anxiety, be a better human, judgment, kindness, social media, writing

Being 30 on Facebook

Not long ago, our public library did a large renovation and an entire floor was completely closed and furniture dispersed. This displacement meant that the computers were now in a more central space near the entrance. This more prominent location meant there was far less inappropriate viewing behavior, ie. anything you wouldn’t want someone accidentally viewing over your shoulder. I’ll leave that to your imagination. That said, there are many regulars who tend to sit at the computers for lengths of time. One of them spends his internet time arguing with people in the comments sections on Facebook. Unclear whether he ever knows the people he’s debating, but he gets heated. When he gets heated, he either 1) slams his fingers onto the keyboard, loudly or 2) hums, loudly or 3) hums, loudly and aggressively. When I say loudly, I mean audible from a great distance. He knows he does these things, and library staff (librarians and building monitors alike) have spoken to him many times about respecting the library computers and not disrupting fellow customers.

Another repeat customer I helped with his resume similarly had a volume modulation issue. Upon seeing me when he walked in, he would somehow not knowingly shout “HEY! TEACHER LADY! DO YOU REMEMBER ME? CAN YOU HELP ME WHEN YOU GET A SECOND?” I generally love working on resumes, but always felt a prickly sense of dread and wished that I hadn’t told him that I worked at a nearby school too.

Hip to the noise concerns of many customers, I was not the only one who felt dread and anger rise when certain customers spoke/shouted/watched videos without headphones. But as much as I despise those anxiety-inducing behaviors, one day I was proud of them.

A well-dressed middle aged white woman asked me a question at the desk, and, glancing at the row of people using computers, she asked me with a plain sense of disgust, “what are they doing on the computers?”

Pretending to be confused, I responded, “anything that you would need a computer to do…”

She scoffed. “But, why here? Don’t they have computers at home?”

Now, I didn’t have to pretend to be confused. Did this lady really just ask me that?

As calmly as I could, I said, “maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but we have them in order for people to use them.”

She accepted this, walked away, and I feared my explanation did nothing to pull her from her cozy privilege cocoon.

Some people do not have computers at home. Maybe they have one, but don’t have internet. Maybe they don’t have air conditioning, and don’t want to sit in their home as they apply for jobs for hours. Maybe they are using our databases to do genealogical research, or print out their boarding passes, or print out really anything! I was outraged that this woman had been so blatantly judgmental at the “riff-raff” who sit at the public computers, because it is their right to do so! The public library is for everyone! That is literally the point of our existence!

Now, though I do not myself spend time on Facebook at the library, I spend plenty of time on it at home. Last week, I did something that I ordinarily hate: I wrote about my feelings and shared it on Facebook. My perception of people who do this is that they are attention-seeking, craving validation, and emoting for emoting’s sake. Oversharers.

My intention was much simpler: I hadn’t felt like posting anything in two weeks, when I generally try to write at least once per week, and I couldn’t think of anything to write about except being sad. Didn’t even bother tying it to anything library-related. It was an off-brand, atypically personal post. And, I want to address the phrase “lightly depressed” that I used. I was not talking about the past two weeks of crying over my failed relationship. It had been a while since I was just plain sad about something specific, and I didn’t distinguish it as a separate entity from depression. Being sad can exist away from depression. I used that phrase not to diminish depression, because the point of depression is that it is not finite; it permeates through time and darkens joy. Depression is when you can’t climb out of the dark cloud. When I used the phrase lightly depressed, I meant my tendency of the last two years to say no rather than yes, to stay in rather than do any activity out of the house, to remain stationary when I needed to get up and moving my body. Functional depression, as I could always go to work, make dinner plans with friends and take trips to friends’ weddings. I wasn’t trapped in my bed for days, pondering the meaninglessness of life and futility of love like I have before. I just didn’t want to go to the grocery store or cook.

anx

And Facebook is not the place to be when you are depressed. As a 30-year-old, I see a feed of baby photos, engagement announcements, weddings, pregnancy/career milestones and gorgeous views from hikes and vacations with smiling significant others. As I read in (the fantastic)¬†America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks¬†by Ruth Whippman, people are likely to share the highlights of their lives on social media rather than the struggles, proclaiming their happiness and picture-perfect, filtered lives. The sense of inadequacy I feel when I see acquaintances’ posts is enough to make me want to leave Facebook. The happy is brilliant, blinding, and I can’t help but compare my circumstances unfavorably. And I did so, successfully deactivating for around a month in the fall. (I reactivated before my birthday so I could collect the yearly messages.)

The added nonsense of violated privacy agreements and Russian meddling and all the political posts (of which I am very guilty of sharing with many expletives) has prompted me to legitimately defend to myself why I am still using the site. Once, I wanted to hoard the photo documentation of years of my life, since people my age don’t generally have photo albums that aren’t digital. Now, I am moving toward cultivating non-attachment, so should be willing to let go of this (possibly vain and controlling) desire for a digital footprint.

But, now I have this blog, and I predominantly share it with my Facebook network. As a digital tree in the woods, if a blog is written but Facebook friends aren’t there to click on it, does it have a readership? There are ways to follow my blog (scroll up on the page and the word “follow” appears at the bottom right–click it!), but I want people to read what I write, and so don’t want to deactivate and lose the visibility.

Plus, the reaction I got from friends and family last week was pure and good. Many reached out, because as much as I can turtle and not want to talk about Feelings, I have an awesome support network who are there to help. An analog network, away from the internets.

So, thank you for that, reader-friends/loved ones! After a weekend accidentally spent completely analog and instead with stationery, meals with girl friends, meditation and reading in the park–as well as a brief surprise visit by Spring, I’m back in the writing saddle. And dedicated to using Facebook for its merits: connecting with a broad group of cool people I somehow know.

writing

Late to the Party

Are you happy, Mom?? I started a blog! And only after you’ve told me to do so for four years… Which started after blogging had been “a thing” for probably another four. It takes me a long time to come around. I’m the last girl standing who loves CDs, typewriters (Tom Hanks isn’t a girl) and will flip out when my VHS tapes or their player give out at long last. Three solid years passed when I was still printing out Mapquest directions and calling/texting my best friend from my flip phone, asking her to look up phone numbers or trivia using her fancypants Blackberry, then iPhone, when I was out and about. (Hi, Mel! Your first shoutout on the blog!) I joined Twitter in November 2016, and my Myspace profile still exists, but lest you think I’m a total loser*, that is true only because I forgot the password to the email address I used for the account and thus, literally cannot kill it.

I dislike change, and apparently that manifests in resisting innovation and new technologies, as magical and connective as they can be.

My reluctance to start a blog was lame and excuse-y but it lasted a long time. I loved writing one for a college course I took in 2009, but the audience was my professor and probably no one else. A fantastic gay guy, he gave us prompts, and always had effusive, specific and thorough comments on our work. With a personal blog, my reasoning went, not only was it unclear who would be creeping on my page, but also, I had to think of topics myself. I’m lazy! And I’ve read too many horror stories by and about people who overshare on the damn internet.

Plus, who cares what I have to say? There are plenty of people far more interesting and qualified to talk about anything I want to talk about: books, relationships, environmental activism, mental health, politics taking the world to hell, being a young adult (does being in your 30s still count as young?) who hasn’t gotten it all figured out just yet… Sarah’s Scribbles can sum up in concise, preciously insecure cartoons everything I feel about social interactions and body image. The beautiful, talented Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole & a Half sums up beautifully and talented..ly.. everything I ever wanted to say about depression and anxiety. The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight rarely ever cover anything I didn’t agree with 100%, so just watch those and you’ll know what’s in my brain!

But maybe there is more to say. Allie Brosh may not write again–her anxiety, depression and life circumstances have led her away from even Twitter. So someone–or many someones!– need to pick up the torch. My purpose here, which may have arisen from some not-mid-and-not-quarter life crisis (third life crisis? That makes me sound like a cat), is simple. I would just like to share my stories and opinions, and am willing to do the extra work of figuring out my own topics and balancing how private or open I want to be (which I assume is not a lot of work and I was being dumb that whole time). And in order to be the next Scaachi Koul or Mary Karr**, I can either go get a Master’s in journalism or creative writing… Or I can write this blog. As aforementioned, I’m lazy, so blog it is!

 

*because I care! I really do. I shouldn’t. But I do.

**aka if I want to write a book. I want to write a book. Or at least some essays that someone will read and say, “Damn! That was crazy!” Or, “I remember pogs–they were great.” Or, “I didn’t realize people outside of a psychiatric ward could be so emotionally fucked up, so maybe I’ll be more compassionate to assholes in traffic and in line at the grocery store. Or just all the assholes.” I know, just call me a modern day Plato. Except Plato was maybe even crazier than I am. Maybe not though, because I have never studied Plato and really only know the one quote. Am I thinking of Socrates? Who was the crazy one? I’m making a note to follow up on this.