Among a limited number things, I’m a fan of a popular high-end urban home and fashion store through Facebook. They often post pictures of their newest window displays and note the artistic influences for their new products. The pictures interest me. They get my clicks and I read a lot of their updates. This also means that since they’re part of my news feed, that I can see when they approve their friend requests in bulk. The announcement appears once every few days: “Anthropologie is now friends with …” and is followed by 10-15 thumbnail images of random profile pictures of those that have “liked” their Facebook page.  I hardly notice these announcements of new “friendships” forged. The local women’s clothing consignment shop I frequent generates similar posts and they are part of the barrage I tend to ignore.

On Saturday, though, I happened to be bored. One of the random tiny profile images in one of nearly two hundred status updates that day caught my attention. A single face surrounded by blonde hair. She liked Anthropologie — one of the 15 or so random Americans that day.  She looked posed. Poised. Coiffed. Her profile image was neither a corporate mug shot nor a candid shot from a night out with the girls. No, this lady seemed to put on her best face in daily life and probably bleached her teeth every few months. She was something else. I was curious. I clicked.

I clicked on the “photos” tab on her profile. Ten minutes later, I am lost in album after album. It’s as if I’d broken into her house and were flipping through all of the photo albums on and under her coffee table. I don’t remember her name, and that is the least important thing of all. But I know what kinds of parties she attends and how many children she has. She’s an aging blonde socialite that lives in New York, New York. She tans. She wears designer dresses. She’s got a lot of girlfriends. Tables full of martinis. Trips to Italy where the soft sun rests down upon the creases beginning to form on the sides of her mouth and the corners of her eyes. He hair is always done. Her three-year-old has a punky haircut — long and curly, and he appears in multiple albums in collared shirts.

Her penthouse living room is huge, and it looks out over the New York cityscape. On the floor is a thick patterned rug (huge black and white truncated fleur de lis), acutely modern coffee table (no albums underneath it, ironically) and monumentally large art on the walls. Four o’clock sunlight bakes through the tall, dingy window casting hard shadows on her furniture. In the foreground is her kid grinning at the camera, tiny round teeth exposed while he displays the inside of his nostrils to the camera lens. In the middle of the floor are toys. Someone lives in this dollhouse. Someone sleeps inside this magazine ad. And it’s her.

In pictures with her husband, she looks secure. Complete. She’s got shit checked off. Other albums indicate that she must have a box or two full of real and costume jewelry. She displays a clothed sexuality that she’s bought out of Lord and Taylor, and she’s fucked two kids out of her man in a bedroom something like 14 floors above the city streets to the hum of their air conditioner.

It seems like it’s always somebody’s birthday, and she’s invited. There’s the bachelor party — she and the other socialites in short skirts and dresses displaying their treadmill-made firm legs. There are four of them standing in a tub in a nice hotel, each with one arm around around the chick next to her, and the other hand free to pull up the hem of her skirt to display one of the legs she’s worked to keep thin and maybe even lasered free of hair.

In this stranger, I see a woman who probably doesn’t leave the house without makeup. I see a woman who actually buys and wears cocktail dresses. She looks good. She’s standing next to someone else’s tie-wearing husband at a party. She’s stuffed into an upscale restaurant booth with her girlfriends all baring sets of white teeth to the flash of the camera that ignites their corner of the dimly lit bar, martini glasses and folded cloth napkins in the foreground… She’s on the balcony of a hotel that could be anywhere in the world, hair blowing over her  mouth as she smiles…  

Twenty minutes later, I feel like I’ve stolen this woman’s vulnerability, casually perused her albums, and definitely noticed her first wrinkles. I don’t know her voice. Or her laugh. But I know her smile and her living room furniture. I also have no right. But I’ve done it.

She lives on the other side of the tracks. Over the fence. In another world, for that matter. I don’t pay to get my hair done.  I’ve not had children. I’ve not been to Italy. I don’t go to parties. She doesn’t make me regret a single one of those things, either. But she lives in a Mercedes Benz ad. She breathes in the air on the rooftops on Belvedere Vodka commercials. Her existence is purchased — or rather her dollhouse is. So are her backdrops. Her social calendar. Her wardrobe. If something is on Facebook, that means it’s authentic.* It’s accessible. And therein was my fascination that allowed me to slip down the rabbit hole one click at a time.

There’s no moral to the story here. Maybe a caveat: Make sure you set your facebook photo albums (each one individually) so that only friends can see them. That’s a start. This isn’t about being fake or purchasing a kinder reality, because there is no other reality other than persistently forming wrinkles and the flush of your own shit.  Everyone is real as fuck. Even that woman nearly 900 miles away in New York, New York.  I should know nothing of her, but I was bored on a Saturday. Damn the other side of the tracks. Damn the fence. Damn the lock on your door and the curtains you draw. Facebook ruined it.

*And marketing experts are sprinting to use this very truth about social media to reach into your mind and talk to you in your best friend’s voice.