A Social Media Literacy Narrative, Kind Of


When I was in high school and everyone had MySpace, I got the whole concept of presenting your best, most attractive, most clever, etc self online. I recognized it, but I still compared my very real, pretty boring life to all the super exciting MySpace lives of the people I knew. They seemed so normal in class, even quiet, but wow.. they were pretty cool on MySpace. But like the rest of the world, I got so over MySpace when Facebook replaced it, and I’ve had true Internet-user growth since I first got on Facebook.

In 2006, I was going to college and thought I needed to add a bunch of people from my dorm before I got there, thinking they’d all be online buddies already when I move in, so they’d shun me. That didn’t really happen; in fact, for the first couple years I had Facebook, people didn’t talk about Facebook in real life. It was kind of like AOL Instant Messenger in high school..everyone used it, but it was totally weird if you talked about using it, for some reason. Like my face burned when I overheard people making the social crime of saying “AIM” or accidentally dropping an LOL in person. Same with LiveJournal and Xanga. The first rule of Internet journaling was you didn’t mention internet journaling. At first, people treated Facebook like that. And I think it was because, in order to use it back in the day, you had to physically sit at a computer. We don’t like to think about people physically sitting at computers all lonely-like for some reason, so Facebook has become more socially acceptable in real conversation because now we can totally be out and about with our lovers and friends while Facebooking. We can be cool and still be obsessive Internet users. you can walk up to your old pal and be all, “OMG did you SEE how hideous he got? Ugh, glad I dodged that Frankenbullet.”

And They say we can’t interact with others in person because of Facebook, we are too self-involved because of Facebook, we talk too much about baby shit and complain all the time, we post inappropriate pictures, we give away government secrets, blah blah. Ok, maybe.  Yeah, probably. BUT I think the most self-destructive thing we do on Facebook is shaming. This morning I saw someone post about how “awesome” it feels to see the people who were “bitches” and thought they were “all that” get fat.

Hold. The. Banana Phone.

Seriously? Ok, so either you are friends with these people purely so you can see their fat asses and feel better about your bitter one, or you’re not friends with them at all and you’re searching for them. To see their fat asses. You may as well use Graph Search to find “[Shitty photos] of [women] from [my high school] taken [in the past month].” (Y’all know about Graph Search, right?) I see they’re still the center of your attention, so at least they’ve moved on to pie while you’re still stuck on high school. But, more importantly, what happens when you find the ones who were bitchy and mean and made your life a living hell that are still totes hot (maybe hotter?) and married rich men and have fulfilling jobs? You feel bad about yourself, right? So then you look up that newly fat chick whose home is in foreclosure? LOL SO FUNNY, RIGHT? Zoom in on your smartphones, people, because I want this message to be big and clear:

If you feel hot, successful, or happy because other people fail, you are losing, not winning.

If your self-worth is based on comparison, you actually have no self-worth. The whole self part of the self-worth idea comes from…the self. Not from comparison. And if you allow your self-perceived worth to come from others’ worth on some sort of creepy social network BUY-HOLD-SELL scale, you’re working with a very fragile facade of social and emotional well being. And if you do this often, you might need therapy. She did. Or save a lot of money and read this awesome article about Girl-on-Girl Hate, from which I stole the opening image for this post. Or familiarize yourself with the Shine Theory, which I posted on the FB a few weeks ago.

I am not a particularly good person.  I don’t volunteer, I’m not super nice, and I definitely have bad thoughts about people and have the patience of a fly and a super short temper. So when I tell you to stop doing these things, I don’t mean “stop because it’s mean.” I mean stop because you’re ruining your life and you’re probably miserable. Ladies, don’t bash each other. Women, we like to compare ourselves to other women, but couldn’t we also look at the state of a woman as one case study of the state of women’s possibilities and liberation?

Before social media, all we had to compare ourselves to were those perfect creatures in the far away land of Hollywood. We know they are fake and stuff, but we’re still a little jealous. But in the end, they are not real things..they are creations. With the dawn of social media, we could all become these people whose lives were on display. But we interpret it differently–we read these creations as less of creations, and as more of captured moments of a person’s real life. We take them as truth, as the person’s identity, even though it is only a selective representation of them. And even understanding that people only put their best selves out there, I still fell into this trap back in the MySpace days. And as social media has become more and more intricately woven into the fabric of our lives, these social media spaces become a person’s identity to us (and, in some cases, to them), especially if we don’t see them or rarely see them in person. And so women compare their very real to other women’s very selective; they alter their selective to be better than others’. And because these people are creations like celebrities, we feel like we can treat them like celebrities: bash, shame, hate, pop some popcorn and watch the trainwreck. Ah, so sweet.

I’ve accidentally shifted away from that thinking, even as I’ve become more Facebook friendly. I didn’t use FB a lot in undergrad, and I actually deleted my FB for a while during grad school. Now back in action e’rryday, I read it differently. No, I don’t read it in a way that makes me a better person because, like I said, I’m still not a good person. I just read it in a totally different, yet equally selfish, way…

ImageI don’t get all happy and muahaha about girls who were thin before being fat now. If she looks happy and fat, I am happy that she’s happy–maybe I will still be happy when I’m fat, too. If she looks happier and healthier now that she’s fat? Praise the Lord. She’s fat and happy and that’s amazing. And look at her, not caring that she’s fat. Why would I care that someone else is fat or not fat? That doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t affect me. And if it doesn’t seem to affect her, go ahead girl. But I have so many other things to worry about.

If someone has a better job than me, it makes me feel better about our generation’s prospects. She found a job…maybe I can also find a great job! There are good jobs out there! For women! Who rules the world?! Girls! Not everyone hates their job and is treated like an ornament! Etc etc. She got a great job without even going to college? I ain’t even mad about my student loans–it means maybe if I hate the field my degree takes me, I can start over and be OK.

Don’t get me wrong–if someone has ugly kids or their new hair color looks gross and they post a thousand pictures of both, I’m not gonna not judge. Them kids is hideous and she looks like crackhead Barbie.  I’m just not gonna be happy that their kids are ugly or that they look terrible as a blonde. The point is to stop the hate and competition, not to tell you to stop being human and pretend all babies are cute. When I come across sad things or bad things that happen to people, I don’t swell with pride at my comparatively good choices and still fresh-from-the-mold butt. All these posts about people losing their jobs, not being able to find one after college, having to sell all their shit because they were doing well and now they’re not? I just hope things work out for them because I don’t want the world to be a sucky place. I don’t want to worry. I want all these women to be happy.

I don’t go looking for info, unless it’s because I love them, miss them, and want to take them in from afar and feel connected to them again. And if we’re not friends on Facebook? If they’re not choosing to show me their selective identity, I’ll pass. But hope they’re doing alright. I like seeing women succeed, especially women who have had some of the same walks of life as I have. Keep on keepin’ on, ladies. P.S.-Your boobs look great in that profile pic, for realz. There’s some girl-on-girl love for ya.