Thursday, June 7, 2012

It's all about me.

For almost 5 years I updated this blog every day.  I had opinions on everything from trash to soap, and couldn't wait to get to my computer to type-in a rant.  At some point, I realized that the world wasn't changing, and in fact, it was steadily growing worse, and my thoughts and ideas were more social anathema than socially acceptable.
So I shut up.

Then, along came Facebook and Twitter.  So-called Social Media sites that seem to have settled into a realm somewhere between corporate marketing and personal promotion.  Companies use it to promote television shows and products and people use it to tell us about all the grand things they do with their lives - presumably without us, or else why would they need to broadcast it to the Internet?

After all, I thought most people hated those Christmas cards with the "Yearly Update" letter that told us about Junior's baby teeth or Aunt Selma's sciatica.  What makes a daily Internet update more palatable than a once-a-year letter from an actual friend?  We're a strange bunch.

Gradually, television became a place where ordinary people became celebrities.  Programs like "Survivor" and "American Idol" thrust average Joes into the spotlight.  Although, one could wonder what was "average" about a person who would choose to go on TV and sing A Capella in front of a panel of judges.  But I digress.

There is a part of Facebook and Twitter that fulfills our need to be noticed.  It's a "hey, look at me!" aspect of our personalities that separates the Facebookers from the non-Facebookers.  People who aren't on Facebook have neither the need to be known nor the need for you to know what they do.  There is something noble in that, and I question why I participate.

In 1996, my wife and I separated (legally, of course, not literally) and she moved out.  During our sham of a marriage counseling session, I was asked what I did when she walked out.  Since my wife had moved back in with her parents, her time was spent commiserating with them and probably complaining about her horrible life.
I said, "I don't know - I was at home."  The therapist replied, "You mean, you went through this on your own?"  She was incredulous, as though not having a sounding board for my misery was a mistake of some sort.  The fact was that I didn't have any friends with whom I could share it and chose long solo bicycle rides over long agonizing conversations with strangers.

If we had Facebook in 1996, I could have been posting updates on the state of my life and expressing how my deepest fears of living alone had finally come true.  Hundreds of my Facebook friends could click "Like" next to my posts and console me with emoticons that simulated hugs or pats on my cyber back.
But we didn't, so my misery was not broadcast on the Internet.  Your loss.

Now, we have the ability to show people where we go, what we do and how we live.  It feeds our ego, which can be as basic as food and shelter.  Lately, just as I grew weary of ranting, I am questioning my need to show the Internet where I went, what I did or what I bought home with me.  It's part of the adjustment we are all making to this relatively new aspect of our lives.

I don't know what purpose it serves, other than a figurative hand in the air and "look at me" exclamation.  I'm not sure why we feel it is necessary to broadcast our daily comings and goings with people with whom we share nothing more than a broadband connection.  Corporate America has glommed onto it because it offers them a free space to promote their products. That, I get.  What I don't get is our incessant need to promote ourselves.  Maybe it's why cave men scribbled on walls?  Maybe we aren't comfortable saying things out loud because we sound boastful, but if we post them on an Internet site, it sounds more like a diary?   I'm not a psychologist and I don't think I can take a long enough bike ride to figure it out.

One thing I do know is that being uncomfortable with it makes me feel better about myself.