Ok, we’re overdue for a good long rant. This rant will focus on two of, what I consider, the weirdest and most attention seeking behaviors of our generation: selfies and sharing extremely personal information on social media. Some people will likely be offended by this rant. And offending people is not my intention. Instead, I consider this a public service announcement of sorts. Maybe there are some people guilty of the issues I am about to discuss who, maybe… somehow just really never thought about my point of view. Maybe some people can be helped. Maybe the world really can be a better place…
First and foremost, I strongly believe that both of these things, so common and so bizarre, are potentially real indicators of something terribly wrong with a person’s psyche. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the DSM VI they are included as diagnostic criteria for several cluster B personality disorders, particularly histrionic or narcissistic. If you’re unfamiliar, look these up – we all know a few people who almost definitely fit the description, and I bet they also happen to be guilty of excessive selfie-ing or over-sharing on social media. There are two types of people on this world: the people who are guilty of the aforementioned behaviors, and then the people who think those people are crazy.
Firstly, selfies. What is a selfie? A selfie, according to Merriam-Webster’s definition, is “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.” Now, I am sure that I have probably in the past posted pictures of myself on Facebook or Instagram in the past. I may have even, a long time ago, posted one or two photos that I awkwardly extended my arm to take of myself with my cell phone. But then I became a regular person. A “selfie” with your friends is fine – a social selfie; maybe you want to capture a moment and there just isn’t anyone else around to snap the photo for you. Ellen’s selfies at the Grammy’s cracked me up. And a photo of yourself that someone else took is ok too, especially if it’s candid. Human beings under the age of 20 are also exempt from my selfie rules: their brains are still developing and maturing, and they are usually still, by nature, in need of excessive attention and approval. But there is one kind of selfie – a true selfie – that just makes my skin crawl. I don’t need to see a close of up your face or cleavage while you’re “driving” in the car. I don’t need to see a mirror selfie. Your Framatic app is capable of a lot, but we’re all A-ok without the double or triple image of you photographing yourself in the most contrived of poses. I don’t want to see your new makeup, new shoes, expensive clothes, hair that took three hours to do, workout outfit, manicure, etc… #barf. The purpose of posting these selfies is for one thing: attention. Aren’t you embarrassed by how transparent your insecurities are? Do you only feel pretty if other people “like” your selfie? Can you only feel confident or secure if other people give you the positive feedback you are so clearly searching for? I almost feel sad for you, but then I feel too annoyed to feel sad. And then I swallow my own vomit. Thanks a lot. Ok, in reality, this isn’t that serious. Sometimes selfies are silly and harmless. Maybe one once in a while can slide by without being considered psychotic, or even weird. But we know who the true culprits are. To the people posting their daily hair, makeup, and costume changes: Enough is enough.
Next, the extremely personal Facebook or Instagram or Twitter statuses and posts and photos. These come in many shapes and sizes. One classic is the breakup post: “Heartbroken” or, better yet, “</3.” Because the entire world really wants to know about your breakup/divorce, custody battle, cheating partner, etc. And we most definitely want to watch you battle it out publicly, maliciously throwing the humiliating details of every devestating moment around, capturing it for all eternity on the glorious interweb, so that you can relive it for the rest of your lives – together or apart? And those real roller coaster relationships: nothing is better than watching every single up and down of a tumultuous relationship unfold in real time. It isn’t love if you haven’t unfriended and refriended and changed your relationship status at least five times; it really is complicated. I’m only being half sarcastic about all of this – part of me really does find humor and entertainment in these types of things. But the other part of me feels awkward and weird. It’s like, “I feel bad for you… this seems actually painful and difficult. But I haven’t seen you or spoken to you since kindergarten, and now I feel weird that I know this much about your personal life, so instead of communicating with you (because I don’t even know if you remember me from Sister Jude’s class) and offering advice or support, I am going to pour a nice glass of Elijah Craig and drink it straight to burn away the memory of your status and your failures in love.”
But my ultimate personal favorite things in the bizarro-world of social media are the messages to the deceased. “Grandma, it was four years ago today that I lost you. I think of you every day, I miss you and love you.” “Johnny, I know you’re watching over me. We’ll be reunited on the other side.” “Spot the dog, I hope you have unlimited bones and rope toys in doggy heaven, RIP.” GRANDMA IS NOT CHECKING FACEBOOK IN HEAVEN, AND NEITHER IS YOUR DOG. Now, death and loss are very difficult and awful things and I know that people have very different ways of handling these times, and coping with their emotions. Some people need emotional support during their most significant losses and times of pain. I know I am probably losing about 50% of my Facebook friends by writing this, but I’m really ok with that. It has to be said. There are, just like selfies, some exceptions, in my opinion, that are functional and postive coping strategies. One example is something like, “Thank you everyone for the support during the difficult time in the passing of my loved one. Services will be held at (blank) funeral home on Tuesday at 7-9.” This is personal, but gracious and informative – maybe you don’t want to text every one of your friends and acquaintances these details individually, and I get that. Or, “I really love this photograph of Spot (or Johnny or Grandma). I am missing him a lot today.” Again, personal (too personal for my own taste), but a natural and honest expression of emotions. If my loved one dies, I want my true friends to call me or stop by or send a private message. I don’t believe that I or anyone else can channel the dead through a Facebook post. Speaking to them in a status is creepy and unnatural and awkward. They’re not going to reply, and you are clearly looking for sympathy and condolences from your “friends” and followers, no matter how close or distant they may be. Like I said I know that these can be difficult times, and it is very normal for people to need support while they grieve. But pick up the phone and call your friends and family members. Visit one another. Write a hand-written note or send a private message.
The real thing – the underlying issue at hand – with regards to these topics is much deeper, though, than this rant makes it seem. The real problem is that we are losing each other in a world of selfies and social media. I’m guilty, to an extent, too: here I am writing all of my opinions and rants in a public blog and pasting it all over social media. And I check the statistics on my website on a daily basis to see how many people are reading or following me.
But when my friends are sick, I send flowers. And when a loved one dies, I bring a tray of food and attend the services. When my best friend goes through a breakup, I go to her house and spend time with her. When my boyfriend is hurting, I put my phone down and hug him. When I don’t feel confident about my outfit, I text my friend and ask her opinion. When I miss someone, I contact them directly (whether it be through text or a phone call or a prayer). When I need help, I call my brother or boyfriend or parents. When someone does something that hurts me, I confront them and only them. When I deal with something painful, I do it privately because it is private and personal – I hand select the few people with whom I want to share details and from whom I want to ask advice.
Since when are we living our lives only to post photos of it on Instagram and check how many people we barely know “liked” it? Why are we spending more time at our friends’ parties and events taking and retaking (and retaking, and retaking) photographs until we get the perfect one to put on Facebook and tag each other in so that everyone knows just how many friends we have and how busy our lives are (or seem)? I don’t want to see pictures of things – of purses and shoes and clothing and jewelry. I want to see pictures of where you go and what you do and who you do it with. I want my photos organic and natural and filled with actual memories – even if my double chin makes a surprise appearance – not perfected poses that make my arms and stomach look skinnier than they may actually be. And why should I care what a bunch of practical strangers think about my outfit, if I like it either way? FaceTime is not just something you do on a cell phone… It used to be real and it used to mean that we looked at each others’ real live faces when we spoke to each other. We are losing our lives and our moments to the ones we edit and crop and filter and post.