express yourself


Warning:  This post was written by a highly-sensitive individual.  If you are a human who can deal with normal amounts of confrontation (for example, your lip doesn’t quiver on the verge of tears when someone informs you that they don’t like your favorite ice cream brand) you will probably say to me, “oh pish-posh Detta…grow a pair!” after reading this.  (Though I’m not sure anyone would ever say “pish-posh” and “grow a pair” in the same sentence.)  Also, keep in mind, that I am not suggesting that you change the things you do.  I’m just sharing an observation about life.  And so onward I go, to say something I think out loud that might possibly piss someone off.  Pardon me while I go cry in the corner for a minute before I begin.

I would like to start off with a public apology for the FB post I put up earlier this week.  It was an article about soy.  Seemingly innocent, the article talked about the benefits and evils of soy-based products.  I shared it because my sister and I had been discussing soy the week before and I found it interesting.   Within a half-hour of posting, however, I found several comments about people’s opinions on soy.  Who knew there were so many.  There was your typical “LOVE THIS!” type-comment, there were comments about what the experts say on soy (i.e. the people who have read at least three more health-blogs about it) and then there was an “Oh shit, I’ve been poisoning my child” type-response.

While the discussion that this post elicited was rather tame, I still felt uncomfortable about it. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is the right “platform” to share information, especially if people were feeling critical of their own actions as a result.  I certainly didn’t want people to feel guilty or worried from it.  I eat soy.  It’s in everything and I am not about to start checking all my labels to ensure I don’t have it.  But maybe that’s the impression I gave – that I have it all together and that I start the day with spirulina and electrolyte infused ginseng shots.  I don’t.  I eat chocolate rice chex on a good day.  Most days, I skip breakfast.

(This is how boring the life I lead is – I have obsessed over an article about soy and the conversation that resulted from it for a week now.  Remind me to get a life.  Right after I finish this blog post…)

This concept of posting “information” on Facebook has been getting to me lately.  So much of our information comes in the form of blog posts from lay-people and articles that are hardly scholarly about various topics from health, religion, education, politics, etc.  Facebook likes and shares are like digital bumper stickers – the title of which says a little bit about who you are as a person and what you believe.  Except, unlike real bumper stickers, you probably know and care about the people you may be offending by these statements.

Lately I have been “hiding” people’s posts from my feed because they annoy or offend me.  These are people I care about but we just tend not to agree on everything.  And it’s ok to disagree.  But how many times a day should you have to read posts that make you feel bad about your decisions, the lunch you ate that day or your political opinions?  Once someone said they wanted “to slap all the people” who were doing a specific activity and I am a person who would have done that very thing if I had the opportunity.  This is a friend I get along great with and something they would never say if I were in a room with them in real life.  But somehow it was ok for them to say it on Facebook.  It hurt just as bad as sticks and stones.

Now don’t get me wrong, I completely believe in free speech.  But I also tend towards the ideas that people can be honest to a fault and that if you don’t have something nice to say, you shouldn’t say it at all.  So clearly I am on the opposite end of a spectrum here.  However, I think it is safe to say that most socially-balanced humans would never walk into a room full of people they know are pro-life and yell “I LOVE PLANNED PARENTHOOD!”  This would immediately put them on the defensive.  In real life, your opinion on a woman’s right to choose could very appropriately be shared with those friends within the context of a conversation.  Where social filters are used to discuss with respect.  Once you take away the face-to-face conversation and context, there is a lot less filter and a lot more F-you.

I can hear folks now, “Well you don’t have to use Facebook you know.”  I know.  I am actually not suggesting that people stop posting their opinions on Facebook.  I am just sharing an observation I have on this new idea.  That Facebook has become the soapbox for which people can stand on to state their opinions. Which can sometimes result in shaming, offending and alienating people who disagree.  Especially highly sensitive people like me.  What you stand for, who you voted for, your eating preferences, what your Saturday morning entails (mine includes sweatpants and decaf coffee…can you still call it morning when it’s almost four o’clock?) are shared through all sorts of means – photos, articles, quotes, blogs, to-do lists.  And your messages can be groomed very carefully before they are posted to show who you really are.

But we aren’t all those things really – well, maybe I’ll just speak for myself.  I am a smelly, ratty, boring person most of the time.  Only every once in a while, am I the picture perfect girl with just the right lighting.   And even then I’m tempted to photoshop out my scowling wrinkle lines.

Just ten years ago, one of my writer friends and I used to make fun of bloggers (and people on MySpace and eHarmony and this new fangled thing called “Facebook”) but now we have gone to the dark side.  Blogging right along with the others – thinking the thoughts in our heads (which are essentially just an enormously long Facebook “status update”) and hitting “publish” for all the world to see.  Writers before social media had to wait to be discovered – to be given permission to share their voice.  But the world has changed – I now put my unpublished (i.e. unapproved, unpolished) work up for all to see on a regular basis.  If you read what I write, you know what makes me tick, you know many of my biggest demons. And I tell myself that my voice is important, that it needs to be heard.

But then I remember how tiny I am in the spans of time and space and I hear a little voice whisper…nobody asked you. I kind of wonder if that voice is whispering this same message to everyone on Facebook too.

Ironically, as I write this, I am listening to the song “Human Nature” by Madonna.  She’s telling me “express yourself, don’t repress yourself.”  Though I’m not terribly good at it, I believe in being true to myself and living honestly, bravely, without apology.  Facebook has just brought in an odd, partially inauthentic context to the rulebooks of social interaction.  And it’s not going away.  We have a generation of people being raised in our world who will have no memory of a time when no one gave a rip about selfie-Sunday or the weird thought they had while brushing their teeth that morning.  Frankly, this is scary shit to me.  Makes me want to go live on a mountain with no electricity and an old milk cow that will eventually become the long winter’s dinner.

So what do I do with these thoughts?  Give up Facebook for Lent?  I think I missed that train.  I guess I fear that if I don’t say something about it, it will be too late and before I know it, I will be talking to my future children who are really just holographic computer programs.  Ok, maybe that’s a little blown out of proportion.  Maybe this new world is just like what our grandparents had to deal with when TV’s began to grace every living room in the country.  And maybe I am missing some irreplaceable wisdom that my ancestors own because they never had pipes and a hot water heater.

I just spent a little time on Facebook and I have to say, it really isn’t that bad.  There were only a handful of these posts that I am demonizing here.  Mostly it was smiling faces of babies and funny videos of dogs.  Just last night I attended an event that was made possible because of a secret group of people on Facebook who bought a bike for a friend after his was stolen a couple weeks ago.  It also connects me with family and friends all over the globe, keeping me close to those I love.  I know we made do without it in the past, but Facebook hasn’t completely ruined the human race.  Yet.

For the record, Facebook isn’t the devil.  Neither is soy.  But Tillamook is the best ice cream brand.  And if you disagree with me on that one, we can’t be friends.

© 2014 D. Willson

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