I don’t really. That title is lovingly lifted from a Conchords song. Loves me some Bret and Jemaine. This song will set the tone for this post nicely.
It’s funny how Facebook updates, Tweets, Blogs, comment sections or some other more current means of broadcasting out own random bull plop* has opened an entire new realm of both validation and rejection. We have all morphed into this strange, self loathing hybrid of full time artist/critic. We publish our thoughts on the routine of our lives for what we assume to be a grateful world. And clearly those who receive those thoughts are grateful to some extent. If they weren’t they could just hide you, or unfollow you or whatever. We continue to share the mundane**, self serving***and occasionally profound**** ramblings of our daily thoughts because we know people actually listen to them. And they provide feedback. And often that feedback feels really good to hear. A simple thumbs up from an old high school buddy you haven’t spoken to in a decade can provide a nice confirmation to your suspicion that today’s weather does indeed suck donkey. But as any artist, musician or robot street performer will tell you, feedback is a double edged sword. There’s gonna be people that like you, and people who don’t. Everyone knows that. And anyone who disseminates their writing or videos or whatever on the world wide interweb should have a reasonably thick skin. Especially when that criticism reaches new bounds of idiocy. (That's a pretty dang good SNL skit, right there. They may be rare, but they still exist.)
But what I find surprising is that in those occasions when there is an absence of a comment or a thumb, I feel a sense of disappointment and even a little bit of rejection. I’m embarrassed by that. But I do.
I want to be clear that I’m not getting butt hurt about no one acknowledging the poetic expressions from the depths of my soul. I’m talking about mindless Facebook fluff here. If I feel the need to throw out some Simpsons quote (the majority of my status updates involve plagiarism) and I then check my Facebook a day later with nothing but a cold vacuum as a response? Well, there is a shameful little voice inside me that says, “What? No one got that? Screw all of you!”
Now in discussing the absurdity of perceived slights and bruised egos transpiring from the fake judgment of internet silence, it’s important to emphasize that this is a shameful, comical impulse that I’m talking about here. I’m not actually insulted on any meaningful level. Seriously. Even though I kind of am.
And that’s the strange effect that social media has on us. By presenting the possibility of complimentary agreement, Facebook has set us up to be overly sensitive babies when that support doesn’t come. I shouldn’t care if no one else felt the need to acknowledge my thoughts on my day. But the fact that my friends could have given a thumbs up and chose not to, presents me with a previously undiscovered source of personal injury.
Thanks Mark Zucherberg! We all needed to be just a little bit crazier.
Let me belabor this point just a little bit more. Yesterday was my birthday. And I received little to no Facebook birthday wishes. Now I’m not gonna go all Eeyore on everybody here. I had exactly the birthday that I wanted. My friends and family acknowledge my life, I got some very thoughtful presents, and I ate steak and all you can eat shrimp at Sizzler (that’s how I roll) with my nieces and nephew. A wonderful way to celebrate another trip around the sun. But I have to admit that for the first half of the day, I was a little bummed at the absence of Birthday love from the FB peeps.
I remember being a little overwhelmed on the first birthday I had as a member of Facebook, which was probably 2007. I didn’t know or expect that I would recieve birthday wishes from the entire collection of associates I have amassed in my life. I'm one of those guys that does not care about his birthday. I don’t hide it from people. But I never really want a party or anything. I’m low key like that. But back on December 6th of '07, I remember being surprised at how flattered I felt that the one girl I knew in college but haven't spoken to or thought about in 8 years dropped me a line to wish me a happy birthday. (Sorry Mom. She's married with five kids. It won't work out.)
That was a new experience. One that was repeated in the years to come. But yesterday, that did not happen. My buddy Johnmann texted me at about 1 o'clock asking me why I was being such a FB miser by hiding my birthday from the world. It was then that I realized that some time ago I must have changed my profile settings and removed my birthday from my page. So no one knew that it was my special day. Except of course for ole trusty Johnmann. So there was no actual shunning or rejection that took place. In fact yesterday was exactly like every one of the twenty something birthdays I enjoyed before the Facebook revolution. And yet for a few hours there in the morning, I was a little bit hurt. As embarrassing as that is to admit, it's true. And why? Because something I had never had for most of my life but had come to expect anyway was not there.
I realize by typing this, publishing it to a blog and then linking that post to my Facebook page (which I will do), I will be manipulating everyone who bothers to read this into somehow feel like they let me down, or to apologize for some imagined slight. And my acknowledgement of this does not make it any less manipulative. But believe me when I say it, this is not my intent. I'm only illustrating that as regularly occurring events are changed by social media, we run the risk of becoming more needy and narcissistic.
But the flip side of this is also very applicable. Though our own thoughts and ideas are subjected to the harshness of criticism (often anonymous) , we also get the dirty little pleasure of lobbing online bombs about articles, movies, videos, books, profile updates, music, blog posts and whatever other online garbage I'm forgetting. Think about it. Every single piece of media that we have the opportunity of consuming online can be immediately judged by us, whether our thoughts about it are intelligent and honest or not. And that's kind of nice feeling. Hell. Look at this blog of mine. I like it so much, I can't stop. (Except the last 8 months. I stopped pretty good there for a while.)
And that's not limited to the Tron universe of the internet. When I invest a dollar for Conan the Barbarian at Redbox, I can then chime in on IMDB and grace that community with an in depth defense of my 9.5 star rating (You heard me!). And the fact that we have all been empowered as vigilante authorities on all things cultural, changes the way we experience life.
Earlier tonight, I hit up a Sushi bar for some happy hour rolls. I enjoyed the company of friends and a four dollar Funky Charlie. A good night, for sure. But I also found myself composing my nitpicking Yelp review in my head. "Alright food, good prices but the tables were a little sticky and the music was too loud." That's a crappy thing to be thinking, when I should have just been enjoying the moment in the fullest sense. Especially when you take into account that barely 24 hours earlier, I was down in the dumps because I wasn't overwhelmed with arbitrary Facebook adulation.
Social Media interaction has turned me into a snotty little sister. Some nasty little girl who will rip you down for the slightest little offense but if you look at me wrong, I'll cry until our mom smacks you.
Okay, I'm totally overstating this. I am not whiney girl and neither are any of the good people spouting their takes on restaurants, movies and music online. But this Judge Dredd notion of opiniotive authority seems to have slipped into the real world of everyday life. It won't be long until we start rating sunsets. "It was pretty good. But not terribly original. 5.5/10." I just think it's a good idea to step back and enjoy things for what they are, instead of trying to quantify its value at all costs.
Now leave me complimentary comments or I will burn your house down!
* I'm tempted to include a G+ joke in here, but I'm sure I'll be on it and loving it within a year. I am usually a little tardy in adopting new trends. But I am eventually obedient to our technological overlords.
** "The kids are being nice to each other today!!!!"
*** "Just got back from the gym and got a great pump!"
**** Every Arrested Development quote I have ever posted.