Friday, December 5, 2014

More living. Less image-crafting.

I don’t often reference the specifics of my personal life, but last night, my friend Molly gave a very inspiring and thought-provoking speech at a Christmas dinner for her church.

Molly I have known each other for a while, through the running community, but it wasn’t until this past spring, when she and I realized that we shared a common interest in the impact of social media on both our individual lives and on our generation as a whole, that she and I truly became friends. We met for the first time outside of Breakaway at the Slider Inn on a Wednesday night – dinner and beer and exclamations of insight as we talked our way through the psychology of online sharing. Many, many Wednesdays followed.

Over time, our topics of conversation expanded, and as they did, Molly cut herself off from Facebook while I…well, I did what I always do…I stayed away until there was someone on Facebook I wanted to know more about, and then I slipped into a coma of thoughtless logging in “just to check.” I went back to my old routine of trying to figure out patterns of behavior based on friend placement, and I experienced the utterly superficial and (determined by my own expertise!) unfounded emotional swings that came with each movement in the rankings.

In other words, I fell off the wagon, and what started as a harmless exercise in research turned into a soul-deadening cycle of scrolling through my newsfeed at least once a day, which I swear wasn’t what I logged in to do, but now that I was here I might as well, and oh God, look at those comments and those "like" numbers, holy hell, fifty-seven "likes" for a picture of a dinner someone cooked for her husband?  (Where's my affirmation for the dinner I had to cook for myself?)

Part of what Molly talked about last night was the danger of comparison – how her own relentless checking in on what her friends were up to led her to lose perspective on the wonderful and full life that she leads. As she was speaking, I gently chastised myself for falling back into a trap I’d fallen into so many times before, but I also praised myself for being slightly above it all. After all, I’d long ago stopped bestowing “likes” on anything other than outstanding and truly noteworthy Facebook posts (I give out maybe two "likes" a month…if that). I respond to comments on my own wall, but never comment on others’ posts, and never go the Facebook route to reach out to someone if I can instead call, text, e-mail, or meet in person.

So yes, I may have allowed myself to be more sucked in than I wanted, but it wasn't out of control. If I started going through my newsfeed and felt a creeping nausea, I stopped and logged out. If I found myself logging in for no other reason than boredom, I stood up and walked away from my computer for a while (even at work!).

And then today, while on (wait for it…) Facebook, I clicked on a link posted by a friend (in using the word “friend” here, let me clarify that I went to college with her and I don't recall speaking to her during the four years we shared a campus together, but through the magic of the newsfeed algorithm, her life has been highlighted for me over and over, with her appearing more frequently in my feed than most of my closest friends [why is that?], such that I was a silent bystander through her entire courtship with her now-husband and am currently witnessing the final stages of her pregnancy – THIS IS SOMEONE I’VE NEVER SPOKEN TO) about the idiocy of all of us clicking “like.”  Why, the author argued, do we bother with “like,” except other people “like,” so we think we should “like,” and next thing you know, fifty-seven of us have wasted time congratulating a human adult person for the miraculous act of cooking a fucking meal.

Again, I felt the swell of self-righteousness. I am not like that, I thought. I rebel against the “like”!

As I kept reading, I ran across another link, this time to the Twitter feed of the guy who coined the term “humble brag.”  And so I opened that up in a new tab, expecting that my sense of superiority was going to blow the top of my head off (despite knowing, as I thought this, that this was not a good thing to think, because no one is superior to anyone else, and I genuinely don’t believe that…it’s just that I sometimes genuinely do believe that people should think more like me, natch), but as I continued to scroll down, I had this horrible realization, the cold, creeping sensation of self-discovery that only occurs when confronted with a truth about oneself so awful that there is no way to deny it:  I am a humble bragger.

Not on Facebook (Christ, at least I haven’t sunk that low), but here. On this blog. I do it all the damn time. Oh, look at me, I’m so sad that my name was mentioned during a podcast. Wait, what’s that? I have a quadrillion Google Plus views? Hey, check out this grainy picture of me that was sent to 10,000 Audubon members. No, for real, I don’t care about any of that…but while I’ve got your attention, let me talk to you again about how I published a book at 28, and ran three marathons in three years, and have a great job that I’m always really nebulous about but if you cared you could just look me up on LinkedIn (LinkedIn is the ultimate in humble brag platforms; the amount of shit that is spewed on LinkedIn…).

So, look at that, maybe not quite so "above it all" as I thought.

I probably do this because subconsciously I’m trying compensate for what I’m seeing elsewhere on the internet. I may not actively participate in the Facebook game of one-upmanship, but that doesn’t mean I’m not affected by it. I could even argue it’s a form of meta-humble braggedness to humble brag someplace other than Facebook (or Twitter). Like on this blog: look at me; I’m just over here on this website I created myself, where it’s all about me, and I’m sorry that you’re stuck having to log in and have other people log in before they can read about how awesome you are. (Suckers!)

And maybe it's even a form of humble bragging to sit here and expect you to read about how I had this really deep moment of introspection today and wow, look at how my first reaction was to share it with a bunch of people whom I mostly don't know. (While you're here, go ahead and check out the counter at the bottom - half a million and counting, baby!  #nothumblebrag)

But you know something else Molly touched on last night? Being kinder to ourselves. And it's entirely possible that the only reason anyone humble brags to begin with is that we're just looking for a little affirmation, and because we don't always get that from other people, sometimes we go overboard in trying to "prove" to ourselves that we're important. That our lives matter. That we're doing okay.

I started off this year with an entry that ended: "More living. Less image-crafting." I lost that somewhere along the way. I will aim to be more conscious of it moving forward.

But that's the beauty of real life, right? As opposed to the internet version? In the real world, life is always moving, always changing, and we're moving and changing along with it, which is how it is that the same person who wrote those words nearly a year ago is me right now, but also not me right now because that was a year ago and I already forgot.

I am okay (and not because of my blog views). And allow me to end this by turning the attention away from myself, and saying that I hope that no matter what I may (or may not) see about you on Facebook, all of you are okay as well.



  1. Love this blog post Becky!! And so grateful we became friends!!

    1. Thank you, Molly!! And likewise!! :) :) :)

  2. hmmm interesting, i had some thoughts like these lately. the ones on how i come over on facebook and how i react to other peoples lifes ... that are/seem to be so much better than mine or not, what is real on the internet and what is not? and while i am at it, i am deleting the older posts and likes and all that as to vanish who i was... or maybe still am?


    sending hugs and tons of love
    have a great festive season and a blessed new year

    P.S. I just opened a linkedIN account ;) might go out to find you harharhar evil laugh

    1. Haha! Feel free to find me if you want, although I'll warn you it's a pretty narrow representation of me. ;)

      Yes, this whole game of putting on a show for the internet is bizarre, and ultimately detrimental (I think) in that it does a lot of damage to our egos - both because we feel envious of other people and because we hype and celebrate the wrong (and mundane) things in our own lives as we try to make ourselves seem more important. No wonder our generation is so depressed! :)

      And thank you!!! Many, many hugs to you, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and the best 2015 you could possibly hope for. :)

  3. Keep up the blogging and the writing, it's a good read. You're not as complicated as you try and make yourself seem :P

    It won't get as many views as your Fb discussions .. which doesn't mean it's not interesting

    Best wishes, Mark (uk)

    1. Thank you for reading, Mark. :) Happy holidays!!