Sometimes one has to take a step back to see things more closely. Social media is fraught with problems – it’s pervasive, it can be a competition, and it is full of misunderstandings. It has become a constant in our worlds and while it can bring people closer, it can also drive them further away. We have all been in rooms when multiple people “together” have been on social media simultaneously. One has physical company but is not present with those who are actually there. I certainly share blame with this one.
I have a twisted sense of humor. It’s very sarcastic, edgy, sometimes juvenile and often time-sensitive. There are times when not even my husband, who is quite arguably one of the people who knows me best gets me. I laugh as I explain my point. Sometimes he still doesn’t get it. Others do. I’m ok with that. Not everybody finds every joke funny. As a result, I can sometimes (often?) ruffle feathers.
Facebookers are comprised of three types – the Frequent Fliers, the Lurkers and the Instigators. Frequent fliers are those who are active on Facebook – posting, liking, commenting and sharing. These are my favorites. They use the tool as it was meant to be used – to be social. I know people from all walks of life in this camp. Quite often, they are people who I used to see more often and no longer do because of geography. Yet, I am able to stay connected with them. Other times it can be someone who I met briefly but through social media have developed a friendship.
Lurkers are those who are on Facebook in a “tan trench coat.” The Lurker is like a voyeur peeking into his neighbor’s window. He doesn’t post. He simply browses. Lurkers don’t like anything or comment. However, most importantly, lurkers aren’t causing any harm. It’s like being in a mall. People are all around you. You don’t perceive any actual privacy. Some Lurkers you would like to see more engagement from because of the non-virtual relationship you have outside of facebook. But one doesn’t ascribe bad intent when they don’t.
The third category, and by far, the most annoying, is the Instigator. The Instigator only engages with you to cause a raucous. You cured cancer? They have nothing to say. Your child won a gold medal at the Olympics? Nothing. You go on a fabulous trip? Nothing. But say anything at all that ruffles their feathers and they will shit all over your post like a flock of seagulls on Revere Beach. It is these people for whom I have disdain. The ones who don’t really want to be a part of my life unless it is to bust my balls. They exist on my friend list only want to create problems. I am fifty. I have plenty of friends and family who I don’t often have the luxury of seeing. I don’t need to have someone who takes part in my life in no other times, only appear to be contrary. Mind you, this is different from someone who is an active part of my page. Then there is both a good chance for discussion and also the absence of a witch hunt.
Flashback to the 2016 elections, what started out as funny with Drumpf running took a dark turn that has only gotten darker. Many of us chose to be vocal during that time. We used our voices to try to get the word out. We now find ourselves in unchartered territory. Things have gotten notably worse post-election. A wedge has been driven between right and left that has created a ravine which I don’t know is irreparable. Since the election, I have continued to use my voice, sometimes humorous, sometimes blatantly and unapologetically raw to call things out. I have shone a light on things I see as injustices, not to the masses, but to the underdogs. I do that because of who I am. I am a gay man, a first generation Italian-American. I have an immigrant husband (He’s Irish and he’s a doctor. So he’s not in the “traditional” group of immigrants the far right gets upset about. He is still however, an immigrant). I have two daughters who became part of our lives through adoption. One of my children is bi-racial the other has learning differences. I have been bullied. I have been lonely. My self-esteem is not fully intact. I struggle with weight. I am a late-in-life athlete who battles to continually improve myself. I often feel like I am throwing water into the tide.
Early 2018, I shed a few thousand pounds. No, I wasn’t a surprise shut-in. I just got rid of a number of these Instigator types. Some I unfriended. Others I just block. Many of these people were ones that fell into this category over political issues. Big things would happen in my life and time and again, there would be no “like”, no comment. Yet, I would say anything political or anti-gun and they would be first in line to use my page as their stage. I am not saying that I need everyone I am connected with to mark my every accomplishment. But if the only thing you are going to do on my page is shit on my posts that you disagree with, I don’t need you in my virtual life. I probably don’t need you in my actual life either. We can talk. You can have your opinion and I can have mine. You can post things that I disagree with and I can let them go, and vice-versa. However, the same way I wouldn’t put a sign for my candidate in your front yard, courtesy would have that you do not ram yours into my lawn either.
I use humor as a way to nourish my soul, to cope with the world. I use social media as a way to stay connected with the people I want to have in my life and, me in theirs. This isn’t to say that I don’t overstep boundaries at times. For one, I’m human. Secondly, with humor, particularly my type of humor, that can happen. I have apologized for things that I have said that have been out of bounds. I have also taken down posts that may be widely viewed as inappropriate. Do you know what else I have done? I have seen other people post things that I disagree with or see differently and have let it go. I have swiped past them. I have walked away from battles that I didn’t wish to engage. I have not commented on things that I may see differently. I am forever seeing people, often younger doing stupid shit. Posting pictures of piles of marijuana or glass pipes on Instagram that can be seen globally, not just by their followers. Advertising the sale of pot brownies on Facebook in states in which this is illegal. Not checking their own posts for blatantly hypocritical things that they have said before lobbing grenades at others. I choose not to engage in every battle. I have learned that not everything has to be about educating people. Don’t find something funny? Scroll on by.
I am taking a break from facebook because it is a time suck. I certainly could do better things with my time. It is however, the way I connect with so many people. Many people with whom I would not stay connected as easily, or at all, otherwise. So one of my intentions during this time, besides writing, is to go “old school.” I want to connect with people in old fashioned ways – in person, when possible, on the phone, or even near-old fashioned ways like email or text. In 2019, I continue to want more of some people and less of others. While taking a break, I will also do more housecleaning. I’m not just talking my toilets and that damn dishwasher that always seems to need loading or unloading. I’m gonna delete the deadwood. I invite anyone who reads this who may be on my friend list to do the same.
Social networking is a blessing as much as it is a curse. I hope that I can use the benefit of middle-age and having spent the better part of my life without this medium as a way to find and strike that appropriate balance. Stay tuned…