I check through Facebook every once in a while to see what is going on with everyone else’s life. I smile as I see the photos of friends’ babies growing into toddlers, and toddlers growing into preschoolers. I see first day of school photos. I see new ultrasound photos, wedding announcements, and honeymoon selfies. I look through the changing lives of those who I knew for a blink, those who I feel like I have known for a lifetime, and those who I know will be riding the train of life with me. Facebook gives you a place to store everyone you ever met. Whether you continue to be a part of their journeys or they a part of yours, Facebook forever stores a catalog of everyone you ever wanted to be friends with, so you can continue to see their lives change, and they can see you grow.
Facebook is all but an image though. It should be a place to post the big news, the good news, the semi-personal but not too personal parts of your life and the happiest moments. It can be a place to post your moment of grief, but never a place to continually post what looks like the slipper slope down to your demise. The era of an overuse of social media, has removed us from the world of existing. So often we hear about those who forget what life is all about and instead live on the interspace, through a looking glass, wondering why their life is not as great as all the lives of those they see on social media. It is all a facade though, the life you desire to live, that seems so far out of reach. It is not the reality of what everyday life is. However, too often, the realities of that don’t come through the clout of idealized perfection, because nobody posts about the parking tickets, bad hair days, and bandaged hearts. At least not anyone over the age of 25.
This past year, I tread the line between living too far from social media existence to be considered “in with technology” and the extreme other side of social media addicted. Entering into this year, I was just not interested in anything that had to do with social media. Since the departure of Herma in 2012 for her 2 year excursion over seas, I found myself slightly cut off from the social media world. I chose not to exist online, leaving my Facebook to wither away into oblivion, 2013 only having one update the whole year. Herma leaving didn’t mean I didn’t exist off the web though. For I found myself living life, the way I felt it should be lived, with vibrant color, smile lines, adventure, and a high that is unreachable by drugs. To say that there were no sad days is to lie. I had my downers, my depressed moments of despair. My wonderment if I would ever dig myself out of this hole of sadness. Those days and weeks were short lived, and eventually forgotten as my serotonin levels bounced back up and I continued to live in the “now”.
I had a co-worker ask at one point if I existed online. If I had a facebook, a twitter, a instagram of some sort? I didn’t really answer, and maybe they thought their question answered when I asked the innocent question of what is “snap chat”?
I do exist online though, and have a footprint somewhere, I just didn’t care to keep it up. At least not for over a year. At least not until recently, when Herma returned. When Herma returned to US soil, so did her online existence. It’s funny to say, but I feel like Herma’s return meant I had to be dragged out of the stone age and return to social media too. At least I needed to do it so I could keep up with her life, because sometimes I feel like God made Herma to keep me on my toes, keep air in my lungs, and keep me from waiting in line for the elevator to Hell.
So Herma came home, and I came back to the age of technology. Downloaded Facebook to my mobile device and suddenly became an addict. For four long months, it felt like I was on Facebook 24/7. And maybe I really was. I can barely remember what happened between Spring and Summer. It was all a blur. It wasn’t that I lived on the internet, posting my every movement, meal and moment. For if I had, figuring out what happened during those blurred months would be easy. Instead I got sucked in. I got sucked into the underbelly of facebook. The somewhere dreary, unregulated, “if I were a teenager I’d commit suicide” part of facebook. On the surface, Facebook plays innocent, a place to post your photos, life updates, “Like” all your interests, follow tv shows, and celebrities. However, Facebook has something called “groups”, where people of the same interests can join, post, and rally over topics. I think groups were once upon a time created so that people could post social events and gatherings, bond over similar interests. Now I feel like groups are for cliques. Sadly, I joined more than one, and with it, entered a world of depressing middle school behavior. Except this world doesn’t just exist for teenagers with angst and Queen Bees, this world exists amongst grown women, who have nothing better to do.
You ever wonder what happened to that “Mean Girl” from high school? Ever wondered if she grew up and continued to be the same girl everyone hated but nobody dared say to her face? She probably grew up, aged, and started a family, but she never grew out of the Ugly Souled Duckling that you internally hated. Instead she is probably lonely, miserable on the inside, raising tyrant children, and without friends who can relate to her in the real world, so she has found a place to dominate, Facebook. She probably exists amongst of cult of Ulta loving stay at home mom’s who troll the internet for posts they find “unworthy” and making fun of them. Maybe they were outed as being the mean girl, maybe they think they rule the world, and maybe their souls really are pits of black tar. I was invited into a “Secret Group” by an internet friend who I bonded with when we “ran into each other” on the interweb. Needless to say, after being invited into this group by her, I no longer wanted to be her friend.
Secret Groups, oh Facebook and your Secret Groups. I don’t know what you initially intended the purpose of these “Secret Groups” to be, but I can tell you, the only secret these groups bare, are the secret that mean girls exist into adulthood. I entered a world where women tore each other a part. Where “screen shots” become an everyday occurrence, and belittling others opinions, questions, and beliefs were a normal thing. If Facebook Secret groups taught me anything, it is to be scared of social media. Women would screen capture a photo and comment someone posted, then repost that screen shot in the group feed, followed by a comment about how ugly the photo is, and remarks would follow such as, “Omg, what was she thinking”, “How dumb is she?”, “Wow, she actually thinks she is smart?”. Sometimes hundreds of comments would follow a post making fun of someone’s clothes, their make up, their existence. The middle school behavior of pointing and giggling has taken on a technological spin, and it will probably perpetuate the behavior of belittling others to make yourself feel better for eternity.
15 years ago, bullying was stereotyped as big kids picking on the little kids. Nobody thought twice about girls being mean to other girls. Teen Suicide was something that wasn’t talked about, and the thought that someone committed suicide because of being bullied was a taboo topic. Adults didn’t want to consider it a failure on their part for letting bad behavior fester and end a life, and the silence left adolescents on their own to figure out what was worth living for and how to exist in the wild that is middle and high school. In this millennium cyber bullying has become a widely talked about subject, bullying in general has become a hot topic that celebrities are marching to end. However, can we really put a stop to this behavior, when we can’t even control it? When the behavior is continuing into adulthood, hidden behind the masks of secret groups, and existing amongst a bunch of like minded lonely women who’s only joy in a day is getting respect from online strangers, living behind a screen who are like them, lonely and wanting to dominate?
For four straight weeks, I was glued to my phone, ipad, computer screen, following this underbellied world, standing in the shadows, unable to stop reading, as day after day, women posted photos and screen shots, followed by comments and memes, picking on the innocent bystanders on Facebook. I watched women get Catfished, I watched women turn on each other, I watched behavior I hadn’t seen occur in over a decade, unfold, in its natural habitat. I feel like I saw everyone’s “inner bitch”. One woman stood up for another, turning everyone in the group on her. Suddenly she was now the one to be made fun of, being kicked out of the group, and now fair game. Around the second or third week, I could feel myself wanting to join in on the commenting, wanting to participate in this behavior, feeling invited by the devil himself to nit pick and belittle someone. I remember typing out my first comment, about to make fun of what I felt like was someone’s lack of education. And as I skimmed and reread my comment, over and over, making sure to spell check and grammar check my 150 characters, it dawned upon me. If I am taking 10 minutes to proof read 150 characters, because I want my mean comment to not become the next subject of ridicule, maybe this is not something I should be doing.
The poison of dominating behavior existed right there in front of me, and for four weeks, I lost my humanity as I delved into this world, obsessed with reading it, wondering and festering in self doubt, questioning if there was a group out there making fun of me. Flashing back to the days of 7th grade, wondering if I was suddenly the brunt of someone else’s memes. I almost participated in this behavior, and then I remembered being that scrawny 12 year old, being picked on by Jenny Jones, who thought I was “weird and built like a boy”. I remember wanting to cry on the asphalt as I walked past the lockers in the Gym and heard Jenny make jokes about how I was never going to grow out of my ugly duckling days.
As I was about to click send, to start my participation in this poisonous behavior, that flashback, those feelings, hit me like a brick and pushed me to delete my comment and my existence in that group. I didn’t want to be Jenny Jones, I didn’t want to be the exact thing that made me consider suicide as an adolescent. I didn’t want to be a lonely “mean girl”.
Clicking through groups, scrolling through my news feed, reflecting on my weeks past, it hit me like a brick, I had lost myself in my facebook feed. My facebook feed used to be comprised of Friends updates, photos, reposts from the news, funny moments, and flashback Thursdays. Suddenly, my feed was overtaken with posts from negative nancy groups, updates about stupid things, hatred, and negative energy. There was a group in which all I saw was literally “one ups”. People were posting their closets, their cars, their houses, their new shoes, their new purchases and acquisitions. I had entered the dark side of Facebook. I had entered a world where the same 100 women festered. All lonely stay at homes, who started in the group as a way to find people with similar interest. They now were plastered every where. We may have shared the same interests, but I didn’t want to share in the same negative behavior. I questioned, with some of these groups having thousands of members, if this was a representation of the majority of the world. Then as I saw the same names pop up over and over it dawned upon me that the majority of the instigators were all the same people. The same queen bees, ruled every page. And 100 negatives, didn’t and shouldn’t represent the over 440 million people of this country.
So I cleaned up my news feed, I removed myself from all these interest groups, I hit myself over the head with a brick and returned to reality. I turned my phone off, and went to game night at a friends house. I had a pizza party with friends the following night, and I forgot all about the negative behavior I festered in for those few weeks, and found myself caught up in the now of life, in the living moment, growing and changing, excited for the days ahead. I logged back in after a week or two and found myself at ease, looking at friends pics, seeing myself tagged in one event, in another friend’s selfie, and invited to two parties the following weekend.
One phrase that stood out, that I have never seen again since I logged myself off the pool of negative, was “Im sorry, Not Sorry”. A phrase which means, “If I were speaking to your face, I wouldn’t be mean, but since I am hiding behind a screen, I am going to type right here”. That phrase to me is everything that is wrong with social media and online personas wrapped up in a neat package. It kind of feels like that phrase is where humanity would end. When we no longer are conscious of our actions, behaviors or those around us and act without mercy, grace or any poise.
I had truly lost myself for those few weeks. I had questioned my existence, my self worth, my value. I had questioned if I had accomplished anything with my life, and if I was important. For those few weeks where I surrounded myself with negative, throwing myself in this world where I was drawn in by dominating behavior, I had lost my humanity as I tread on the side of what felt like evil; judging another solely because they were put on the chopping block. After removing myself from the groups, removing myself from the negative, and reflecting back, I can see how this behavior surrounded those who were lonely, those who never grew up and how it can draw you in, removing you from the life you live. I spent hours everyday reading. I watched women spend hours back to back nit picking and posting. It makes you wonder what life could turn into, if we all removed ourselves from human interaction. If we relied solely on internet communication.
It is not a world I want to return to, and I fear, it could so easily be the world I would exist in if it weren’t for my friends, and my career, and my life that I currently live. One day I can see myself being at home with my children. One day, I can see myself not filling my day 24/7 with social gatherings and career pursuits. One day, I fear myself falling into the trap of finding people to relate to on the internet as my way of socializing. And then I remember, I don’t have to fear that kind of behavior or daunting future. I don’t have to worry. I have friends, I have church, and I have my personality. I am a go getter, I am a social butterfly, and I live in a metropolitan area filled with like minded gatherings.
Facebook sometimes feels like it leaves the mind to fear all the unfinished, unaccomplished, unposted. It makes you compare yourselves to your counterparts, it makes you want to have that life you see on your newsfeed. It shouldn’t, but it does. At least for me, I sometimes fall into wishful thinking, wonderment, and dreams of when my day will come to make those announcements. But then I remember, I have amazing posts, amazing adventures, and an amazing life that I am living, that doesn’t require my constant posting, that gives me little time to upload a video of. Living in now, living for today, removes the need to wonder about tomorrow. I am grateful for what I have, and even more grateful for what I don’t have, because at the end of the day, there is nothing I “need”, just lots of materialistic “wants”, and that is a great thing, when it comes to living life.
I hope to never see the phrase “I’m Sorry, Not Sorry”, ever again. For it only existed in the negative spaces of the social media shadows, and that “mean girl” behavior is something I would like to leave behind in high school, because Miss Carter was right when she said, “Your greatest years are not in these walls, but ahead of you”. I have had many great years, and have many more to come, because greatness will always be ahead, even if its not posted on Facebook.