It's been three months since I jumped into the world of social media, and I have to say, I'm coming to understand it in a way that's making it surprisingly enjoyable.
Just kidding. It's all still totally absurd and anxiety-producing, and it has me worried about the survival of mankind as a whole. But it hasn't been all bad. Here's what I've learned.
Image: Tash Laphard via Flickr
1. I had no idea how much I missed a couple of people from my past until I re-connected with them.
2. I'd forgotten how much some people irritate the shit out of me until I re-connected with them. (I'm not talking about you. Never you.)
3. The most delicious of all the features across all platforms: you can be friends with someone without following them. Just because you're my friend doesn't mean I want to see or hear a single thing you do or say. Which, let's face it, would be a pretty cool feature in real life, too.
How many of you would gladly pay a nominal fee for some way to mute some of the jerkoffs in your life while still keeping up appearances as if you gave a shit? *me raising my hand*
4. It's really nice to have a community of writers who support and promote one another. I know some of it is self-serving, but I've been surprised by some of the genuine exchanges that I've had with other writers.
5. I've never been more convinced that Facebook messes with the natural evolution that's supposed to happen in your life. Sometimes people are taken out of your life for a reason -- it can be a beautiful gift, and social media ensures that we return that shit to sender. No more survival of the fittest.
Now every last slobbering, sweaty, unfit remnant of your entire life survives and posts pictures of its survival for you to enjoy.
6. All the Facebook-inspired remembering has made me nostalgic for the younger me in the most romanticized and saccharine ways. The other day I saw a picture of someone that reminded me of my 19th birthday party, of driving down a dark, country road in a perfectly skin-tight dress: spaghetti straps falling off my shoulders, a best friend in the driver's seat, windows down, music up, Big Gulp full of booze, and the most wonderful freedom blowing through the car along with all that dense July air.
See what I mean? Nostalgia (like a Facebook page) can be a slippery thing because even if it doesn't distort the image, it gets the cropping all wrong.
It's true that I felt a kind of freedom that night that you can only feel when you're young, but it's also true that what's missing from the frame are all of the other nights that were fraught with the kind of fear and pain that you can only feel when you're young.
Images and memories are malleable depending on their context, and I have to keep reminding myself of that while on social media.
7. I crave clean, closed systems of measuring my worth, and that's what makes this whole circus so dangerous for me. It makes me believe that I can quantify the unquantifiable. I can determine my worth (and that of my writing) with a mathematical calculation:
Number of likes + number of comments / number of people reached — number of unlikes X the square root of CRAZY.
That is my worth—is my writing's worth—is my sum total.
8. But here's what the math misses:
- A private message that says, "Thank you for sharing yourself with the world in such a vulnerable way."
- The fear that I tell to shut the hell up before clicking "publish."
- Someone taking the time to promote me without expecting anything in return.
- All the things that I figure out about myself in the course of writing a blog post and then sending out into the world to do whatever it is that it's supposed to do.
9. While the internet as a whole has been shortening my attention span for quite some time, Facebook and Twitter have made it considerably worse. There's something different about having it all streamlined into one feed, knowing that you're just one flick of the thumb away from the next thing you need to see.
Knowing that if you don't skim the article on how one woman reaches her autistic son with music, then you might have to live the rest of your life without ever having read "7 Gifts to Give Your Vagina For the Holidays."
10. If I never a hear another word about the elf on the goddamn shelf again -- good or bad -- I will be just fine with that.
11. I will never change my profile picture to "show solidarity" for the tragic event of the moment. I'm too good at convincing myself that I've done something when I haven't. Too excited to show people all around me how much I care, even and especially when the care is genuine.
Didja see me just now click the thing and do all the caring? We tell ourselves self-soothing stories all the time in small, insidious ways, often without realizing it.
Someone on Facebook said that like any gesture -- waving at someone from across the street, shaking someone's hand -- changing one's profile picture is not intended to replace the real work that needs to be done. But the problem is that I think for many people it does just that.
I think that in the face of such enormous powerlessness, it makes total sense for us to grope around for ways to make ourselves feel better. But maybe we shouldn't feel better. Maybe we need to feel the full weight of our terror without the comfort of making a gesture.
I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone who changed their picture skipped off afterward thinking she'd just fixed the world, or that she wasn't truly horrified by the evil all around us.
What I am suggesting is that if I'm not going to do something that requires real effort (and I suppose I'm not, because I haven't), then I don't get to do something instantaneous and effortless for all of my friends to see. Sometimes a gesture is more for the person making it than for its intended recipient.
12. There is some really goddamn beautiful writing out there that I would have missed without social media.
13. Beginnings are always scary and will likely never kill me.
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