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Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Social media is a trip and a half. It’s communication on steroids, broken down into semi-connected fragments – a little like my Gemini brain seems to be. It mirrors my life, in a slightly warped way.

I have six sets of people I keep up with, depending on which era of my life happens to be front and center at the moment. In real life, none of these subgroups actually intersect. My family is now scattered all over the country so my high school classmates have never kept up with them, my church friends definitely don’t know my bar friends, and my former coworkers have no idea how awesome my online colleagues are. But I can keep up with every one of them, separately and together, on Facebook. I can introduce them to each other, or I can use the extra features to keep my communication group-appropriate. I even found out that two of my friends, who I would have never guessed had anything in common, are already friends with each other because they take the same classes in college. It’s a miracle. I didn’t even know I knew 175 people, let alone 175 people who wanted to be friends with me. That’s a self-esteem booster right there.

But how many different ways do we really need to keep in touch with each other? It depends on how you like to be touched. Need to know everything right now? Twitter. Need to express yourself? MySpace. Need to get up close and personal with a whole group of people at once? Facebook. Need to stick to business and work a virtual room? LinkedIn. Need to simply give and get information? Scores of other websites are just falling all over themselves wanting you to become part of their community.

I gotta tell you, this is doing a real number on my ADHD. I can’t tell whether all these social media options are feeding the way my brain flips from one thing to the next, or if they’re just aggravating the condition and making it worse.

Then you have the new social politics. If you have a friend on Facebook, and you don’t follow him on Twitter, does that mean you’re being rude? What if you digg something you just stumbled upon, but you can’t tweet it because your BFF just facebooked it all over your wall? And if you don’t learn to use the word “friend” as a verb, are you really ever going to be socially acceptable? 

I have to learn to keep all this straight someday… No, seriously. It’s going to make my head spin until I figure out how to put the puzzle together. The prize is that the spinning stops, the headache goes away, and I end up pointed in the right direction. Wish me luck! I’m going to need it. 

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I have to admit that my absence from my own blog is from nothing less than the mind-blowing discovery of Facebook. It has been over six months of searching and liking and commenting and responding to friend requests from people I haven’t seen in over 20 years. (And don’t get me started on the disgusting amount of time I’ve spent on Farmville.) People from high school are coming out of the woodwork;  they never spoke to me in school, yet here they are on my notifications list, even though my maiden name was never listed. It’s amazing – on so many levels.

It was hard for me to sign up for Facebook. I knew that, even if I didn’t want to be found, my associations would give me away. I have reinvented myself a few times since I was a kid – and by that, I mean I had to adapt to life-changing circumstances more than once. Now, I don’t even remember who I was as a child. I remember some things that happened, but I don’t remember me. In a way, I’m probably unrecognizable to some people from my past as well. Would that be a good thing – as in “fresh start” – or would people regret friending me because I’m not who they expected me to be?

I grew up in a small town and went to a school that consisted of two buildings which held classrooms for all thirteen grades. On the other side of the ball field was a corn field that went on for miles. Life in a rural farming community was peaceful enough. I would eventually learn what the rest of the country was like, but then I knew no different than small town life.

One man from that small town spoke up recently on Facebook. I knew of him, but I had never met him because he was older than I was. But what he posted last week really made me stop and think. He said, “Can you believe that I remember the name of everyone who made fun of me in high school?” Okay, now I remembered him – he has cerebral palsy, but he was simply known as the guy who walked and talked differently. For many of us, it was our first exposure to physical disability. I think most of us were kind or wondered what was wrong with legitimate concern, but I have no doubt that he was laughed at by kids who thought “different” was funny.

What really struck me, though, was the response to his post. All who responded were schoolmates. Some were sympathetic. Some went into the old “well, kids can be mean sometimes,” as if they wanted to be kind, but didn’t quite know what to say. One in particular (now a teacher himself) expounded on the need to move on from being hurt by such things. But the burn came when some chose only to emphasize the fact that “we’re all grown up now.” In my mind, it was like they were saying that his memories shouldn’t  matter, or they were denying him the right to remember how awful those times were for him. Tough shit. Life’s rough all over. Get over it.

I can remember feeling awful, too. I saw what those kids did. I was on the receiving end of it myself a few times. Over the years, I figured out that it wasn’t necessarily that they were evil, but that they were subconsciously taught to be uncomfortable with people who were different. Okay, I’m putting that way too nicely. But that’s what it boils down to. It may not be just in small towns, but in this one, people who were different got strange looks. They got laughed at. They were excluded from the community in one way or another, just because they walked or talked or acted differently. The peaceful life in a small town turned out to be undisturbed homogeneity.

Sure, we’re all grown up now. But some of us left school feeling extremely relieved that we weren’t going to be punished for being different anymore, some of us left school feeling completely worthless, and some of us bottled up the anger until we snapped. Those feelings don’t just magically dissolve because we’re outside the double doors of the school or because we’ve gotten older.

Personally, I’m glad he started that conversation. At some point, with all the indiscriminate Facebook friending going on, the air had to start clearing among the students who went to that small school. The whole thing has actually been sort of cathartic – maybe now I can just be myself instead of worrying about who is still ignorant and who isn’t. I still don’t have to go to the reunion if I don’t want to.

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