What is Facebook?
It’s a place to express ourselves and connect with others. It’s a place to promote our writing. It’s a place to reconnect with friends and family. I know that. But is social media of any sort providing us with what we’re really looking for?
Granted, right now Facebook is on steroids. The election campaigning craziness played out on Facebook in a very in-your-face kind of way as people aired their opinions and attitudes in their posts. Lots of name-calling. Lots of telling what others should do or not do with their opinions. It reminds of the scene in the Lord of the Rings’ second book Twin Towers, when representatives from all walks of life congregated at the home of the elves to decide what to do about the ring of power. They all ended up shouting and raging and voicing their individual opinions. It was chaos. No one was listening.
So I wonder from time to time, what is going on in social media, really. I know it’s self-expression, and typically that is a good thing. Still, I can’t help but remember my version of self-expression that dates back to before social media came on the scene.
Dear Diary, Dad brought home a kitten today. I’m going to name her Margie.
Dear Diary, Jimmy kissed me on the playground today. The boys were chasing the girls and kissing them when they caught them. Some of the girls didn’t try very hard not to get caught. I was a little scared because I didn’t know if a boy kissed me if I’d like it, but I also didn’t want to be left out.
Yup, I had a diary when I was young. My mom gave it to me in fifth grade. It was about the size of a paperback, but it was gold and the pages were blank, just waiting for me to fill them. It also had a lock and key to go with it. It was a safe and secure place to tell my diary about my days and what I was going through.
The diary my mom gave me became my first of many. I gave my diary a name and “she” felt like my friend. When I didn’t dare talk about something or I felt no one understood what was happening in my life, my diary took it all without judgement or shaming.
My relationship with diaries changed as I went to college, married, and had children. I didn’t have one. But at a point when life was over-the-top hectic, scary, and chaotic, my dear diary returned, ready to help me sort through becoming invisible and lost. Only in her reincarnation, she took the form of a journal.
With my first journal, I declared ground rules for my family, including my husband: never read it; never even pick it up. If you do, I’ll know it and I will never forgive you. That sounds dramatic, but in my defense I was going through some very hard stuff. I was desperate.
Within that private space, I poured out my soul. I had reason to do so on a daily basis. It served as a receptacle for my pain and my attempts at joy. I didn’t even make an effort to censor my words and write “nice” things when I felt anything but nice.
2-4-2000 Deedee called incessantly today, demanding in a voice fitting a banshee that Susie’s and Jenny’s snowpants were ruined while at our house over the weekend. I don’t know if I can stand the unrelenting intrusion in our lives, the criticism, or the manipulation. I want to go someplace so far I’d have no thought of her.
Journaling is therapeutic. My journals allowed me to express myself freely, with no possibility of judgment or discounting. It was private. It served my needs for not only self-expression, but of being heard, seen, and protected. I learned many things about myself through the honest exploration of my life. Journaling helped me grow.
Can I say that about what I read on social media? Does it challenge my beliefs; does it open up new thoughts and possibilities? I think so. There is potential for that. I feel that for most of us social media is a place where we let out what we’re feeling. We want the world to see us and hear us. We want support from friends and followers. There is a lot of that, as well. It could be a place where we argue, too, but the character of postings in my experience is not productive expression but rather critical judgement, and we feel compelled to defend our positions. Unfortunately, that isn’t true connecting and it’s not listening or being listened to, or hearing or being heard. It’s not private and there is no protection.
Don’t misunderstand, I post and I read social media. I love interacting with readers and learning more about them, for instance. I enjoy a lot of what social media offers. I just think we need to be clear with ourselves what we are seeking from social media. Because perhaps there are times when the only person who needs to hear, understand, explore, and accept what’s in your heart and mind is you.
That is what can be found in journaling.
I'd love to know how you see social media. Share?