“It might sound crazy but it ain’t no lie…Bye bye” ~ NSYNC

So, I’ve been reading about the perils of social media for quite a while now and since I’m of a…cough cough…’older’ generation, I’ve seen its affects on people first hand and how different our society has become in the last 10 years with it. I’ve also debated whether or not to heed the warnings of the many researchers out there and am wondering WHY quitting social media is such a difficult thing to do (especially if you’re Kylie Jenner 😳).

One of my favorite books about the topic is “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now” by Jaron Lanier. In it, he talks about very compelling reasons to do this and one that stuck out to me in particular is how social media is causing us to lose our free will.

When social media first reared its head in the early 2000’s, I truly thought this would be a catalyst for bringing people together and breaking down social barriers…I was wrong. In my experience, it’s actually done the opposite: for example, people aren’t allowed to have political opinions outside of the parameters of their ‘friends’. And if you do? “I’m going to block you, you %$#$@ since you don’t think and believe what I do. If your opinion isn’t my opinion, you’re wrong.” Heh? We’ve become even more short-sighted than ever in that we have to follow THE opinions of the day and not necessarily our own. And if we do put ours out there? Get ready to lose friends, colleagues, etc. Now you tell me…how is that breaking down barriers? Isn’t that just making us all ‘sheep’ and when we’ve come to a place in our society where we feel we aren’t allowed to speak our opinion, isn’t that digression as opposed to progression? (OMG…I just read that last sentence and I sound so freaking smart! 🙄)

Then, along the lines of losing our free will, we are also being put into smaller and smaller boxes. I talk a lot about boxes in my sociology classes. I believe that we are ‘boxed’ from the first moments of our life: class boxes, gender boxes, race boxes, etc. Isn’t social media just another box? Nothing makes you feel worse about the taxes you owe than seeing ‘friends’ from high school going on their 45th cruise in 2 years. And, look at your friends list…and others. Aren’t they pretty much segregated? Yes, some whites have black friends and vice versa; however, around 75% of whites don’t have any black friends on social media and for blacks, it’s around 66% who don’t have any white friends (PPRI, 2014). I don’t think that’s ‘bringing us together’…right?

I also resonate with Lanier’s suggestion we are being followed in more ways than one, and so many other researchers (as well as ex-social media employees/engineers/creators) say the same: algorithms are put in place to make sure you stay on social media: you wait for the next squirt of dopamine regarding social media posts…you are shown what you are most likely to buy…you are shown a skewed side of politics…you are ‘fed’ what FB and others want you to eat. In other words, social media controls us…not the other way around.

And I sometimes get told I need to be in the ‘cage’ more! Ma will leave a comment about something and then ask me if I’ve read it. When I say no she asks why I haven’t yet. “Well, ma…I’m not on my phone all the time! I like to turn it off and take breaks. You know, for my sanity and all.” Or, I find out about milestones in my family on FB and wonder when we started to find it ‘normal’ to learn about these personal things in such a public arena. And if I haven’t been ‘on’ FB for a few days, I’m not in the loop and too bad for me. Hmmm. Wouldn’t the ‘loop’ be better if we actually talked?

I know we are all busy…trust me, teaching 8 classes keeps me on my toes. But since the average American spends about 2 hours a day just on social media, I can’t help but think if we weren’t on social media using this time, we’d have the opportunity to eat lunch together or shop together or get together in person.

Another interesting read is from medium.com called “How Technology is Highjacking Your Mind” by Tristan Harris. In this paper, he talks about how technology is taking over and running our lives in so many different ways; in terms of social media he says that one of the ‘hijacks’ is how we fear missing something important if we do get off of the platform. Are we going to miss a cool video? Or being in the middle of a ‘popular’ discussion? Or not getting an invite to an event? Or not getting to have even more potential friends? Hmmmm. Is this what keeps us chained? Our fear of being left out?

We are social animals and we have to be. Most animals can care for themselves very early in life and we can’t…we have to get along and interact in groups from the beginning because of one pesky need we have: to survive. And this need for belongingness has no end…everyone needs connections and after so many years of use, social media accounts have become THE connection for so many. Can we ‘live’ without it?

I know that when I’m down, posting things and getting ‘likes’ and comments gives me a sense of validation. But think about that. Validation from people having spent less than half a second touching the ‘like’ icon. Seriously? THAT’s our validation? Having a blue thumbs up? Hmmm. I’ve come a long way in a couple of years and if I haven’t learned anything else, I’ve learned this (this is going to sound very Oprah-ish): NOTHING anyone says about you means as much as what YOU say about you (I’m going to copyright this sentence 😐). So, someone from school that was too snotty to talk to me then when I was their peer suddenly ‘likes’ my pic so all is good in the world? No. It’s not. When did external validation become so sought after? So coveted?

In his article, Harris talks about Cornell professor Brian Wansink who showed how you can trick people into eating more and more soup by giving them a bottomless bowl that will stay filled regardless of how much they eat. With these, people ate 73% more calories than those that had regular bowls but underestimated this calorie count by almost 150. Isn’t social media the same? It’s our bottomless bowl of videos, quotes, pics, etc. We’ll never ever see it all…so we keep coming back for more and more. But, after our hour or so of swiping is up, what do we really have? An hour watching others live their social media lives (not necessarily real lives) while we pause our own? Hmmm.

So, I’m going to be off social media for a time and deactivate FB (while still maintaining messenger for texts). I don’t know why it’s giving me a weird feeling to do so…it’s an app! A screen. But deactivating it feels like I’m really making a sacrifice. That, if not anything else, shows me how addictive it is and how well the companies that run these social media platforms have us at their mercies.

Goodness…what will I do with those saved hours every week? Hmmmm…quilt? Make string art? Start painting again? Walk Eddie more? Run more? Read more? Be naughty more? Blog more? The possibilities are endless and if you want, please check in with this blog from time to time…I love having you here and writing is such a passion of mine. This is something I’ll never give up. 😍

Kristi xoxo

“Oh-Oh, Yes I’m the Great Pretender, Pretending that I’m Doing Well…” ~ The Platters

Photo by MockupEditor.com on Pexels.com

So, I read an excellent post yesterday on the blog Pointless Overthinking called “Is Social Media Toxic – Being Mindful” which really got me to thinking about my own use of Facebook: my fave social media platform. And here’s what I discovered: I’ve been a total hypocrite at times. Here I am yacking to my peeps about how important it is to be genuine and authentic, yet I’m not necessarily doing that on FB. What the hell?

I don’t ‘use’ Instagram because to be honest, typing in all of those hashtags is simply a chore, and Snapchat just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me (yes son, roll your eyes and call me a digital immigrant even though I gave birth to you after 16 excrutiating hours of back labor without a grandbaby in sight to make up for it 🙄). I get where you send pics and videos that you’ve jazzed up with cool editing, but they ‘disappear’ (not all together true…you can take screenshots and as such, naughty pics can be actually be saved and shared) in 10 seconds which seems like a heck of a lot of work for that incredibly short period of time. And yes, I know all about tiktok and whatsapp as well, but have never tried them. 🤓

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Anyhoot, that’s why I’m focusing on FB (that’s short for Facebook son, try to keep up) to illustrate my own hypocrisy. See, I’m not being completely genuine on FB. After all of my orating about opening up, being honest, being yourself, I realized I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. Yesterday, I downloaded all of my FB pics so I could make sure I have them myself for all posterity. As I was scrolling through them, I started laughing at my use of editing tools and how absolutely horrible some of them looked. I started out with my grunge phase where every pic looked like it was run through an incinerator, and then using frames that just were ridiculous. The biggest thing I noticed though was my use of filters so I would look as perfect as I possibly could in the pics I posted of myself.

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O didn’t need the filter, I did!  And look…no pores! 

After looking at these pics, I started wondering about my posts. So, I clicked on a bunch of them that went along with the pics, and saw I was filtering those as well. There are a few of R (Hubby 3 🙄) and I where I’m smiling broadly with him, when actually the day was pretty rotten. But like I think others do, I was just wanting to show everyone how ‘happy’ we were no matter what. I saw so many from my time with J…some on an outing just a day after getting back together following the first month he cheated on me. I guess I wanted to prove to myself and his ‘ex’ how we were meant to be; but all I can see now is a confused look in my eyes and a resigned expression on his face. I have some upbeat pics during the time of my mental breakdown…I wanted people to think old Professor K was fine like always, even though I had attempted suicide just days before. I think you get what I’m saying.

Why did I do that? Why did I think I had to pretend my life was going great all of the time? Well…because it seemed like everyone else’s life was. You see, I was still pretending my way through life and wanted to make sure everyone saw the best me. The ‘perfect’ me if you will. The me that would get a lot of likes because hey, that’s the whole point. Right? I needed that outside validation because I knew on the inside, I wasn’t accepting myself. I didn’t want too. I had worn the mask of ‘normality’ for so fucking long, I didn’t want to take it off in front of a keyboard either. In fact, that was one of the the last places where I wanted to show my true self. As long as I looked right in real life and also online, the longer I could convince myself it was true.

I see my eyes in these pictures so well now and notice the desperation in them. Wanting so bad to believe I was ‘normal’ and not face what my true self might be. I think we all do that to a degree…put what we wish was true or want our ‘friends’ to believe is true, despite the actual circumstances. When you think about it, you can’t be authentic in real life and not on social media…that’s an oxymoron for sure.

And when I put ‘friends’ in quotes (yes peeps, I know I’m not using “quotation marks” but apostrophes are easier for me to find on my keyboard 🙄) I do that for a reason. C’mon now…how many friends do you actually have? Hundreds? Really? You know hundreds of people so well that you could call them right now, from another phone because you have the number memorized (like friends usually do), tell them you’re in trouble and need them to bring a hundred bucks to you now, and they’ll drop anything they’re doing to come to your rescue. Because isn’t that a true friend? Someone who will be there for you not matter what? Someone that you know so well you could talk all about their likes, history, relationships, etc.? Nope.

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From Identity Magazine and how I look using my bifocals to read my laptop screen.

It’s almost like a contest to see who can have the most friends on FB…when in actuality, I would guess the vast majority are acquaintances and maybe not even that. I have over 1000 friends on FB (many of them students who I adore keeping up with) but in reality, I only have a couple of friends I can really talk with in my non-social media life. Literally two. Hmmmmm…I’m so often lonely, but have 1000 friends. Something just doesn’t sound right to me.

I also noticed I checked in a lot while out and about. Am I so narcissistic to think people give a flying rat’s ass where I ate dinner last night? That I’m in a new store? That I took a trip? Am I that important? So influential that the check-in will promote the business? For fuck sakes, no (sorry ma, but you know I drop the f-bomb just for you).

After the breakdown when I had to face the mental illness I battled all of my life, I started talking about it in dribs and drabs. I needed too for a couple of reasons. First, my masks didn’t just fall off during that time, they were stomped on as well. Second, I started allowing myself to be more genuine. More ‘me’. I was so fucking exhausted from acting all of the time, and didn’t have the energy to continue. And third? I was done being ashamed of who I was. Someone that’s always been different…always had a tough time making friends and fitting in…someone who is way way way too sensitive…someone who doesn’t always laugh and smile, but cries too. In other words, someone who is human, doing the best she can with the cards she’s been dealt.

So, once I was healed enough after the breakdown to be able to get back on FB, I discussed why I’d been absent. I was honest, more so than ever before, about having had the breakdown, what I had been dealing with, who I really was. Later, I did a Tedx Talk where I addressed being mentally ill for the first time in another very public forum. I think I did these things to make sure I had people around me who would not only understanding who I was, but hold me accountable for being real. Not fake. Then I started this blog just a couple of months ago to further yap about my bipolar life in a no holds barred way.

My point (after all of this rambling)? I need to make sure I’m consistently real on social media too. Last February, as I was spending my first Valentine’s day alone in decades (I hate this holiday…hello…be loving to your partner everyday), I scrolled through FB and read posts like “My husband just brought home 3 dozen red roses, booked us a cruise (not a good idea then, but who knew?), and bought me yet another diamond ring.” Okey dokey.  I was sitting at home in my old jammies with the hole in the arm pit, Biore strips on my blackhead infested nose, eating Reeses Pieces while bawling, and watching a Lifetime movie to make me feel better by seeing some boob being stalked by a deranged contractor. Great holiday. 😳

Unfortunately, I know a lot of ‘friends’ of mine on FB who are pretending their way through life via social media. They’re like I was: hoping that if they write it…put it out there…it’ll be true. I’m here to tell you grasshoppers, it’s not.

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No filter…I actually have pores! 

So now, when I’m having a shitty day and need some support I post “I’m having a shitty day and need some support.” It feels so freaking good! And this week, I uploaded a profile pic with no filter…there I am, wrinkles and all. But it’s me. Not a better, more attractive me. But me. And shouldn’t that be enough?

My new resolution (in writing so that I’ll have to honor it) is this: no more lying on FB, ever. If I’m sick and having diarrhea and feel a compulsive need to post, well, there you go. And no more filters (😱)…no more pretending. If I do any of these things, it means I’m not accepting myself for who I am or the life I’m actually living; and if I can’t do that, how in the hell can I expect others too? I’ve been working on this very thing for a couple of years now, and am understanding that there’s no shame in being who I am, which in my case is a thrice (never used that word before) divorced, mentally ill, 3 on a scale of 1-10 in looks, wrinkly, mom-bod (but no mom jeans…ever), imperfect woman. But now, I’m not wasting energy trying to think of posts that will make others envious. Pics that show me so freaking filtered I look 12. Lies about my life I have to remember so when I talk about my weekend to colleagues, I can keep my stories straight. I’m done with that.

And you know what? It’s actually quite liberating. 🙂

Kristi xoxo