Don’t Disperse

Facebook is, at best, a support group gone awry—at worst, it’s a middle school lunch room at a particularly vicious junior high. Loneliness is something to commiserate upon; mistakes are hashed-tagged with names of partners in crime, with “lols” and “fmls”… never remorse or—God forbid—lessons learned; sadness, anger, hate… all fed in snippets of lyrical thievery or quasi coherent thought bursts.

There is something terribly, fundamentally wrong with a subculture (albeit Facebook is hardly under the “sub” heading any longer) based on exploiting the self. Facebook is emotional porn. Someone from high school passes away, you pay condolences with a few less-than-threes and a half-hearted recollection of some meaningless interaction you had in tenth grade, posted on their posthumous wall. You never visit their grave, call their family, hug their younger sibling. You tag them in an “R.I.P.” status and go about your day working at Starbucks. A distant friend gets married, and you “like” the status change. Then you pull up the wedding photos and show your new friends, declaring that the bride used to be so much fatter, or that the groom looks like he’ll cheat. You can’t be happy for this person—why would you? You don’t know them. Reality TV with stars a little closer to home, a little less glamorous.

The affect this disconnect has on the self-esteem of its users is most devastating. More so than the way it makes us see others in an always negative light, fills us with jealousy at the happiness of someone we dislike or rage at the political affiliations of someone we hardly know, these negative perceptions are reflections upon ourselves. Whether we realize it or not, every scowl while perusing our feed is as inward as outward.

“OMG worst day of my life, I’m done that’s it no one understands!!!!!!”

Fifteen minutes later, no one has “liked” or commented or even acknowledged this expression of pain. But when you spit in a lake, I can guarantee that even the fish don’t care. Reaching out to everyone doesn’t mean that someone will inevitably reach back. Most people will be too self-consumed to even see you reach, and those that do will likely assume someone else will bear the burden of soothing your bruised ego.

Remember Kitty Genovese? What a metaphor, I know, but in essence we all consider ourselves innocent bystanders. But if we’re all innocent, we’re all just as guilty, too.

Think of it this way: if you can’t keep a promise to yourself, you probably won’t be able to keep one to someone else. And without promises, trust, and respect, you cannot have any kind of successful relationship. I mean that in the broadest sense of the word—friends, family, romance… all of these are compromised if you don’t have your own back.

R\I remember when I was young, if a bad day was had, I would call my best friend and talk to her. Maybe even cry. And I would call her home phone, try to stifle my tears when her older sister or mother answered the phone. I had to interact with human beings in order to express my pain, and to get it soothed. I weren’t throwing golf balls into the abyss and expecting holes-in-one, I was playing catch.

No wonder kids today have such terrible taste in everything. They have no idea who they are. They aren’t forced to face themselves on a daily basis like we had to. We had to muster up courage to ask boys to dance with us. We didn’t text “Prom??” to someone we’d never even really talked to. We might not have liked ourselves, but we sure as hell knew—or at least were beginning to know—ourselves. We made a lot of mistakes, sure, but how the hell else were we supposed to grow up?

Joan of Arc, in Shakespeare’s Henry V, part I, said, “Glory is like a circle in the water which never ceaseth to enlarge itself, til, by broad spanning, it disperse to naught.” Facebook catches us up in our glory, and before anyone can acknowledge it, it has dispersed. Aim your glory. Look its target in the eye—whether it is yourself, someone you love, or someone you despise—and hold that gaze until your message has been delivered. Have no expectations, only intent.

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