Social media can be wonderful and stupid all at the same time. We all feel the need to gush and vent and spout off thoughts and ideas and opinions so easily and quickly and spontaneously that it can turn into a vast social ocean of misunderstanding and misinterpretation. That's why teens make so many mistakes online, where conversations and comments turn ugly and hurtful.
And adults don't act much better.
Despite what many of my Facebook friends might think, almost anything I say online is not spontaneous. It is pretty calculated, and I know that before I hit that enter button, to think twice. I'm not stupid or naive about that at all.
Last year, I got into a heated debate with a local politician running for office over his twisting of facts, which, in my opinion, created a problem where there was not a problem. Our argument and my thoughts about it ended up on the front page of the newspaper. People thought I would be upset and angry about it, but I really wasn't. (OK, maybe I was upset for 5 minutes standing in the driveway at 6 a.m. reading my name just under the fold, but I got over it pretty quick and laughed about it.) In that incident, like with many others, I said what I said and I meant what I said, otherwise I would not have said it. I've sat through enough Internet safety seminars to know that you don't post anything online, comment or photo or otherwise, that you don't want the world to read. My only disagreement with the situation was that they didn't call me to comment about the argument and only reported an online dialogue. I actually joked with the reporter that same evening that it must have been a slow news day to put my Facebook comments in a front page story about nothing. It was a very Seinfeld-esque sort of moment. In hindsight, it's actually hilarious.
That conversation was not the only heated one I've had on Facebook. Frankly, I don't mind the debates most of the time. I think they are healthy, and bring out many sides to a story instead of everybody just accepting what they are told all the time. I've questioned behavior rewards at my daughter's school, the changing rules regarding cupcakes in local classrooms, why we need more Girl Scout leaders and a host of other issues where I often "feel out" local opinion. The problem is that some people can't stand the heat of a debate -- some take it personally. The bad thing about social media is also the bane of the electronic world: People can't hear the inflection in your voice, they don't take the time to read and think before responding, they jump to conclusions and don't think about the big picture. It can get ugly, and it can get ugly pretty quick.
I've actually been de-friended by two people on Facebook likely as a result of conversations like this -- or at least that's the only reason I can figure out why they de-friended me. (Is "de-friend" even a word?)
For one of them, I sort of expected it. I could tell that this person, whom was just an acquaintence in real life, totally didn't "get" me and thought I was some cold-hearted person. She couldn't be farther from the truth, but sometimes people just don't like you in life or give you a chance and you have to move on instead of begging them to be your friend.
As for the other person? Well, that one really baffled me, particularly because I tried to be nice and friendly despite odd things that had happened in the past. I believe in second chances. I know for a fact that people change, people can change, and the past should not define you. We all make mistakes. So I was very open to being nice and friendly. Gave advice about writing. Tried to be encouraging. Did we have a heated debate about something once or twice? Yes, but I was never mean and I always state facts to back up things. I am a writer by profession who needs to do research. I'm not someone who says "I believe this... just because I think so." It's "I believe this because..." and list facts and figures and reference statements. Because I've done that for so long in my job, my mind just works that way. One of my friends said that my mind never seems to take a break, never seems to stop working. She's kind of correct. I am totally a constant thinker.
But sometimes we can hit a nerve. Of course, I can relate to the other side of this. Things can annoy me on any given day depending on my mood.
I'm sure more people have dropped me from their friends' lists without me realizing it, but these two just stand out because when you share mutual Facebook friends, you realize that suddenly these former friends are commenting under your mutual friends' updates and that they are not your "friends" anymore. And it's kind of weird.
In the past few years, I've learned to concentrate on what it is important, to make a difference, to fight for what is right, such as local public education and matters in my community. You cannot do this without ruffling some feathers, or saying something that may make others uncomfortable. We are so worried, so very worried, about other people not liking us (and honest, that includes me too!) that sometimes we bite our tongues and let things go. I've found that since I've had the twins that I don't bite my tongue as much because I don't have time to waste anymore. I may be the loud mouth at a meeting, the brave one always asking questions or sending e-mails or writing letters, or the instigator who starts a discussion on social media. But if we just close our eyes and pretend that life is one big smiley face and avoid conflict at all costs, nothing will ever change, or get accomplished, or improve. There is always a something better when something is failing; we just need to work together to find it.
Today was not a good day for me for a variety of reasons, but part of my bad day resulted from a venting Facebook post gone awry. Some might consider it an unnecessary vent, but hey, it was one of those annoying days where something really hit a nerve. And it was partly related to one of those de-frienders, which in hindsight shows me that clearly, deep inside, I actually am upset by how that situation turned out. What does Oprah call it? A light bulb moment? A HA! I am not the Tin Man! There is a heart in here!
I keep asking myself: Why do I care? Seriously, why? Because I am pretty confident in my knowledge of things, people can assume that I don't actually have feelings. Just because I spout facts and opinions does not mean I don't have emotions. I have them. A lot of them. Maybe I tried to hide them too much because I don't want to let the guard down. Or maybe I'm doing a bad job of hiding them. And maybe that's why I get so adament when I feel I am being misunderstood, or misinterpreted, and get pretty insistent that someone is not getting "it," or me. Maybe that's why I'm so passionate about doing what is right, about making a difference, and fostering change in the right direction. It's often misconstrued... as arrogance, maybe? Or conceit? Or -- dare I say it -- bitchiness? I'm not sure what you're thinking, because I only live inside my head and can't read your mind.
But whatever you think of me, whatever opinion you have, remember that my intentions are usually always good. I have a big heart beneath that brain of mine. I am not some stupid loud mouth making trouble for the sake of making trouble. I spend a heck of a lot of time caring about what is "right" in this world and community, and often it's time I don't really have but I get devoted to the cause. I don't just crawl under my living room rug and ignore the outside world or pretend that life is some big party and look the other way. People are always telling me things that bug them, things that bother them. Sometimes I know it's just venting, and sometimes I think people think I'm the one who will make a stink about an issue, because maybe, just maybe, they haven't found their own bravery just yet. So I often take the fall for their cause as well as my own.
I am not perfect, but neither are you. That said, one thing is certain: Life is short. There's enough pettiness on reality TV and I don't need it in real life. I don't need drama, even if I accidently sparked it. I'd like to feel comraderie, but sometimes it just doesn't feel that way. Now, don't take pity on me, please!! Like I said early on in this post: I say what I say and mean what I say, otherwise I would not say it. I could be gentler. I could be kinder. I could be smarter. But so could we all.
When I started this blog, I vowed to myself that it would be real.
So this is it.
Today, instead of tips and twins, it's real. And raw.