Mike And Carol Weigh In
Yes, it is supposed to be about all that. But it's also about connecting with other people.
When I started this blog, I was a stay at home Mom who lived in the Suburbs 900 miles away from my home and family. I was (and still am) a liberal and an atheist in a predominantly conservative Christian culture. All of that made me feel incredibly isolated. I tried to make friends, I really did. I tried playgroups, book clubs, neighborhood coffee klatches...they all eventually became bible study. They were perfectly nice women with whom I was perfectly happy to spend an hour once a week, even if they weren't exactly the kind of women I could see myself becoming bosom pals with. But I wasn't interested in studying the bible. Or prayer chains. Or personal testimony.
I can see you rolling you eyes. But this is not another rant about the pervasiveness of religion in the South or the many, many, many issues that arise from it.
No, this post is about transparency in Social Media. There are two kinds of transparency as I see it. There is the TMI variety, which involves oversharing of intimate personal issues such as vaginal dryness or excessive flatulence. Then there is the I just want to know I'm not alone variety. I'm probably guilty of both. When I practice the former, it's usually in an attempt to be funny. I don't care how old you are, the word vagina is always amusing. Yes it is.
When I practice the latter, it's because I have experienced so many moments of crushing aloneness myself. And the internet was my savior. I first came to the internet when it was in it's infancy, and it was a marvel. People from all walks of life, both savory and unsavory, sorted into neat little groups, and largely welcoming of newbies and neophytes. All I had to do was choose. The number of choices was as staggering as it was thrilling. I tried them all on for size; Breastfeeders, Stay At Home Moms, Debaters, Book Lovers, Makeup Lovers. It was absolutely intoxicating. Until I encountered the seedy underbelly of the internet message boards; the crazies. Wow. There are some iron clad lunatics out there, and they converged in terrifying numbers on the internet, no longer sequestered by the confines of polite society. This was their playground.
But despite the crazies, I managed to make connections. And what I found was that these "cyber" relationships were sometimes more honest and genuine than face to face relationships. It's a weird dichotomy when a relationship lacks validity but feels deeply meaningful. As the internet gained a foothold in our culture and stopped being the bastion of geeks and outcasts, some of that stigma evaporated. But there still remained an element of inferiority when it came to internet relationships. They lack the one thing that we really crave...contact.
Still, I consider myself a bit of a maverick, so I scoffed in the face of convention, and pursued internet friendships with enthusiasm. Sometimes that was incredibly satisfying. Other times not so much. But I took the bad with the good because, I reasoned, the same would be true of real life friendships. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. And at least on the internet, I can simply ignore people who annoy me or piss me off, and not have to worry about an awkward encounter at the super market or hair salon.
Then blogging became a thing. I was very critical. What a bunch of navel gazing self-indulgent nonsense, I thought. I started this blog to mock the navel gazing internet contingent, as you might have guessed from the title of my blog. Ironic, isn't it? But you know what? I FREAKING LOVED IT. It gave a whole new dimension to internet relationships. There was still give and take, but it was all within my control in my little corner of cyberspace. I could talk about whatever I wanted to talk about, rant about whatever I wanted to rant about, criticize whomever I wished to criticize. And the anonymity meant no repercussions in my personal life. There were no rules except my own. I had an audience. I had validation. I had a whole lot of ego stroking. But I also had the satisfaction of knowing that maybe I reached someone on some level. Maybe because of a struggle I shared, someone else out there felt less alone. That meant something to me.
Then the birth of Facebook happened. I dismissed Facebook as superficial nonsense. There was a character limit in the beginning, and I failed to see how any meaningful discourse could take place in 140 characters or less. But again, to my surprise, I grew to love it. It has changed and evolved over the years, and the character limit has gone the way of the dinosaur. Mark Zuckerberg is no dummy. Blogging as a thing lost popularity as Facebook and Twitter took possession of the internet landscape.
When I moved to Facebook, I kind of treated it like an abbreviated version of blogging. The transparency remained, I guess because old habits die hard. I share a lot. I am very transparent. One friend recently remarked that I was even more transparent that she, which I gathered to mean....really, freaking transparent.
Some people find this puzzling. Some find it off putting. Some find it just weird.
Why? Why do people put their vaginal dryness out there for everyone to see? It's not appropriate! It's private!!
There's so much MY MARRIAGE IS AWESOME, MY KIDS ARE PERFECT, YAY LIFE!! crap posted on social media and it gets a little tiresome. You start to feel you're the only one who isn't having an awesome life and you wonder what you're doing wrong. It's almost as if people are posting just to make you feel badly about the fact that you're not awesome all the time and striving to do awesome things every day, and passing all that awesomeness onto your awesome kids.
I like to keep it real. What you see on Facebook is real, maybe more real than what you see in person. In person, I can actually be quite reserved. I don't open up quickly or easily.
And the reality is, life is not always awesome. Everybody struggles. Those who aren't willing to let people see their warts, while not lying in the truest sense of the word, aren't being entirely honest either. And I hope, that when I post something about how frustrated I am by my kids, my job, whatever...someone else might see it and think...."Oh thank God. Someone else is having a not awesome life too." I hope people think that I am genuine, if occasionally a little whiny.
Social media is a way for us all to reach out and connect with other people. There's no reason to be on social media, other than that. Personally speaking, I would like that connection to be real and meaningful and I can only do that by being real myself. It's okay to talk about vaginal dryness. It's okay to admit your kids are driving you crazy. Its okay to admit you're down, dissatisfied, unfulfilled, stressed out and pissed off.
It sure beats the MY LIFE IS AWESOME ALL THE TIME show. Didn't we get our fill of that from the Brady Bunch?
Heh. Wouldn't you love to know what Mike and Carol would make of social media? I'm sure they would find a life lesson there somewhere. Maybe, like their advice to Jan, it would simply be....