social media

“What’s on your mind?”: frantic, overshare-y thoughts on me vs. my facebook feed

Here’s a confession: every time I add a new Facebook friend, especially one who I’m keen to impress for whatever reason, I am seized by a sudden fear that my feed–filled with selfies, KPop, classical music memes, and makeup–presents a picture of a vapid, self-absorbed, “me”-llennial (as the Gen-X and Boomer thinkpiece-writing keyboard warriors like to call us).

I mean, it’s not an entirely inaccurate picture: I curate my Instagram; take tons of photos of myself, healthy drinks, and quinoa bowls (or a combination of all three); and don’t exactly have anything on my feed about saving the world, or being profound, unless it’s posts about how profoundly dumb I am at my job.

Sometimes.

(Long-time friends and co-workers, I know that because you are loving, caring people, you don’t like it when I call myself “dumb” but:

1. You haven’t heard my so-called “inputs” during video-call meetings with our Facebook account manager and, 

B. Let me have this moment. It is the closest I will ever come to being a standup comedian.)

Recently, I accepted a (surprise!) Facebook friend request from someone that I was extremely keen to impress (for reasons I do not think I can ethically discuss), and was overcome with the existential dread that comes with realizing that, outside of occasional “conversations” where I make two to three awkward, nervous jokes (tops!), said person’s idea of who I was, as a person, would be based on this narrow field called a Facebook timeline. A field, which, I’m going to be honest, is less about what fuels my introspection and more of whatever floats my boat when I’m not having an existential crisis about work or turning twenty-six in a few days or whether or not I have been setup for massive failure and anxiety because, when I was younger, I was told I was “destined for great things,” but now here I am at ALMOST THIRTY still living with my mum and auditioning for KPop reality TV.

Oh, hello existential crisis. Let’s pretend I didn’t see you coming.

Thing is, if you meet me in meatspace and maybe give me five minutes of your time, you’ll know that despite the fact that I have the rapid-fire, awkward yappiness of a toy-sized dog with a bladder problem, I’m not just shallow, self-absorbed, and frivolous. I have deep opinions on things other than the necessity of sunscreen (though if you say you don’t need to use SPF I will fight you) or whether or not Kim Seokjin has secret abs. And I know that’s not just me: some of the most articulate, interesting, and profound people I know have the feeds of bored thirteen year old memelords. Because, yes, at heart, they are bored, thirteen year old memelords…but that’s not all they are.

I don’t know if this post had a point when I started it, but in writing it, I’ve kind of, like, realized stuff. (Yes, that was a Kylie Jenner quote. And yes, that was a shameless bid to look #relevant.) Specifically, in a culture where we pre-screen acquaintances via Facebook “stalking” (in the words of an acquaintance, “It’s not stalking if it’s public information.” And no, that acquaintance was not Joe Goldberg.), maybe we should take feeds** with a grain of salt. Facebook–Messenger or the main page–can’t really take the place of an IRL dinner and sangria (or coffee and donuts, whatever) when it comes to figuring out who a person really is, what they’re interested in, and whether or not they’re actually interesting.

Which is to say, at twenty-six, maybe instead of mooning over green lights on my Facebook contacts list, I should actually give people a chance to get to know me in person, and to get to know them in person too.

Maybe 2k19 is the year I decide to get out more. 

Maybe.

(Fat chance.)

~ F.

**No promises about profile photos and captions, though.

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Can we not talk on Messenger, please?

Disclaimer: I have nothing against Facebook Messenger. I think it’s extremely useful. A good 80% of our office’s communication happens on FB Messenger, because it’s quick, convenient, and everyone is on it. It’s really, really great for getting in touch…

…just not getting to know someone.

I met a guy at a gig a few Saturdays ago. Since I’m about 70% sure I will never talk to him again (my messaging style scared him off, but more on that later), I’m assuming it’s okay to talk about him. Anyway, I won’t say anything unflattering, precisely because there is nothing unflattering to say. I thought he was kind of cool. He showed up to the gig–it was actually an art show slash open mic that I played emcee for–in a short-sleeved, well-cut(!!), white button down and skinny-fit chinos (as opposed to every other guy’s t-shirt and jeans; call me a superficial human bean but I appreciate classic closet game). He smiled a lot. He was willing to try on my cat-ear headband and let me take a photo of him in it. He struck a really, really awkward pose for that photo. He makes good art. He likes Neil Gaiman.

Best of all, he didn’t seem to mind talking to me, and I felt comfortable talking to him. This is no small feat, considering I am basically five feet and three-point-five inches of social anxiety.

In short, I kind of liked him. Not like-like, to use the grade-school turn of phrase, but I thought he was interesting (which is, BTW, totally different from being interested in him; wag maging assuming pls)I liked him enough to exchange Facebook friend requests (because who asks for numbers anymore?) in the hopes we could continue the conversation online. And we did!

For about a day.

Here’s what I don’t like about Facebook Messenger: there are no non-verbal social cues. This is totally fine if you’re messaging someone you know, or messaging someone at some ungodly hour of the night when those cues don’t matter (shoutout to my friend AJ, king of extremely random late-night FB convos), or both. It is not totally fine if you’re messaging someone that you are trying to get to know. IRL, you can tell when someone is laughing out of genuine enjoyment or just to be polite. With a “HAHAHA” or an emoji…it’s a little harder to tell???

If you’ve read my open letter to any potential new friendsyou’ll know that, despite all my claims of being an antisocial cactus, I actually like meeting new people and getting to know them. Not only is being able to connect with someone a sort of catharsis for my inner awkward teenaged loner–who literally had zero friends and had to eat in the school’s back stairwell–but people can be genuinely interesting. I like asking them questions, finding out what they do and like and think about and seeing where those things intersect with my own internal landscape. The meeting of those people may be intimidating and anxiety-inducing and downright terrifying, but once we laugh at the same joke or share a smile or I watch that spark of recognition flicker to life in their eyes when I mention something they love too…I mean, it makes the whole torture of meeting people worth it.

And the thing is, I can be really good with people. Scarily good. Mistaken for an extrovert, or someone who is confident and has her life together (apparently this is the first impression I gave my friend John, to which I reply with: AHAHAHAHAHAHA) levels of good. There’s a reason why I’m usually the default emcee when my org has events: the frantic energy that makes me overwhelming can also make me funny and entertaining, and I know how to be the latter and not the former when I’m working a room or holding court in person, where I can watch people and pick up on their cues. I can say things that might look awkward in black and white but don’t sound awkward because I can control the way I say them (you will not believe the stuff I’ve gotten away with saying just because I’ve said it super casually; inflection is everything).

I can even–gasp–shut up and settle into companionable silence. At least, until the next window for conversation can open up.

On the internet, I have none of these options. All I have is a screen, a keyboard, and the tyranny of read receipts. Silence can be golden when it comes to in-person conversation, but online it literally reads like a death sentence, a hard stop to any interaction. I can chatter on and on in someone’s ear and they might find my anecdotes entertaining, but in Messenger a string of essay-length blue bubbles looks less like animation and more like desperation. My conversation style does not translate well into the digital world.

I guess that’s why the bulk of my friendships are due to repeated, frequent, in-person interactions. Ask any of my friends and they will tell you that it’s possible to get used to me, to see past all the weird and find me tolerable and even likeable, especially when I’m at ease with myself, which I can get when I’m interacting with people in meat-space and am able to autopilot my conversational instincts. Shift a conversation to chat, though, and I am a mess. My friends, again, can attest to how downright hesitant and anxiety-laden I can be via chat, constantly asking if they’re mad or if I’m bothering them simply because I’m unable to gauge the context of their silences.

(The only exception to this rule is if they message really late at night, when I’m too tired to keep the filter on or care about it being off. Some of my best Messenger conversations have happened when I should have been sleeping.)

I don’t think I’ll ever sink to the level of those angry baby boomers who rant about how social media and “those darned millennials” are ruining society as we know it, but I can definitely say that being forced to conduct the “getting to know you” stage on Facebook Messenger has ruined a number of my chances at connecting with people I’d genuinely found interesting. Let me tell you; few things suck more than knowing you’d probably have hit it off with someone if you weren’t such an awkward blue bubble.

(Or, well, gray bubble.)

(Whatever. I swear, I’m a lot more interesting–and a lot less awkward–in person than I am as a bubble!)

At any rate, consider this an open invitation to the next person I meet at a gig or a party or whatever: instead of exchanging Facebook addresses (though we can totally do that), can we please go straight to arranging to meet up again to talk? Let’s pretend it’s 1995 or something, and ditch the internet for in-person.

I’ll even spot you a coffee.

(And if we do have to resort to that infernal chat window in the interim, then please, for my sake, just take my enthusiasm at face value. I swear on the honor of my family cow, I’m not hitting on you. I JUST REALLY, REALLY LIKE FUN-FACTS, SELF-DEPRECATING HUMOR, AND MAKING PEOPLE LAUGH. I literally built my entire radio persona on those traits.)

(You would have gotten to know that–heck, you would have gotten to know I used to be a radio DJ–if I could have just! Held off! My anxiety! A little bit longer!!!)

*cue self-loathing*

Grace-Healed Eyes

DISCLAIMER: I stole the title of this blog from Chapter Thirteen of Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace?  I haven’t actually read the whole book, but I’m constantly drawn to that chapter, and it’s informed the opinion that I’m writing about today.  I highly suggest you buy the book, read it, and read that chapter, as Mr. Yancey does a better job of writing than I.

~*~

Facebook is a warzone.

Ever since a few days ago, when Manny Pacquiao made his controversial statement about the LGBT community, my newsfeed has been a firestorm of violent opinion. It’s been almost painful to read. No, scratch that—it has been painful to read. I’ve never dealt well with conflict, and seeing a world erupt in it is frustrating, upsetting, and…terrifying. I can’t count the number of posts from friends and people I admire that I’ve had to “hide” because their angered sentiments towards the Christian community—towards the God I love—have me shaking in a mix of rage, grief, and…guilt.

Do they know? I ask myself. Do they know what I am? And if they do, do they think I’m the same way too?

The labels sting. They’re supposed to. They’re labels, spoken in justifiable rage. The LGBTQIA community feels like it is under attack, because, frankly, those words—whether or not you believe they were taken in and out of context—are attack words. Calling someone sub-human because of something they believe they can’t change about themselves? Actually, calling someone sub-human period? That’s wrong, no matter what you believe in. They’re hurt. And hurt people have a history of hurting other people, because the grief is sometimes so big it can’t help but spill out.

Christians, I am writing this mostly for you. Your neighbours—the ones Jesus commanded us to love as ourselves—are hurting, and that is why they are lashing out in anger. They are bleeding. They are scared. They just want to love and be loved. And while yes, as Christians, we believe (I believe) in that offensive black-and-white fact that homosexuality is a sin…we have to remember we’re sinners too.

I do. I have done some really bad things, and in the spirit of…proving a point(?) I’ll tell you a story about one of the worst things I ever did. When I was twelve I cyber-bullied a girl named Cara. She was the best friend of my then-best friend, and somehow I became her friend by association. And I bullied her, for no good reason but that at the time, I thought she was stupider than me and so was fair play. I messed with her head in ways that were as ingenious as they were cruel. I called her brother a—excuse my French—bastard, at her own birthday party. I offended her family and shamed my own and if I could take back all that systematic abuse, I would. But I can’t. It’s done.

(Cara, if you are somehow reading this, thank you for forgiving me. I am still so, so sorry.)

There is filth on my hands, and in my soul. I don’t deserve to be loved. But that fact doesn’t stop me from wanting to be loved, from craving human connection, from wanting someone to see me and say that I am still somehow worthy of being cared for. And it doesn’t stop me from hurting when I don’t get that. Far from suffering in silence, I still lash out when the loneliness rips me apart. I hurt someone, but I am hurting, and so I hurt someone again.

The cycle continues, and the only thing that can break it is real love.

Christians, before you rush to God’s or Pacquiao’s defense…listen to the pain under the words. These people—and I will keep repeating that they are people—feel rejected and under attack. Maybe now they feel a little vindicated, since Nike’s just dropped Manny as an endorser (not surprised), but that doesn’t completely take away the sting. If I think Facebook is a battlefield for me, I’m sure they think it’s one for them too, because for every comment lambasting Pacquiao and religion and “backwards thinking” there is another that brutally declares that gay people are being intolerant and brutal and unforgiving.

Friends, I’ve learned that when you say sorry, that’s no guarantee that you will be forgiven. You hurt someone. You face the consequences. Manny is facing them, and I hope he is facing them with grace. But I’m not here to talk about Manny. I’m here to talk about us.

I know the comments hurt, and it’s tempting to react in kind. God is…important to us Christians, to say the least. To have our faith in Him blamed for proliferating hate is painful, because it’s just not true. 1 John 4:19-21 says “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” God would not condone any hate, commands us to have our speech “seasoned with salt” and full of grace so that we don’t hurt anyone unduly, “…for an offended brother is like a fortified city.” This debacle is not God’s fault, but because we profess to be Christians he is dragged into this mess and we feel we need to defend Him, to “stand up for our faith.”

I agree that you need to stand up for your faith. I’ve done blogs on the agony of that decision. And it has cost me, though thankfully not too dearly. But standing up for your faith means living it, and in this instance it means reflecting grace.

To quote Philip Yancey, “…every gay person has heard the message of judgment from the church.” They know what our stand is. We’ve made it very clear. What’s not clear to them is how our disapproval of the act can somehow exist alongside our profession of acceptance for the person, because that part, I admit, is where I’ve personally been amiss. See, I’ve been tempted to react with “us versus them,” because some posts even go so far as to blame the very core of who I am for all that is wrong in our society. But, and I’m quoting Yancey again. “Grace dies when it becomes us versus them.” Love dies. And that’s a love we sorely need.

A few LGBT people have approached me, and asked how it is that I can say I respect them while disagreeing with something they believe is fundamentally part of who they are. To me, the answer is simple, the frequently-quoted refrain of “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” But that phrase, while true, has basically become a clichéd excuse, because it’s so easy to say but so difficult to see. They won’t believe me when I say that phrase, because they’ve never seen evidence of how that could be possible.

I don’t know what I can do to break through that wall. But I know that reacting in anger to their anger doesn’t help, not when I can’t even begin to imagine what they’re going through. It’s easy to visualise the cliché of “angry gay man” who shoves his sexuality in people’s faces “for kicks.” It’s not so easy to imagine the pain, loneliness, fear, frustration, and internal conflict that fuel that rebellion. These people are hurting (I think I’ve said that 1,000 times in this blog), and while that doesn’t take away the sting of their words it does make clear God’s stand on the matter:

They are hurting, and we are called to heal.

They are hurting, and I am called to heal.

So here’s, I guess, what we can do. Pray. Ask God for wisdom. Refuse to pour further fuel on the fire. Ignore the comments as best we can, and when we can’t—if the fight really does come to our door—acknowledge the pain that the issue has caused, and reinforce the value of our relationships with those who were affected by it. While our stands won’t change, we can at least tell them that we understand why they’re hurting, and we’re here. Not as combatants, but as friends. Because being friends with anyone is a privilege, a gift, and a responsibility.

One of my friends admitted that just the thought of my beliefs already offends him, but he treats me with as much kindness as he can muster anyway. If that’s not a picture of acceptance despite a lack of agreement, I don’t know what is. So here’s what I have to say in response. To my LGBTQIA friends: My fundamental position has not changed, but I know you are deeply hurt by what has happened, and you have the right to be. It has only reinforced the fears that many of you might have. Some of you have parents who won’t treat you as their child. Some of you are afraid that you’ll never find someone to walk with you into forever. Some of you are even trying to still walk in a faith that by definition says what you are doing is wrong. These are wounds that can push someone to madness, and I won’t pretend to fully understand them. But I will be here for you, when and where I can.

I’m not a perfect person, a perfect Christian, a perfect anything. I am sure there will be days I fail to act in love, fail to walk the talk I’ve laid out here, and I’m sorry in advance if and when I do. One day we might have to face each other on opposite sides of a significant line, and I pray our friendship survives it because, frankly, it is my privilege to know you. And while I cannot agree with you—because I cannot deny something that is at the core of my very self and my survival—I will do my best to listen when you need someone to talk to. To defend you when the world is vicious. To remind you that you are a valuable when you feel that you are worthless. To try my hardest to extend to you the same kindness that I want people to extend to me.  The people we love most are often the ones who hurt us deepest.

I will take the blows as they come, knowing that many of you have had to do the same with me.

I’m not good at loving people, but with the help of God, I would like to try.  I hope you’ll let me.

With Love,
~a Roaming Tsinay~