For the last couple weeks, I have been beset by frustrations. The causes range from very tiny to somewhat overwhelming, though not a single one of them is worth the angst it’s causing me. And this situation – being full of feelings – has spawned a brand new frustration that is purely a product of the times.
I’m going to call it Social Media Repression Syndrome.
Twenty years ago, if a person had a feeling bubbling away inside her, she had two options:
- Say nothing and let the issue simmer away under the surface, causing anxiety, depression, and possible explosions over minor issues. (See: The Sneaky Hate Spiral)
- Seek out a trusted friend and talk the matter out, seeking emotional support or practical solutions as needed.
Today there is a third option, and it’s a dangerous, terrifying option:
3. Stick your naked thoughts up on Social Media and wait for someone – anyone! – to start the conversation with you.
There are very serious problems with this new option.
1. You can’t control the conversation. If you pick a good friend to privately vent to, you pick someone you trust. You speak in a confidential environment, and you generally understand exactly what kind of discussion you’re in for. For example, if I wanted someone to share righteous indignation with, I would go talk to my friend Anne. If I wanted someone to tell me how to fix it, I would go talk to Dustin. If I wanted someone’s shoulder to cry on who would stroke my hair and tell me that it’s all going to be okay, I would pick Megan. You choose a very specific person to get a specific kind of comfort. It’s a tried and true system.
Online? You get whoever the heck happens to be looking at their newsfeed when you post. That could be someone whose opinion you value, or it could be JohnnyBob who you made friends with in CandyWorld and never actually met in real life. Turns out, JohnnyBob has a very different worldview than you do, couldn’t read between the plain text of your status to see your pain, and now he’s said something offensive or insensitive and now you have to get sucked into an argument that makes things even worse. Or you have to unfriend JohnnyBob, but then who will you get peppermints from?! The problems mount.
2. You say things you don’t mean. Emotions often equal temporary insanity. When you are full of feelings, and you go find another person to share them with, the act of conversing often has the effect of diffusing the emotions and making them less dangerous (to yourself and others). You also know your friend is a safe outlet – you chose him specifically for that reason. And maybe you really DID mean what you said at the time, whatever short-sighted, selfish, bigoted, or inconsiderate* thing that was, but you maybe won’t still mean it in a few days. But if you stuck it out there in public while you were feeling hot – well, there it is now. The internet doesn’t forget.
*I’m not talking about anything you’ve ever posted of course. Just things I think about posting, but then decide against.
3. You put your baggage out in public. Used to be, you had to belong to a high school, church, country club, or sewing group if you wanted to get all the good gossip, but – oh boy! – has the internet invented a short cut! Not only do you not have to GO anywhere or TALK to anyone to find out the latest word, you don’t even have to get it third hand! People stick it right out there for everyone to see – straight (if sometimes enigmatically) from the horse’s mouth. Maybe JohnnyBob doesn’t actually respond to your status. Maybe nobody does. But now dozens (hundreds?) of people have seen your status, and whether they mean to or not, they have formed opinions about you and your issues. Do you really want the whole world pondering your dirty laundry?
So back to Social Media Repression Syndrome: I don’t want ANY of the above things to happen. My personal frustrations are personal. And yet, and yet…
We have been trained to stick it all out there. We who populate Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. We who haunt forums of like-minded people, we who write blogs that anyone can read. The internet has bred a culture of sharing, wherein we feed off the responses we get. Getting more than 5 “likes” or +1s on a status tickles me pink. It makes me feel clever and appreciated, and it makes me want to generate more content so I can get more pats on my social ego.
I want to post my weird angst on the internet because I am a rat, and your Likes are electric pulses to my brain.
I don’t post because my super-ego is bossier than my id. (But then, of course, I’m posting this. The ego’s compromise?)
(That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for psychology references.)
And so, in addition to feeling frustrated about an handful of regular life issues, I am also bursting to pop with Facebook status updates and Tweets that I know are perfectly unacceptable. I know posting them will annoy someone, insult someone, or get someone thrown in jail (haha, just kidding – or am I?) (LOOK! SO INAPPROPRIATE!) but I want to share, and all the people I would normally entrust with my feelings in a private, old-fashioned manner are unavailable. Humbug!
So here, let’s settle for this: if you want to have coffee with me some time, let me know. I’d love to fill your ears with woes that are carefully calculated to match our relationship. 🙂