The great illusory quality - or perhaps better said the greatest of its many illusory qualities - associated with the oxymoron that is "social networking" is that while it grants each of us a portal through which we can view the lives of others, it also grants each of us the power to control what is seen through our portal. What you see is what you get? Maybe. Maybe not. We know what others want us to know and vice versa.
I was reminded again earlier this year of the dichotomy between reality and perception. And I was reminded again as well of the often inconsistent relationship between books and their covers. The longer I sat and thought about that relationship, the clearer the realization came to me that something to which I had initially reacted with surprise was in fact something to which surprise was a faux reaction. I came to accept that irrespective of one's status as "Friends" in Mr. Zuckerberg's universe, a person with whom you have had less than a handful of in-person interactions in close to thirty years is at best someone with whom you are acquainted. You are something far closer to strangers than you are friends. Your firsthand knowledge of one another is as current as faded photographs from a long-ago high school yearbook.
And in a world in which your insight into another may be limited to the photographs he or she shares and the witticisms he or she offers, the business of taking the temperature of another is a decidedly inexact science. Not only may the objects in the rear-view be closer than they appear, they may be decidedly darker and more ominous. From where we sit - an indeterminate distance away and ensconced within the warmth and protection of our day-to-day - we cannot see the whole picture.
It is a fool's errand to pretend that we can....