The Social(ly Somewhat Unreliable) Network

One of the dangers about writing anything – be it a blog, song, novel, whatever – is that someone is going to either correctly or incorrectly think you’re writing about them. Sometimes this can be a good thing, as in the case of paying someone a compliment and them reading it and being appreciative. For some reason, my experience has usually been in the not-so-good sense, where I become Salman Rushdie-lite, not necessarily fearing for my physical safety but not exactly walking down any dark alleyways by myself either.

It used to be that you had to compose something somewhat lengthy to get someone’s attention. Now, though, we have social media, which gives us the amazing ability to uplift or offend in the space of just a few words. I was literally afraid to post anything for my status on Facebook the day after the mid-term elections because I figured whatever I said would be greeted with opposition by somebody. Sometimes, in the world of social media, you just gotta lay low, my friend.

The problem with laying low, though, is that it isn’t really being honest. I had plenty of thoughts about the election, but I chose to act as if I did not. In much the same way, I contend that Facebook and Twitter (I don’t tweet yet. Maybe I should…) are breeding an entire generation of mask-wearing, socially dishonest, bold-faced liars. And I’m not just talking about keeping your opinions to yourself; I’m talking about keeping the real you to yourself.

I’ll just be honest right here and say that many times reading down my Facebook wall depresses me. The irony is that it’s the positive posts that usually tend to bring me down. There are a couple of different reasons for this. One has to do with my own hangups, in that when I’m having a really crappy day, I don’t want to read about how great your day is going. I’m rather selfish and I struggle with depression a lot (There’s a topic for later…), and there are just some days hearing about how great it’s going for everybody else is just like salt in the wound.

Really, though, I find a far more pessimistic and lowly belief working in me when I read these posts of merriment: Nobody has it that good.

I first started to come to this conclusion when I noticed half the people on my wall were running 52-mile marathons every other day. God bless you all for getting in shape, but c’mon. I know some of you, and I know you ain’t running that far all the time. You may be completing that distance, but you didn’t suddenly morph into Haile Gebrselassie overnight.

(And, for the record, I have no idea who Haile Gebrselassie is. I just Googled “world’s best long distance runner,” and a story came up about him retiring from the sport … at the age of 37. Once again, I’m in the wrong business.)

This got me started a’wondering, though: What else might people not be being exactly truthful about on ye ole Facebook (or Twitter, if thou tweetest)? And I noticed running concurrently with that question that I was posting a lot fewer status updates, mainly because I just didn’t have that many positive things to say. I mean, my friends seemed to be on the mountaintop every day, scrapbooking (Not that I want to scrapbook, but it seems to offer enjoyment to some crafty types…), saving money, getting raises, earning praise from others, and generally living out the full glory of God in every way possible every single moment of every single day.

Now, let me stop for just a moment and say I have tried to stop with the negative updates because I do sincerely believe I have a problem with a negative and destructive attitude. As the title of this blog indicates, I have a tendency to view the glass as half-empty all the time, even when it’s three-quarters full. To share my every emotional downturn with the world is not only not helping anyone else, it’s keeping me wallowing in the same mud I’m claiming to be trying to get out of. Author and speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “You are what you are and where you are because of what’s gone into your mind,” and I’m starting to believe him.

With that being said, though, whatever happened to the freedom to just be honest? It’s almost like any kind of negative comment on Facebook (or Twitter) lands you on some kind of Internet suicide watch list. As much as I hate to say it, some days just suck. And there are days when my honest status update would be “Boy, does this day suck.” And even if I think God can redeem everything sucky thing that has happened in my sucky day, the sucky fact is the sucky day still sucks.

Again, I’m not against positivity, and I’m not trying to mock anyone who always manages to see the silver lining. In all honesty, I wish I was more like you. My concern is that the people like me, who maybe don’t always remember there’s a rainbow at the end of the storm, just kind of get pushed to the side. And when people get pushed to the side, they have a tendency to try and do things to get back in with those in the in-crowd – and we lie.

I actually read a story the other day that said Facebook may actually be making teens less socially adept because they’re forsaking real interpersonal relationships for Internet status-swapping that produces false responses (Well, I paraphrased a little there, for my own intents and purposes…). If your kids stuffed a peanut butter sandwich in your VCR, your boss forgot your name for the umpteenth time, and you’ve got no money for Christmas presents this year, lemme hear it. As the great Red Green (Wow, a blog referencing Haile Gebrselassie, Zig Ziglar, and Red Green. Find that somewhere else on the Intranets!) would say, “We’re all in this together.”


One thought on “The Social(ly Somewhat Unreliable) Network

  1. “(And, for the record, I have no idea who Haile Gebrselassie is. I just Googled “world’s best long distance runner,” and a story came up about him retiring from the sport … at the age of 37. Once again, I’m in the wrong business.)”

    As I read the paragraph before this one, I thought, geez, I’d have to look up to find the name of any runner. I was kind of impressed….then you just made me laugh.

    I know what you mean though. I find I don’t post as often as I used to. I don’t know why. Many of the people I am friends with are far away from me. And for the most part, I would have no contact with them if it wasn’t for Facebook. I watched hours and hours of media coverage on the election, (made easier by my broken leg), yet didn’t make one post because I didn’t want to argue with people. I often don’t post about my mood, because it is often attributed to work and I don’t want any of my co-workers to say anything about it. It is a confusing time we live in.

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