Four years later when I graduated from college it was unheard of to not own a laptop, almost everyone had unlimited text messages and the use of smart phones were on the rise (however iPads had not made an appearance yet). Since graduating 4 years ago technology has continued to change and has become an ever increasing presence in everybody's lives.
I began using Facebook shortly after it was created, which happened to be my freshman year of college in 2005. At the time it was only open to college students and as a recent high school graduate I was excited to be able to keep in contact with my friends from home. At the time there was no news feed which meant that I wasn't flooded with pictures of other people's vacations, selfies, pets, or political views. There were no status updates that allowed people to overshare information they would not typically share in public situations. There were no "share" or "like" or "comment" buttons that seem to flood my news feed these days. It was a simple site that allowed people to remain connected even though they were thousands of miles away. Facebook has made huge changes since that time and now it seems like there is more "junk" on Facebook than actual conversations.
My opinion of Facebook and other social media sites are often wavering between disdain and appreciation (especially while overseas). However I had an experience this week that has really caused me to question the usefulness of Facebook in my life. Here are two of my thoughts about Facebook:
1. I recently read an article about a girl from Amsterdam who fooled her family and friends into believing she was on a 5 week trip to Asia through the use of social media. "(Her) goal was to prove how common and easy it is to distort reality. She states, 'I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media.' (http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/509243/Student-convinced-family-trip-around-Asia-despite-never-leaving-bedroom)
This women so eloquently puts into words my exact feelings towards social media. We only post the best pictures, the happiest moments, the most perfect parties we host. We never post that it took 500 failed pictures until we got one where we looked skinny enough, or the tears that lead up to the party because nothing was working out according to plan. We create a reality about our lives that we want others to see, and as a result our followers get caught up in the trap of comparing their imperfect life to a facade of perfection.
2. For some reason, beyond my comprehension, social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc...) has also become on on-line playground for bullies. Before technology you only had to be concerned about bullies when you went to school, now because of social media everyone has to be concerned about public criticism at all hours of the day, from people who may or may not even know them.
Earlier this week I watched a Jimmy Kimmel segment called mean tweets- it is where he gets celebrities to read mean tweets people have written about them. I always think they are funny, but there is always a part of me that doesn't understand how somebody can say something that cruel to another human being they have never met- all they know is this false reality that the media (and sometimes the actor/actress) portrays. Well 2 days later I got the answer to why I feel uncomfortable with the "mean tweets" segment and unfortunately the answer came to me in a personal attack from a co-worker via Facebook.
For those of you unaware of my current living situations I am living on the 4th floor of the school I teach at. I share a room and bathroom with three other girls, and a kitchen and laundry area with 7 other people. Despite having that many people share one small space there have been little to no negative interactions. This is largely due to the fact that 7 out of the 8 people are considerate, understanding, and respectful. One person (whom we will refer to as HP) really struggles with the concept of "community" living.
I will not go in depth about what the situation that led to the Facebook post was, as it is not relevant and I don't feel comfortable airing somebody else's dirty laundry on social media (which is a little bit funny because the altercation was actually about laundry.)
Thursday night (after I was in bed) HP and I had a disagreement about when I should get my clothes out of the washer. A conversation ensued, I moved my clothes, and went back to bed. I thought the conversation was finished. Well imagine my surprise when I found out that HP had posted his perception of our conversation on FB which of course shows him as the kind, understanding hero, and me as the awful, bitchy, villan (granted I could have handled the situation better, he was not 100% innocent either). What really got me though were the comments that people were saying about me- people who don't even know me were calling me spoiled, awful, horrible, in need of "motivational" speeches, the list can go on and on. What killed me even more was HP responding affirmatively to all these negative comments- this is somebody I have to see on a DAILY basis. I kept trying to remind myself that I shouldn't care what HP and his friends are saying about my life, I know I have flaws but I try to be a good person. I have plenty of people who love me, I don't need validation from his friends who are making snap judgments on somebody's perception of me. But it still hurts. I still have to fight EVERY urge not to fight dirty, not to hurt back like he hurt me. I also have had to try really hard not to shut down. So at the end of the day I would like to thank you HP and your douchebag friends for allowing me to practice my wholehearted lifestyle- after all that is one of my major goals while inTaiwan and you gave me a great opportunity to practice.
Moral of the story: Facebook can be a slippery slope, not everyone will use it appropriately. I am still trying to determine the appropriate balance but after this experience I am pretty determined to only use Facebook to spread kindness. After all the world needs more kindness.