**I want to clarify that this post is not about anyone in particular. Just a rant that's been building up. I'm certainly not trying to offend anyone or call anyone out. These are just examples off the top of my head and don't reflect anything specific**
I've really been thinking about social media lately. About how huge it's presence is in everyday life. About how it serves some good purposes and some very bad ones, too. About how it is abused. About how it brings people together. It's quite the philosophical conundrum for millineals.
Apart from this blog (that I maintain 100% for myself and don't care if one or three million people read it), I try to keep my presence on social media (like Facebook and Instagram) minimal. I do post a ridiculous amount of photos of Wilson but that's about it. The only reason I post pictures of Wilson is because the majority of my and Caleb's family are also on Facebook. Even though our family is stretched across the country, they can still watch Wilson grow. I think that's great and I'm thankful we have the tools to share Wilson with our family and friends who love him even though they have never met him. In the same fashion, whenever something exciting happens in our lives, like our new house or Caleb's graduation, I share that so our family can know what's going on with us. And I'm not going to lie, it feels good to see positive comments.
But much of what is on Facebook or Instagram is either unimportant, self absorbed, or downright mean. People say things in comments that I am sure they would never say in real life. Or the thing that drives me absolutely up the wall is the ambivalent, passive aggressive status update "rant". Why? Just why would you air your dirty laundry on a public forum?
I try not to let things like that get to me. To just write it off as other people living their lives how they want. Who am I to judge? But over the past year or so, the negativity has really gotten to me. It got really bad while I was pregnant, damn hormones. I would go on Facebook to check up on friends and family only to be flooded with status updates full of hate and bigotry. Some days I got sad and cried. Most days I got angry. So for the sake of my blood pressure, I made a rule. If anyone posted anything that was racist, sexist, homophobic, hurtful, or unnecessarily rude, they got deleted. No second thoughts about it. And it felt good. I instantly felt like my page became a more positive place, filled with fun pictures, funny stories, and life updates. What I imagine the intended purpose of social media to be.
But then, as my friends list grew smaller and my tolerance level lower, I had to decide if I was willing to possibly burn some real life bridges by hitting the unfriend button. Because up until that point, everyone I had deleted was only peripheral to me. A high school friend, a long lost cousin, a friend of my parents. People I don't see or interact with. I was ok if they were offended by my online actions. But did I really want to offend Caleb's grandmother? My aunt? My parents? Should I stick to my guns and delete their negativity or grin and bear it?
Ultimately, I chose to take the high ground and give those closest to me a pass. Because the last thing I need while trying to eliminate online negativity is to start a real life arguement.
But that's the very thing that bothers me the most. That we as a society value online interactions as much if not more than real life. Instead of calling a friend on their birthday and having a conversation, we write on their wall or post a picture of them or write a status update. Why? Because it makes us look like good friends. We publicly share our love for our friend so everyone will think, "oh, Nicole is such a great friend to post about X on her birthday!" But how does that friend feel? If we don't engage in a conversation, we never know how that friend really feels. Maybe the friend is having a bad day. Maybe the friend needs someone to talk to. Maybe our friend needs a friend. A status update is not a conversation. It is not checking in on someone. It is a selfish act aimed at not making a friends birthday special but instead meant to make the updater seem superior. It's phoney at best and hurtful at worst.
It just seems to me that social media isn't so much about being social. It's a new way to keep up with the Jones' or even continually one up the metaphorical Jones'. And I've had enough of it. As hard as I try, that one up attitude can get to me. I feel guilty for not posting a cute collage of me and my mom for Mother's Day. "If I don't, then people will think I don't love my mom, right? Will my mom be offended if I don't show the appropriate amount of public affection? Maybe I should call her then post a transcript of our conversation on Facebook. Would that satisfy the need to share?" Those thoughts sounds crazy but seriously run through my mind all the time. As someone who does not like publicly showing emotions, this gives me real anxiety. And I know it's a completely unnecessary anxiety.
I don't know what to do about it. I don't want to delete my Facebook or Instagram. I honestly enjoy keeping up with my friends and family. I like supporting my friends with a "like" on the album of cat pictures. I like congratulating my friends on their job promotion, graduation, new baby, etc. I love sharing my son with people who care for him. Social media is great in that respect and I don't want to lose it. But at the same time, the bad almost out weighs the good. I have a feeling it's only a matter of time before someone's real life feelings may be hurt by what I do (or don't do) online. And I don't need that. No one does. Social media isn't supposed to rule a life like that. I'm not about keeping up appearances. I'm about what's real.
So I don't know why I felt the need to rant on this. It's just been on my mind a lot lately. And hey, in a way, I just did the very thing I ranted about hating. But this is my space to say and do what I want.