’t help but feel the tendrils of envy and longing whisper against our skin.

Sharing on Facebook (and other social media) is how we connect. How we feel connected. Another way for us to build community, to feel part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s human nature to want and need contact with other humans, validation and support from friends. To share our happy times, our sadness, our pride, joy, love and disappointment. It’s how we feel alive. And not alone.



And sometimes it’s how we feel so alone.

“Friends are for Facebook,” my husband says when I show him glowing photographs of exotic vacation locales (and by exotic I mean anywhere else), weddings both lavish and simple, smiling families all in beautiful shades of white. He says it again when I worry out loud that an article I posted doesn’t seem to be getting much traffic, when I wish I hadn’t made that inappropriate comment on that friend’s photo, when I wonder if people remember to not only pour the bucket of ice over their heads but also to make a donation.

“Friends are for Facebook,” with a wry smile and a hint of cynicism.

He is reminding me to keep perspective. Reminding me that I don’t know what chaos and imperfection occurred before that perfect photo was taken. Reminding me that the words and comments and likes and shares presented so neatly in minimalist grays and blues on the tiny screen in my hand are created by real-life people with feelings and hopes and wishes, just like me.

Friends are for Facebook. And Facebook flattens our lives. Makes our messy, rich, complicated, euphoric, depressing, wonderful and disappointing lives shallow and one-dimensional. What you see is what you get, we think. We forget what’s behind the screen. And sometimes in our attempts to feel more connected and less alone, we feel lonelier than ever.

I scroll through my Facebook feed and see those mostly smiling faces, seemingly adorable and well-behaved children, read those oh-so-positive status updates… and remember: the custody battle that might be happening for those kids, the complicated relationship behind that golden sunset, the struggles we endure every day. Everybody is struggling.

What you can’t see in that moment of misty, happy-go-lucky togetherness in the hot tub are the swirling sadness and deep despair that surrounded me before that day. The beautifully captured moments are definitely truthful moments, but I don’t forget what’s behind them. Nobody I know leads a life of only rainbows and butterflies, hot tubs and wine.

Friends are for Facebook. But also, friends are for Life.

Mom, where are you?

Floating in the warmest water, surrounded by tiny bubbles, a sky of swirling gray peeking through a redwood canopy while raindrops steadily splash on my upturned face… in our newly-installed hot tub. At 11.15am. On a Wednesday.

We’ve wanted a hot tub in the backyard for years. There’s a corner that’s just perfect for it. Tucked up against the fence, under the giant redwood tree – the perfect alcove of peace and quiet. And steam and bubbles. And soon bunches of pre-teen boys making inappropriate jokes, and wild whooping four-year-olds spilling apple juice and eating soggy Ritz crackers…

But not yet! It’s still tranquil, serene, bliss.

I’m not sure that’s where I was supposed to be before noon on a Wednesday morning.

I’ve been a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM) for about ten years. I realize what a blessing this is, to be present and available for my kids all day. To not have to scramble for childcare when one of them is sick. They know I’ll bring the homework they left on the kitchen counter. I’m able to chaperone field-trips without rearranging my schedule, to help in the classroom and “spy” on the social dynamics of my daughter, or to see for myself if my son’s occupational therapy is really working. But it doesn’t necessarily mean a soak in the hot tub whenever I want!

I can exercise while the kids are at school, pick up the dry cleaning, take Pretzel the dachshund to the vet and myself to the dentist, prepare dinner, stock up on the boxes of frozen waffles we never seem to have enough of – all between drop-off and pick-up. My working friends often do a Target run after the kids are in bed, they have to arrange last-minute pick-ups in between meetings, grocery shopping happens on the weekend – life seems much more complicated logistically as a working parent, not to mention the emotional toll it takes.

So I don’t take the privilege of being an SAHM lightly. I am incredibly thankful for it.

But after a decade it has started to feel a little less fulfilling. Mundane. Isolating, even as I’m surrounded by dozens of little faces singing Sevivon Sof Sof at the lunchtime Chanukah concert. There is no separation between me – and me.

When I pick Jed’s friend up for preschool, and see his mom dressed in heels, a beautiful blouse and lipstick, I want to beg her to take me with to her office in the City, to her meetings, and meaningful interactions with adults (not “grown-ups”) about policies and contracts.

From my vantage point at home, if I stand on my tippy-toes and lean all the way to the side, I can just make out the tips of the Bay Bridge, leading the way into glittering San Francisco. While my working friends in the Financial District barely notice the sparkling blue of the Bay and the majestic spans of the Bridge laid out in front of them. The view is always more beautiful from the other side. I know.

As I helped my little guy brush his teeth this morning, he started whining and yelling at me (only four-year-olds can do both simultaneously producing a grating whell of a sound): something about a Spongebob toothbrush and Monsters University toothpaste, and then he started crying… and I started crying. I couldn’t remember what Monsters University was and I thought he said Angry Birds toothbrush. No separation between me and me.

The kids come home from school, hungry, cranky, bursting with stories, wanting something from someone – mostly me. I roll with it, a smile on my face and a song in my voice (the smile is a little strained and the song is Linkin Park’s A Light that Never Comes). Snack for you, 8×7=56 for you, tie your hair back for ballet, listen to your barmitzvah lesson for ten minutes, all of you wash your hands, with soap. Just enough to fit into half an hour before it’s back in the car for the rest of the afternoon.

(As an aside SAHM is a misnomer – at least the SAH part. It should be NAH – Never At Home, and also nah, as in not gonna schlep around today).

Somewhere between chairing the preschool parents committee, and serving lunch at the middle school, I seem to have lost myself. My daughter used to tell her teachers that my job was volunteering in the library at her school (actually, I wouldn’t mind working in a library). I can’t find the space between Mom Nicki, and Nicki.

So this Wednesday morning, as I walked from the car toward the house in the relentless rain, laden with boxes of frozen waffles, I glanced toward the new hot tub. Sitting quietly in its corner.


The rain gently pattered down on me and the redwood tree stretched majestically into the gray sky, the steamy mist danced mystically above the water, and the bubbles floated around me – it was magical.

I felt the whisper of a space between me, and me.