I hate that I love social media so much. I hate that I rely on “likes” after I post an article or blog entry I’ve written–tiny signals of my competency which almost always make me feel validated. Paradoxically, I love that I get the recognition as an artist I so unabashedly crave–regardless of where it comes from. I love that I can harp on social media for being the ego trip that it is, while secretly savoring the accessible attention it provides.
I love basking in the glow of my computer screen, but I am dubious.
I wrote an article a couple months back about my conflicting feelings toward Facebook. Ultimately, I credit Facebook as the reason I was first exposed to recovery. At the moment, however, I feel annoyed by the sharp turns my friends and I take on matters of public opinion on controversial topics via the internet. Example one: mass shootings in America. The second anything happens in the news, we erupt into an opinion-centric beehive. We end up shitting all over each other for not being empathetic or sorry or informed enough. I appreciate all of the articles I see posted (then share), yet I find myself more reactive to things outside (or inside) of my control. It turns out that social media can make me just as susceptible to vitriol as I am to validation.
Now that I am a substitute teacher for a Catholic school, my feelings on attention have changed. I feel called to be an educator, not a traffic-generator. I discovered a boundless joy for teaching that I never saw coming. The last thing I wanted after I began writing for a living was to discover I was meant for something else. I’ve traded my need for “likes” with drawings and hugs elementary school kids give me. How the fuck did that happen?
Sobriety has a way of humbling me. Reality’s insistence on continuing to be a thing is kind of annoying, yet magical. Life on life’s terms looks a lot less messy when my eyes are in focus and my head is not up my ass. I live in Virginia, not LA; I teach more than I write; I save money instead of spending it. I am what one might call “an adult.” This is unsettling to me because I thought adulthood meant sticking it to the man to do whatever the fuck I want. I lived that way for awhile–albeit drunk–and I was miserable. With nearly 21 months of sobriety under my belt, I am happier than I’ve ever been. I think this is by design, just not my design.
I read something recently the Pope said about us needing a “tenderness revolution.” A lot of haters think prayers and thoughts for victims and inexplicable hatred are futile. I know in my heart that using social media as a platform for sending condolences, receiving recognition or bombarding my friends with music I like is no less useful than proselytizing about the Second Amendment. I also know that the only way my world changed is when I decided to love myself. I think a lot of us find our hearts are cynical and suspicious when we see that nothing seems to change in the world. So we change our profile pictures. I testify that we can’t change anyone else’s behavior but our own, and that is the ONLY thing that will change what goes on around us. Einstein may or may not have said this, but I found a quote attributed to him that I’ll share here:
Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.
Social media is an excellent tool to exchange information and opinions (and for finding good quotes in context). It is also a tiny representation of a billion big lives condensed into one small screen or status. We can’t know the truth about a person or a situation unless we investigate for ourselves by living our own lives in the best way we can. We have to be honest and good to ourselves first before we decide to opine about things we know little about. We can create an online atmosphere of growth or grandiosity, the choice is ours. We can create a life lived as genuine people rather than projections.
We are humans, not holograms.
The biggest lesson teaching has taught me is that everyone starts out as a child, and adulthood does not change that fact. The internet got big just as I was coming of age, and I am eternally grateful for that. I am so happy I never had to worry about Snapchat or Facebook in middle school, mainly because kids were mean, so was I, so was my unibrow. I did not know how to be tender to myself as a child or as an adult, but I learned because I got sober. I think social media could facilitate a tenderness revolution, even as hurt people hurt people. It’s just as likely that healed people heal people.
I speak from experience.
Photo courtesy of PopSci