Thursday, May 2, 2013

Crafting perfect lives

One thing I hate about Facebook is the way people carefully edit their lives so everything looks amazing. I like it as a tool to connect and am forever posting articles I'd want to discuss, say, around a table. However, it's only one tool and thus only offers the kind of one-dimensionality that can come from such a limited display.

Why do people avoid deeper topics online? Maybe some just don't like having deeper conversations or have limited time, but I also think it's just plain uncomfortable to bare yourself.

The urge to hide our vulnerabilities is rooted in our biology.

I once took my parakeet to the vet because he was sick. The second I unveiled his cage for the doctor, he perked up to deliver the most robust song and dance I'd ever seen. "Huh," I said. "He really did seem sick earlier."

"Oh, birds are known for this. They're prey animals. I'm unfamiliar, and so I might be a predator," she said, "so he's on high alert, trying to show me he's too hardy to be pursued. I'd worry more, actually, if he didn't act so vibrant right now. Because that would mean he was really ill."

She examined him, gave me antibiotics, taught me how to administer them (birds hate this, btw) and sent me on my way.

Facebook encourages false vitality. I mean, it's our public face, so, yeah. We endeavor to maintain the soundest constitution before the jury of our peers but this thoughtful dedication to crafting one's online "brand" (god, I hate that word) can have an isolating effect and contribute to the useless comparisons we all draw involuntarily against the empty, pixelated personas of our peers. My, how we revere the snapshot of the smiling face.

I get that it's necessary to shield a certain amount of yourself from the world so as not to be exploited or judged (I mean, there's a reason that this blog doesn't have my name and face plastered all over it) but one of the reasons I write openly both here and on Facebook is to quietly defy the facade.

I try to use social media to generate conversations and connection, not to alienate and exclude. One of the nicest compliments I've ever received (multiple times) was "I have been so disgusted by Facebook that I was thinking about quitting but I get so much out of your posts that it's keeping me attached." (Yay! Achievement unlocked: authentic connection.)

Wouldn't it be nice if it were more common though? I mean, where would you feel more comfortable? Frequenting a venue where the hostess constantly whirls around saying "look at me, look at meeeee!!!" or if they said, "enough about me, how about you?"

The most powerful forces in life are our connections and the road to connection starts with opening up. We have the tools, it's up to us to decide how to use them: meaningfully or as propaganda?

Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability

"I have a vulnerability issue. And I know vulnerability is kindof the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. ... We numb vulnerability.... we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is... you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can't say "here's the bad stuff. Here's vulnerability, here's grief, here's shame, here's fear, here's disappointment. I don't want to feel these.... I'm gonna have a coupla beers and a banana nut muffin." You can't numb those hard feelings without numbing the other emotions.... When we numb those, we numb joy. We numb gratitude. We numb happiness. And then we are miserable and we are looking for purpose and meaning."


  1. Great post! So true! It really helps me to continue pondering how social media is really impacting our lives and what the ramifications or consequences will be. I especially like your comments about connection. I truly believe what is most important in a human life is connection and relationships and sadly social media and texting seem to give us a very false sense of real and deep connection. I want to help people/families build stronger connections which is why I launched It needs to go viral for the sake of society.

  2. Right on! Thank you for this post. It is a good conversation to have...
    I wonder where or how one can engage people more about all of the above [with the caveat that there must be a way that does not require walking on egg shells around each other] Perhaps... To be known for being more open and honest about thoughts and feelings (without seeming an A-hole of honesty).

    <(T-shirt idea "A-Hole of Honesty")>

    Should there be an organization or support group one could join? (Just brainstorming here...)